Diversity_9_Youth-participation-in-politicsThe average age of a Member of the European Parliament is slightly over 51. That’s younger than the previous parliament, when the average age was 55. The proportion of female MEPs has also risen, and now sits at 37%. However, the number of non-white MEPs is disproportionately low; there are 751 MEPs in the Parliament, and roughly 99% of them are white.

So, MEPs are overwhelmingly “male, pale and stale”. Is this a problem? Or is this just ageism, misandry and reverse racism dressed up as political correctness? We had a comment sent in from Sara who said she would definitely like to see more diversity among Europe’s politicians. For example, she wondered why European political parties weren’t putting forward younger candidates:

citizen_icon_180x180One thing that could be done is to have more young politicians in the field, otherwise their voices are not heard. Why are so few politicians under 30 in the European Parliament? I would like to know what European parties are waiting for?

To give you an idea about young people and politics in Europe, we’ve put together some relevant facts and figures. Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger image).
Young people in politicsVECTWe put Sara’s question about younger politicians to Tibor Navracsics, former Hungarian Foreign Minister and the current European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, whose party sits with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament. As EU Commissioner for Youth, how would he respond?

navracsicsPartly it is down to national politics because party lists are put together at the national level, even during European Parliament elections. So, it is an issue of political mobilisation and career opportunities within the Member States. On the other hand, of course young people’s interest in European affairs has been waning over recent years. So, I hope that in future we can make it more interesting for young people and they will find more opportunities for taking part in European politics.

Navracsics makes an important point: if young people want better representation then they have to start voting. Turnout among voters aged 55+ was 51.3% at the most recent European Parliament elections in May 2014. Younger people, however, were much more likely to stay away from the poll booths; 72% of people under 24 did not vote.

When we spoke to Victor Negrescu, a Romanian MEP who sits with the Social Democrats in the European Parliament, he repeated the same message as Navracsics; if young people want their interests to be represented by politicians, then they need to get out and vote during elections:

negrescuI’m one of those MEPs who is under 30. I’m the youngest ever Romanian MEP to enter the European Parliament, and was elected to the Parliament when I was 28 years old. The problem is that the political parties support politicians that citizens support. That’s why it’s so important for young people to support younger politicians in order to promote them into the European Parliament, otherwise political parties won’t consider those politicians as able to bring in votes, attract the attention of citizens and make them vote during the European elections. So, young people should get involved in order to promote more young people in the European Parliament.

Why are so many European politicians old, white men? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reaction!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Adam Scotti

57 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Good Question. Probably because of how life goes, you go to school, then learn a trade, work in it, politicians probably joined a political party early, then worked their way up, had to get elected too, but with a big politicall party supporting you that shouldnt be too difficult, one must also remember that there are older heads there that wont give up their seats easily, so as time passes by they get older and retire or pass away, this opens up a seat to new people, but politicians love to stick to a Parliament seat like glue, some even for decades, there should be laws against that but its the parliamentarians who make the laws so dont expect something like that to get passed.

  2. avatar
    Paul X

    I totally disagree that we need more younger politicians. The last thing we need is more “career politicians” whose sole life experience is a few years partying at university. In fact I would go as far as to say these type of politicians are dangerous, they enter politics full of fanciful ideologies and start making decisions without any real grasp of the impact they have on people in the real world

    Politicians should serve an apprenticeship, they should leave university and have several long work placements in various private and public sector positions during which time they only receive the minimum wage. Only if they can survive this do they have the moral right to make decisions that affect millions of ordinary people

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @Paul X.

      I totally agree with your comments above on this issue. In fact what we need is to stop politicians of say, Tony Blair’s and Cameron’s age when they are offered for leader of their parties. It should be illegal to be a leader under the age of fifty. They have no life experience and as you say, they come out of uni and take up jobs as lobbyists, etc., with their eye on the main chance. And they are simply indoctrinated robots with an view toward large speaking payments when they leave office.

      Not only that, younger people are far more stupid when it comes to understanding that they are being manipulated into war, as well as being made targets for the wealthy to sell them a line. They haven’t reached an age in life when their natural sense of duty to their fellow man has kicked in.

      In other words they are too irresponsible and those backing them know it and want it that way. Frankly they sound like a bunch of school children, both male and female, as they have had no time in the real world and keep their idiocy and vanity at the level of 19 year olds.

      Take Cameron again, he left his daughter in a pub, not remembering he had taken her there. If that is a man fit to run a country then I’m a dolphin. And we all know about the Blair creature and his world at war disaster, whilst on his knees to the Bush family. Yo, Blair!

      We need to get rid of the lot of them and start again with a new bunch who have life experience and understand the difficulty of the man in the street. Although, that said, Tsipras, appears to be on top of it and he is considered young. Although, in his case, he has seen up close the suffering of the Greek people. The rest have no idea what they are either talking about or doing.

      It used to be as you suggest, a long apprenticeship on a pittance before any hope of a top position. What is being lined up for us in the UK is absolutely terrifying, the spiv, Chuka Umunna, under the wing of the odd ball Mandelson, along with some erstwhile stupid crones who shame the UK as the offers we put forward. All Baroness Ashton types with a dreadful dress sense and ghastly teeth, the losers who think they are ready to be the nanny of us all, as they climb on the back of political correctness to get the posts.

