With less than a month to go until the elections, Members of the European Parliament (and prospective MEPs) are turning to social media to drum up support and get out the vote. Around 400 of the 766 MEPs are already on Twitter, and many of them have also set up Facebook pages, YouTube accounts and blogs. But some commentators argue that European politicians don’t yet know how to effectively campaign with social media and are being “overwhelmed” by the move away from TV and print media.

Even when politicians are successful online, the fight to attract the most followers can cause some ruffled feathers. Martin Schulz (@MartinSchulz) is the current President of the European Parliament and also the  Social Democrats‘ candidate for President of the European Commission. Mr Schulz was criticised recently when he scooped up 80’000 followers by campaigning personally with a Twitter account he had previously used in his position as European Parliament President (he has held the account since 2008, but it increased in popularity since he was elected Parliament President in 2012). His staff have set up @EP_President as a new official account for his activities as the European Parliament President.

The  Centre-Right have also found ways to boost their candidate’s social media presence. After he was chosen as their candidate at the Party Congress in Dublin, Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) inherited 5000 followers along with the official Party Congress account.

But is this just the same old politics by a different means? We had a comment sent in by Francesco, who believes that technology will soon fundamentally change politics for the better:

citizen_icon_180x180In the future, social media will completely change the structure of politics, allowing a direct relationship between people and politicians without the expensive and obsolete mediation of political parties.

We put Francesco’s question to three MEPs, all of whom are familiar with the benefits and pitfalls of social media. We kicked things off by talking to Sven Giegold (@Sven Giegold), a German MEP with the  Greens.

giegoldI couldn’t agree more. I manage my Facebook and Twitter accounts myself, because it allows me to see what people think about my work. In the past, politicians used to get letters or emails, but whether or not you responded and what you said was a private matter. Now, if I make mistakes, people tell me directly and publicly. This is a big difference and it makes the interaction much more horizontal. It is also a great chance for politicians to fight the myth that in Brussels there are only lazy bureaucrats and, on the other side, there are only good citizens who are all behaving responsibly and sustainably.

Next, we spoke to Sajjad Karim (@SHKMEP) an MEP from the UK who sits with the  Conservatives in the European Parliament. Karim was recently nominated by The Parliament Magazine for an award for the “MEP who has tweeted the most effective and entertaining tweets and who has used Facebook to inform, amuse and provoke debate amongst their followers”. What would he say?

KarimFrancesco makes a very valid point. Social media has already transformed the way in which many politicians work. Those politicians who genuinely want to be connected now have the ability to be directly connected. I hope people will look me up on Twitter and on Facebook as well, as it allows me a tremendous ability to communicate directly with people and allow constituencies and citizens to see exactly what I am doing, to see the views that I hold and the way I am conducting politics on their behalf.

Finally, we talked to Catherine Stihler (@C_Stihler_MEP), a Scottish MEP who sits with the  Social Democrats in the Parliament. She agreed that social media had changed things for the better, but cautioned that we shouldn’t see this as a replacement for more traditional forms of media:

StihlerI think what Francesco is saying about social media changing things is correct. In these European elections in 2014, social media will dominate in a way it didn’t really in 2009, and I think that’s an important change. It allows you to have that direct contact, so people can see what you are doing and can have an exchange with you in a way that was never possible before. So in a way it does give people better direct contact with their elected – or prospective – representatives.

However, I do think there is still an important role for the media in terms of scrutiny. And I do think that journalists who are looking at and investigating issues still have a really important part to play in holding those who are elected to account, and also looking at different issues. So you cannot say it is going to be just social media in the future, it is going to be both. The challenge is to ensure this, particularly as we see newspapers finding it really hard at the moment, yet we really still need journalists doing their job and I think we need a combination of both social media and good quality journalism.

Will social media help bridge the gap between citizens and politicians? Is the rise of social media a threat to more traditional media? And, more importantly, do you think citizens really want greater access to politicians? Let us know your thoughts and comments and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

Vote 2014

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37 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Only if results and decisions from these online platforms are taken into account by our politicians.. Otherwise they will just act as let-off-steam devices and nothing good will come out of them….

    • avatar
      nando aidos

      Right on target!

    • avatar
      Limbidis Arian


  2. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    in spain, thanks to the cameras in the mobile phones we can observe the real truth of our police actuations, then you compare with TV reports and political declarations and you understand you have been wrong all your life… so social media will send politicians to home! we dont want them! at least professional politicians payed by multinacional corporations… or have you seen an ex.politician poor? come on! go home!

  3. avatar

    Oh maybe we get finnaly after so many YEARS an EU dedicated TV ? Instead of reading our press that is giving us what they want ?

