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What happens in Brussels does have an impact on our daily lives, more than we are aware of, more than we credit them for. Treating it like a second-rate election would not do it right, Els Bruggeman writes.
ADVERTISEMENTThe European Union and its citizens, it remains a strained relationship. One full of mixed perceptions and mistrust, yet with high expectations. Sounds like the recipe for some serious marriage counselling or the script of the better Hollywood rom-com? No, it’s just a European reality. From love to hate, hate to love. It’s reminiscent of the Facebook relationship status, “It’s complicated”.Taking stock of the last five years, a large-scale Euroconsumers survey shows little consumer satisfaction with the EU’s overall track record. While people appreciate how Europe handled the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU’s approach to inflation and the cost of living crisis merely gets a staggering 12% approval rate. This goes with an equally low level of trust in our EU institutions to address citizens’ major concerns for the future.A recipe for disaster, one would think? Here’s where it becomes interesting. When presented with some concrete consumer measures, perception takes a remarkably sharp turn. Having a right to get products repaired? Very important. Better protection against energy providers? Great. Protecting minors on social media? We love it.Unknown equals unlovedYet very few citizens are aware they have the European Union to thank for this. Even less feel properly informed about it. Okay, 7 out of 10 know it is the EU that is putting a limit to their cars’ CO2 emissions, but when it comes to better cybersecurity and product safety, not so much.Even longer-lasting and well-established consumer wins, like the right to send back a product when shopping online, no more roaming charges, or compensation in case of flight delays, don’t seem to ring an EU bell with half of Europe’s citizens. That is baffling, knowing that most consumer-empowering rules originate from solid European legislation.Consumers were certainly not lying when they indicated in the survey they knew very little about the European Union. Of course it doesn’t help they feel little informed by their national media. And it for sure doesn’t help some national policymakers tend to blame Europe when something goes bad but claim it when it goes well.That’s not what people want and expect from their leaders. On the contrary, 69% want them to act as Europeans first, and half want more Europe, not less. That’s the funny thing: despite consumers’ scepticism and mistrust, they also express high hopes and big expectations.Access to affordable medicines, sustainable and affordable food or fighting financial scams? Yes, please.With 75% and more deeming this very important, citizens are giving the EU a clear mandate to deliver this for them. Together with a clear mandate comes a clear message: Europe, we count on you to rise to the challenge.ADVERTISEMENTYour vote mattersOn 9 June, it is up to European citizens to rise to the challenge and cast their vote.Europe matters. What happens there does have an impact on our daily lives, more than we are aware of, more than we credit them for. If we want Europe to lead for consumers, it is up to consumers to show the right direction.Treating it like a second-rate election would not do it right. That’s why it is striking that at the time of the Euroconsumers’ survey, nearly half felt poorly or not informed at all about the different political election programs, and one out of three would just vote for the same party they vote for nationally.With one month to go to the European election, it’s not too late yet. To use the language of Taylor Swift, one of the most influential women of today, whether we’ll end up with a “Lover” or rather a “Tortured Poets Department” is up to our new European leaders and to the European people. ADVERTISEMENTEls Bruggeman is Head of Advocacy and Enforcement at Euroconsumers. At Euronews, we believe all views matter.Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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