This post deals with why young intersectional feminists should vote in the upcoming EU elections in the midst of the growing far right and women’s underrepresentation. It traces some of the key developments of Greece’s disengagement with the EU. It was first posted on Kandaka blog.

The 2019 EU elections are coming up, and if it were not for my other European friends, I would probably not be locating the voting polls between 23rd and 26th July 2019.

Before I urge you to run to the polls or complete your registrations, I would like to trace my own uneven journey with the EU. During the last EU elections I did not vote although I could have. I was 18 at the time and Greece’s rattling relationship with the EU played a large role in this. My friends around me never spoke of the elections, nor did my parents urge me to vote despite being politically aware. Media coverage was not great in Greece either; the media was preoccupied with internal (primarily financial) concerns instead.  

It is easy to attribute this to the socio-political climate in Greece: the EU appointed harsh austerity measures and there were debates around leaving the eurozone culminating in a referendum only one year later.  However, overlooking these elections may arguably also be because of a preoccupation with internal matters; empowering the national agenda and ‘forgetting’ or overtly ignoring international matters. Such a turn to national interests reflects a broader delegitimizing of international institutions and organizations that, at the end of the day, play at important role in the international economy as well as matters concerning migration and conflict. This delegitimizing may seem undamaging when coming from a country as small as Greece, but ultimately, we have recently seen examples of larger countries taking a similar stance, notably Britain. Although my personal stance lies in challenging the legitimacy that institutions automatically gain, I do believe that at the moment supporting EU politics remains a priority as an effective way of fighting the growing nationalism and right-wing influence in European countries.

We hold the power to change this and see those positions being filled with those we support and whom truly represent us.

Having now lived in both a country that decided to leave the EU but did not and one that is quarrelling over the process of doing so, I can testify to the importance of strengthening international rather than national institutions. Greece was able to get a bailout by remaining in the EU, not to say that this was the fairer option but leaving the EU in a lingering bankruptcy could not have solved the problem. I recognize the EU’s hardline stance through their impositions of harsh austerity measures on Greece, but we must not forget that this was a crisis engineered from within, from the incompetency and corruption of Greek political leaders and the whole Greek ruling/upper class. Certainly, from what we are currently witnessing in Britain, with a decision that drew out only sectarianism within the UK and embarrassed Britain, leaving the EU does not seem like a wise or sustainable decision.

Picture of Valia Katsi, taken by Sreyashi Bhattacharya and edited by Hannah Wolny (Kandaka.blog, 2019)

This is largely because of the threat of the rising far right.  A very real threat arises from those with ambitions to ‘reshape’ the EU, taking it into a direction that could be truly detrimental not only within the EU and the ongoing refugee crisis but also in the international issues that the EU chooses to support (or rather ignore). Salvini, one of the main Euroskeptics, has already made his agenda for asylum seekers from Africa: “when it comes to migration, Salvini says he’d invest more in Africa, to keep people from leaving.”

Sounds like a great idea, no? Actually, this statement mirrors many that have argued that the refugee problem can just be controlled by building refugee camps in African countries, in many cases trapping people in dangerous conflict zones instead of allowing them to reach safety zones. To unpack the reasoning and motivations behind Salvini’s statement, we only need to look at his policies of closing down Italian ports to refugee boats and calling refugees ‘pirates’. On a wider EU level we must NOT FORGET the termination of Operation Sophia, the EU’s anti-smuggling operation that was able to protect some people crossing the Mediterranean from trafficking.  

…vote for democratic parties and candidates that are committed to fighting sexism, racism and homophobia in the upcoming elections.

In light of these dangerous international positionalities, the stakes are high in the coming EU elections.  Simultaneously, women are still largely underrepresented in the EU. We hold the power to change this and see those positions being filled with those we support and whom truly represent us. According to Politico, there are only 5 women predicted to represent Greece in the upcoming elections, qualifying only 23.81% of the positions. These represent: 2 from the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), 2 from the European United Left and 1 from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.  The struggle for women’s rights in Greece still has a long way to go: the recent rape of a student, Eleni Topaloudi in Rhodes triggered a social media battle between feminists and those who believed that ‘she was asking for it’, victim-blaming her for her choice of clothes and body shape. Similarly, the police brutality that a refugee woman faced in Moria camp on Lesvos Island is evident in the documentary ‘Trapped on the Island’.       

According to a poll by the EuroBarometer, most Greeks do not feel represented by the EU, whilst Greece is the country with the most misconceptions on the EU. Therefore, it is necessary for the EU to become more transparent in this year’s elections. Similarly, for media outlets, the substantial coverage of the issue and the recognition of female candidates is crucial. Otherwise we will end up seeing a vacuum that can leave far rightists dominating the debate and assuming positions of power.

Thus, I urge you to go and vote for democratic parties and candidates that are committed to fighting sexism, racism and homophobia in the upcoming elections. Your elector vote is a right that you must exercise. We need more intersectional feminist voices in the upcoming elections.

YOUR stakes are high.  

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Valia Katsi
valinaki_k@hotmail.com
Valia is an actor and final year BA International Relations and Arabic student at SOAS, University of London. She runs the blog Kandaka (https://kandaka.blog/ ), an intersectional, post-colonial, feminist platform. Valia is also a dancer and writer and recently wrote her Independent Study Project on ‘How theatre can be used as a tool for decolonisation in South Africa and Palestine’. You can follow Valia on Instagram at @kandaka.blog and @valiakatsis.

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