  4. avatar
    Lee Tong

    If you dont speak english in EU you mostly have no idea whats up in the EU, THATS A FACT…

  5. avatar
    Borislav Sotirov

    Yes, it closes it in both directions. Social media makes citizens become politicians. It is mainstream media to distinguish between a citizen and a politician.

  6. avatar
    Sophia-Maria Prentou

    To answer the third question, citizens without a doubt are discouraged by the way politics is conducted and dissatisfied. However, what better way to become more involved in the national and European political dialogue than using the social media? By debating and discussing opinions in an open (and often overcoming the national borders) dialogue, I think that the EU citizens can benefit and be more involved and invested in politics.

  7. avatar
    Alex Tselentis

    EU is run by Wall Street bankers, two continents owned by one group of unelected Bankers, who could care less about those silly things called “people”

  8. avatar
    Alex Tselentis

    EU is run by Wall Street bankers, two continents owned by one group of unelected Bankers, who could care less about those silly things called “people”

    • avatar

      The Euro is an idea that comes from Wall Street bankers. It was designed to enrich them at our expense, and its working. I guess in that way you can call it a success. Look at Greece! The poor and middle class get gutted to serve the bonus pools of bankers! And the most amazing bit, the people aren’t doing anything about it, so why should the bankers stop? I don’t blame them for pushing for more, I don’t see any Greeks rising up to overthrow banker stooge Samaras and hanging him from the highest tree.

  9. avatar
    Boriss Dunajevskis

    Corrupted Latvia ban RTR TV!European democracy in action as Pan Ki -moon said that Latvia is a democracy country?!

  10. avatar

    I’m afraid that I have to say no. Gazillions oh FB Likes does not make you a better politician. It’s a better way to communicate, but it’s just not enough when tens of millions are hit by austerity.

    • avatar
      nando aidos

      I agree.

  11. avatar
    nando aidos

    Can social media close the gap?
    I hope the gap gets closed whether through social media or not! Preferably regardless of the media.

    However, politicians need to understand that this most recent rush to the social media is caused by a severe lack of contact, by the huge gap between the citizens and the politicians, by politicians who have lost the perspective of the people and the countries they are supposed to represent. The citizenry is craving to be listened to. LISTENED TO! Not SMSed, not Facebook “liked”, not Tweeted, LISTENED TO!

    And so, in the long run, however, unless politicians show they are “really” WITH the citizens, and prove to be listening well, and not just being new faces on Facebook or Tweeter, the citizens will back away, a new level of frustration will set in, and then what? Mr./Ms. Politician? Then what?

  12. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    The politicians will only respond to social media content that frames them in a positive light.

  13. avatar
    catherine benning

    It could help if politicians were objective when they visit the social media outlets. But, generally they can’t get past their own little sphere of reasoning. They are hyped up with their collective groups agenda and anything that doesn’t relate to that is ignored. Alternatively, they are told what they have to accept or do by those who lead their party or organisation and they must not divert their thinking from that stance unless they want to be out of a job.

    Example, and this is just an example, it has been decided that Europe and the West must support gay marriage, regardless of what that may or may not do for their parties potential to get votes. In other words, whether the majority of the public want to reduce marriage between a man and woman without the promise of fidelity, or, not. And to that premise they must stick regardless of what the public say to them. The set up is then to use the media as a tool to convince those same public that they are for it in the majority. That is until you ask for a referendum on it. Once direct democracy is asked for they find every reason in the book why the public should not have the right to choose their own destiny on such a heavy matter as this.

    In my country, the UK, millions of people have changed their vote to UKIP because they offered an opposition to gay marriage, where all the others did not. All the parties in the UK are for gay marriage under the guise of, the public majority are for it, except UKIP.

    However, when all the political parties realised thousands upon thousands of traditional thinking voters were leaving to vote for UKIP over it suddenly Farage began to feel threatened and changed his tune to, maybe he would go along with gay marriage after all, as he couldn’t take the heat by sticking to his original promise.

    So, all the writing to your MP or telling them publicly on social media or other, that you don’t want what they are offering, falls on deaf ears and being a majority makes no difference to their objectives, one way or another. And don’t take any notice of their manifestos either. David Cameron swore he was not for same sex marriage to win votes. Once he won them, he overnight brought in gay marriage with such a rush, before any discussion could take place. He did this at the same time as telling those who voted for him, that he had not previously said he was against it and would not back it in his manifesto. And, that indeed he was proud to be a Conservative who did believe in Gay unions and marriage all the time. Which lost his party millions of votes as a result. And hey didn’t care because the pact they had with the other political parties was, we will all stick with it as one and so voters will have no alternative on the matter and we will not lose in the elction because of it.