      And the reason so many of them are’ white,’ is because so many Europeans are ‘white’ and therefore they should be led by those whom we have a connection to. Is there something wrong with being ‘white’ in majority white countries? If so, please spell it out for us.

      How many African countries do you see with ‘white’ leaders? How many Arab countries are led by whites, and Indian countries, Japanese and so on, not to mention who leads the Israelis? Do you think they would have a Christian or Muslim leading their State. Don’t make me laugh.

      Is the suggestion now to be we must follow the US and choose a black leader as an appropriate political stooge. In other words, more of the same propaganda and indoctrination of the ‘white’ race being too much. Whites are an endangered species and we should take steps to ensure we do not become extinct under daily this bullying pressure. .

  3. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar


    Most people in Europe happen to be white?

    Most people in politics need to accrue the necessary political/lobbying non-job experience which often takes until middle-age?

    More men want to go into politics than women?

    The forum question should be:
    “Should career politicians be banned?”
    “Should potential politicians do a “proper job” prior to becoming a politician?”.
    “Should potential politicians work in the real-world and pass relevant exams before EVEN considering becoming a politician?”

    • avatar

      Honestly, guys, did you need to start a debate and have someone tell you that?

  4. avatar
    Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    You forgot rich. And the reason they’re old is so they can prevent europe from progressing. Well. actually the reason they’re old is because they’ve been around long enough.

  5. avatar
    Ignacio C. Furfaro

    The question “Why are so many European politicians white?” is a debate taken from the US reality. It applies to them but not to Europe. Europe’s population is in its extraordinary vast majority white, and non-white people are not only a minority but also (relatively) new in society. This should not be interpreted as me saying that non-white components of European society should not be politicians, but rather saying that it is only logical (and frankly obvious) that the majority of politicians are white.

  6. avatar
    Ulf Skei

    Also, being an active member of a political party is something each individual, irrespective of gender and age, has to decide for themselves. At least here in Sweden young people tend to have other priorities than working in an organisation for years to create a foundation for party political work. Nobody stops anybody from pursuing that particular route. I suppose it’s more convenient to turn on tv or go out with pals.

  7. avatar
    German Gordejev

    Are you kidding me? Why it is completely polite to post something like “old white men” in a negative context, but it’s an insult to even mention social or political negative aspects about certain other social groups?

  8. avatar
    Máté János

    A misleading question, because even in the ancient times the council of the elderly consisted of older and respected men and sometimes women of the tribe…

  9. avatar
    Lukas Zu

    They are old, because they took some years to build their careers. They are white because native Europeans are, generally, white. The women question is the only interesting part..

  10. avatar
    Yüce Ağanoğlu

    very true, all we see is bunch of grumpy old crocodiles, what’s up with that ?? Italy and Greece have young prime ministers for example.

  11. avatar
    Dionìs Koçi

    Not only in Europe politicians don’t use to be of immigrant origin no matter the skin colour. For women a similiar thing. Most immigrants come from inside Europe, but noone speaks about within-Europe immigrants. It is obvious the proffessional reason why immigrants (and to a certain extend, women) don’t become politicians: they don’t use to work in such types of worksallow such careers. Ever heared of a country demanding foreign labour force for supplying their lacks in parliament or in their government? For obetter understanding on privileges of being an old man, then, you might want to ask abou tit to the next homeless old man you meet.

  12. avatar
    Dionìs Koçi

    Ever heared of a country demanding foreign labour force for supplying their lacks in parliament or in their government?

  13. avatar
    La Fed Ham

    The real issue here is what do we really mean by the generically misleading term “white”? Why is it that so many people continually read into the idea that if you are “white” “male” and in a position of “seniority” that you command greater power than other non white, non male and non elderly subjects? That’s about as rational as saying that all Asian dudes are computer loving, maths excelling master minds whom still get a kick out of playing with Mecano kit sets.

  14. avatar

    I think this question is kind of stupid when there are people from other groups too. In my country we have muslim politicians along with ” white” ones. The right question should be : do you think your country or the Eu has the right politicians to rule it?

  15. avatar
    Yannick Cornet

    #WhereAreTheWomen .. Indeed. This is one major problem, and so far really only Scandinavian countries provide enough opportunity for women to take part, simply by offering a free day care system for full working hours as soon as maternity leave is over. This prevents them from becoming the default caretaker of children. It ought to start there.

  16. avatar
    Τάσος Σολδάτος

    well….europe is a union of white countries…..thats why the presidents are white…..N they are old (except greece of course) cause people here are smart enough to trust people with more experince than younger.

  17. avatar
    Paul X

    I’m afraid I don’t buy into the old childcare excuse. Men are as capable as women at looking after children and it is down to the individual parents exactly who stays at home and who works though it seems in a majority of cases it is the women who chooses to do this

    No matter how naive they are people who want children must realise that someone is actually going to have look after them and I don’t agree that if neither parent wants to accept this responsibility why state subsidised (i.e my taxes) childcare should be provided

  18. avatar
    Toni Muñiz

    And this is the problem with the EU, not old white men, but this stupid question and ideology behind it. Are we going to start like in the USA and anti white campaign where whites have to apologize for being white?