    In other words, they formed a cartel, just like energy companies or phone companies or broadband providers do, then it is impossible to find a better deal by changing supplier. After that they move on to how the cheating suppliers lie by tell you that we took a census and found it is indeed what you all collectively want. But, again, as soon as the public in their thousands ask for a referendum you see them foam at the mouth with rage that you should dare to suggest they may have it wrong and that democracy should rule.

    Don’t believe me, do some research.

    So, it would be very nice to believe they will listen to the public voice but don’t be disappointed if they do not. They have their agenda and it must be followed regardless of whether it is good for us or not.

  14. avatar
    Salvador Gota

    Segn algunos dirigentes europeos prefieren los muertos a las urnas, como pueden ser Serbia, Bosnia etc. En Cambio a un pas que quiere ser libre e independiente y que siempre ha estado con Europa, les dicen que si votan en un referndum para separarse del pas que los anexion por la fuerza de las armas, quedaran expulsados de esa Europa tan democrtica por los siglos de los siglos, amen
    Durante 50 aos he sido pro-europeo hoy me da miedo esa Europa falta de democracia.

  15. avatar
    Salvador Gota

    Segn algunos dirigentes europeos prefieren los muertos a las urnas, como pueden ser Serbia, Bosnia etc. En Cambio a un pas que quiere ser libre e independiente y que siempre ha estado con Europa, les dicen que si votan en un referndum para separarse del pas que los anexion por la fuerza de las armas, quedaran expulsados de esa Europa tan democrtica por los siglos de los siglos, amen
    Durante 50 aos he sido pro-europeo hoy me da miedo esa Europa falta de democracia.

  16. avatar
    Alexandros Ampatzimpasis

    Most of the social media follow politicians. Therefore the message is clear!!!!!! The gap between the EU citizens and the EU citizens – politicians will close when they prove that they were elected by the people for the people and not for themselves and for some groups they are supporting.

  17. avatar
    Salvador Gota

    Does the EPP is democratic to deny the possibility of exercising the will of 80% of the Catalan population in the polls?

  18. avatar
    George Yiannitsiotis

    1.Will social media help bridge the gap between citizens and politicians?
    Maybe! It depends on how the societies manage to close the gap a) between the majority of ICT-illiteral people (people who do not have knowledge of how to use new technologies and browse the internet-sphere) and a vivid minority ICT-experts who make themselves heard; b) between the ones who can afford the means to stay “tunned” via modern information technologies and the vast majority (at least in the peripheral countries) who do not have the means to join the new ICT era.

    2.Is the rise of social media a threat to more traditional media?
    Yes, but it is also the opportunity to get rid of rotten entrepreneurs and politicians who play games to the expense of peoples (in Greece, there are numerous examples of “private” TV channels owned by families that used to set the economic and political agenda – now they have been replaced by Troica); the question how to get rid of the Troica still waits for an answer.

    3.Do you think citizens really want greater access to politicians?
    Regarding the byzantine-ottoman majority of the people living in Greece, greater access to politicians traditionally means an opportunity to obtain personal gains (the infamous ottoman “rousfet”), paying of course the “nominal” cost (the infamous ottoman baxish); this ottoman tradition goes hand-by-hand with byzantine “fatries” (factions) most notorious of them the BENETOI (blue) and the ΠΡΑΣΙΝΟΙ (Green) that used to clash in Constantinople (6th cent.BC) for the Emperor’s favor. The Hellenic minority who believe that observing commonly accepted rules (EYNOMIA) is the only path to good living (ΕΥ ΖΗΝ). Therefore, greater access to politicians may not be the best way to democracy regarding at least countries with a heavy burden of more than 4 centuries of ottoman backward rule. Direct democracy may be the answer as well as electronic referendum in critical decisions (of course, the latter is verbotten by Gauleiter Merkel for debt colonies like Greece).

  19. avatar

    Well, as long as all those income-tax-exempt Brusselites want to sign the jobs-destroying free trade treaty with the US (that will allow corporations to more easily move hundreds of thousands of jobs to countries with lower wages and fewer workers rights) how are they going to connect with the people whose jobs they’re gonna let their corporate buddies take away?

    Free trade = more jobs to low wage and low worker protection countries. And thus free trade = less environmental protection.

    And speaking of closing the gap, how can you close the gap when failed politicians who were voted out ‘at home’ are foisted upon us via the undemocratic Eurosoviet Union (heres looking at you, democracy-hater Juncker).

  20. avatar

    Since There isn’t a snowballs chance in hell of any politician actually listening to the citizens of Europe,god forbid they would do that ,if they did they would lose their jobs,and with Schultz in charge there’s little chance of any democracy in Europe

  21. avatar
    catherine benning

    Well lets see if any contact with those who rule over us will move them, shall we? In this clip I have from the Guardian newspapers comments today we see how the view of a good representation of our people in the UK feel about the obvious US takeover of Europe as a whole.

    What do those standing for office in Europe feel about this obvious manipulation by the White House. And are they going along with it? And if they are going along with it, why?


    nhayyan TimBrooke3849

    28 April 2014 5:15pm

    Better yet, Germany needs to urgently reduce its dependency on the US.

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    parauparau Rambir Khatkar

    28 April 2014 6:24pm

    Obama’s arrogance is unprecedented and is capable of driving the world to destruction. Where is Europe’s sense of self-preservation? Why hasn’t Europe issued arrest warrants for every member of the Obama regime?
    The crisis in Ukraine originated with Washington’s overthrow of the elected democratic government and its replacement with Washington’s hand-chosen stooges. The stooges proceeded to act in word and deed against the populations in the former Russian territories that Soviet Communist Party leaders had attached to Ukraine. The consequence of this foolish policy is agitation on the part of the Russian speaking populations to return to Russia. Crimea has already rejoined Russia, and eastern Ukraine and other parts of southern Ukraine are likely to follow. But Obama is demanding that the Russian government pull the rug out from under the protesting populations in eastern and southern Ukraine and force the Russian populations in Ukraine to submit to Washington’s stooges in Kiev. Washington also demands that Russia renege on the reunification with Crimea and hand Crimea over to Washington so that the original plan of evicting Russia from its Black Sea naval base can go forward. Obama, the White House Fool is telling President Putin: “I screwed up my takeover of your backyard. I want you to fix the situation for me and to ensure the success of the strategic threat I intended to bring to your backyard.”
    But the underlying reason for the US financed putsch in Kiev is because the regime in Washington wants to weaken the Russian Federation economically by attacking its gas revenues from the EU and, thus eroding its ability to defend itself or its interests. The US does not want an economically-integrated Europe and Asia. The de facto EU-Russian alliance is perceived as a direct threat to US global hegemony.Washington has decided to use Ukraine is a staging ground for an attack on Russia, because a strong Russia that’s economically integrated with Europe is a threat to US hegemony. Washington wants a weak Russia that won’t challenge US presence in Central Asia or its plan to control vital energy resources. The Obama regime is determined to use the Ukraine as a staging ground for a direct attack on Russia, because a strong Russia which remains economically integrated with Europe is considered as a threat to US global hegemony to which Obama aspires, with a weakened Russian Federation which cannot challenge US preeminence in Central Asia and the US plan to control all global energy resources. Currently, Russia provides about 30 percent of Western and Central Europe’s natural gas, 60 percent of which transits Ukraine. People and businesses in Europe depend on Russian gas to heat their homes and run their machinery. The trading relationship between the EU and Russia is mutually-beneficial strengthening both buyer and seller alike. The US gains nothing from the EU-Russia partnership, which is why Washington wants to block Moscow’s access to critical markets. This form of commercial sabotage is an act of war.
    This is why the CIA and the US State Department engineered a coup to oust Ukrainian president Viktor Yonuchovych and replace him with a US-stooge who would do Obama’s bidding. This is why the imposter prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has ordered two “anti-terror: crackdowns on unarmed activists in East Ukraine who oppose the Kiev junta. This is why the Obama regime has avoided engaging President Putin in constructive dialog aimed at finding on a peaceful solution to the present crisis. It’s because Obama wants to draw the Kremlin into a protracted civil war that will weaken Russia, discredit President Putin, and shift public opinion to the side of the US and NATO.

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    davidpear parauparau

    28 April 2014 7:43pm


    Are you following his gist? Better give it some serious thought because this is what is happening today.

    • avatar
      Limbidis Arian

      “Unarmed” activists ?
      I’m sorry Catherine but you really need to stop watching Russia Today’s propaganda!

      I suggest you watch Simon ostrovsky’s REAL ON THE GROUND footage.
      And you’ll see the “peaceful” protesters.
      Some even ADMIT they are russian soldiers!

      The EU SHOULD stand up to Putin.

      America may be bad but i don’t see them ANNEXING countries right and left like Russia does.

  22. avatar
    Limbidis Arian

    Politicians need to LISTEN to the voice of the people too, not just “connect” with them on social media.
    If we say one thing and then some corporate lobbyists says another and they follow that guy, social media will serve nothing.

  23. avatar

    It is just social media that have been tearing apart societies and countries, how can social media close the gap between EU citizens and politicians. Social media are frequently sponsored by politicians to bewitch citizens to win support. The politicization of social media i.e. when social media become political tools for the mobilization of political support, it would unavoidably divide the society and enlarge the gap between citizens and political leaders.

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