  19. avatar
    Ed Cocks

    For the same general reasons Africa has so many middle-aged, black politicians.

  20. avatar
    Borislav Valkov

    Conservatism has become something of the past hasn’t it? We have to change everything we stand for otherwise what? We will perish? We cannot live without extreeme diversity where sharia followers meet modern civilzed men? I ain’t against the sharia but if someone chooses to follow it they should stay where it is considered normal and not impose it over my state as their right!

  21. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    Omg! Is this the outcome of the LAST “EU summit” or did the EU/DE summit the zenith of ‘political correctness”- by projecting Europe is vanishing & already part of America, Asia or Africa? Seems, this present EU- team Juncker has run out of intelligent and grass-root questions!

    Or, is it an EU wish to have more baby’s who can cry (or lie)- appearing pink in the end- or pink as some drunk politicians?

  22. avatar
    Ramiz Meherremli

    The are more…skilled?

    But, for example, in France there are many women politicians. Also there are many popular young politicians in Eastern Europe. And about race: if you mention the race, you will never be united. Also it is actual for the US. There mustn’t be black or white, there must be a Europeans. Race is biological thing, not social.

  23. avatar
    Nico Selleslags

    De eu veroorzaakt een democratisch deficit wat leidt tot een een algemene gelatenheid bij de bevolking. Oplossing doek de eu op…

  24. avatar
    Mark Hardy

    This is there retirement plan, when they are seen as no longer being of any great value in there home countries they are put out to pasture in Europe. How happy would you feel if your grandfather (irrespective of how much you love him) made all the decisions for your family including the rules of the house, who could pass with freedom, who could talk with impunity, how you could dress and whether you were allowed to smoke and drink. But you needn’t worry at 18 you could vote against these policies and if your lucky they would be considered before being vetoed.

  25. avatar
    Marco Musazzi

    Look at Italy. The people I voted in the last elections (Monti and Bersani) were thrown out by their parties (note that one of them was thrown out despite winning majority in parliament!). What is the point in political participation?

  26. avatar
    Carlos Cunha

    this concept of modern Europe does not exist. What exists is the european sovereign nations and not this conglomeration of people. Free people of Europe do not accept this European Union, for which they were not called in its construction. We want our currency and our sovereignty. That is truly the old Europe, not this, made by the Bildelberg!
    Like Just now

  27. avatar
    Anatilde Alves

    Easy , white because europe is mostly white , and old because it takes time to accuire the connections to get in. Also they dont really want some youngsters , going in and changing things.

  28. avatar
    David Danjuma

    I think this goes straight to showing that young europeans have less sense of political participation otherwise known as political apathy

  29. avatar

    I agree with others who suggest that a career in politics should not be allowed. We need term limits, and we need a career-in-politics limit. Maybe cap it at 10 years or so, that is more than enough. And also ban politicians from leaving politics for a job that pays more.

    Wanna be a public servant? Then play by the public’s rules!

  30. avatar
    Prince du Sang

    In the code of conduct under terms of use you said you don’t tolerate racism, but this question IS racist???

    • avatar
      Prince du Sang

      Imagine the response I would get if I questioned why all the politicians in Africa were middle-aged, black men. Imagine! I would not even dream of it!

  31. avatar

    I can list a number of reasons but whatever those are, this middle aged group of professional politicians IS a problem and needs to be addressed.
    Term limits is one way!

  32. avatar

    Younger people should be busy starting a family, not engaging in narcissistic self-elevation. Besides this important decisions need to be made by people with some life experience…Not by young fools fresh out of school.

  33. avatar

    One reason is many are professional politicians from EU countries who have lost their posts , just like Junckers and Tusk and get appointed to EU posts .
    Professional politicians should be banned , and people made accountable for their decisions and actions .
    Also the party system has eroded democracy , as politicians do not represent their voters , but a party .
    The EU idea is outdated , and another form of EEC would be better , allowing for competivity and creativity within the EU area . The Lisbon Treaty was a way of federalization of the EU without consultation of EU citizens .
    The EU as a democratic entity is finished , as the push to federalization without consultation shows , and the refusal of referendums in general .
    The EU has turned like the US into an ultra conservative region where politicians lack creativity and accountability , and where politicians refuse change as it would effect their power and incomes .
    If the EU fails , how many unemployed ( and unemployable)will result from it, from politicians to civil servants , lobbying and support sectors , should EU citizens be required to pay for all these unaccountable people .

  34. avatar

    The “refusal of referendums in general” of another of anti-European imbreds. My opinion: out with undermining rubbish from the EU.

  35. avatar

    I am Englush OAP but I feel the youth of today have been totally ignored. The EU parliament is only looking after their own welfare we MUST think of The youth today because they are the future it’s time that the old guard and elite make way for new decision s by putting in place more young people to decide the future for the next generation

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