Participation in EU elections "clear message in favour of a common Europe" and expression of "courageous cohesion in a vital EU" 

Under the motto "Universities choose Europe", universities and universities of applied sciences are jointly calling for participation in the European Parliament elections on 9 June 2024. The appeal will be supported by a coordinated campaign in terms of content and visuals on social media and on the websites of universities and universities of applied sciences in the weeks leading up to the EU elections. The campaign will start on Tuesday, 7 May 2024, and Austria's universities also want to highlight the importance of the EU as a scientific area.

"The EU wants to remain the most favourable place to live in the world in terms of education, health, prosperity and the well-being of the entire population. Science, research and efficient universities are key factors in achieving this," says uniko President Oliver Vitouch. Ulrike Prommer, President of the Conference of Universities of Applied Sciences (FHK): "The core competence of European universities is to create knowledge. Knowledge is only increased through sharing and this happens through cooperation, openness to new ideas, equality, freedom and co-determination. These values, which form the irrevocable basis of our universities, can only be preserved and safeguarded by a common Europe."

Rectors' conferences from ten countries involved

The university campaign is not taking place in isolation in Austria. Together with the network Universities for Enlightenment (U4E) has launched an election appeal entitled "Universities choose Europe": In it, the rectors' conferences of ten countries appeal to the candidates for the European Parliament to commit to Europe and stand up for the strengthening of science. The U4E network has drawn up a position paper that sets out the content framework for the campaign: it emphasises the added value of the European Union for universities and higher education institutions, as well as formulating the demands and expectations of the higher education sector towards the future MEPs and the new European Commission.

What Europe brings to universities and colleges

Studying throughout the EU: The EU guarantees its citizens the right to study in any other EU country under the same conditions that apply to nationals of that Member State. Academic mobility is promoted and supported by the ERASMUS+ programme.

Joint research:  The EU facilitates cross-border cooperation between European researchers and invests in large-scale framework programmes for research and innovation. The EU promotes the global networking of its universities and research institutions. At the same time, it is developing a framework that ensures the security of research and protects European interests in a global context.

Research funding for climate neutrality: The EU supports research to combat climate change, covering a wide range of topics from new technologies to social cohesion issues. This supports the European Green Deal, which aims to achieve a fair and inclusive transition to a climate-neutral Europe.

Strategy and rules for digital change: The EU is responding to the digital transformation and the rise of artificial intelligence with a series of regulations of its own. The EU has an AI strategy and is currently developing ethical guidelines and regulations to mitigate risks and is funding corresponding research and education programmes.

Guaranteed academic freedom: The EU is committed to academic freedom. Academic freedom is inextricably linked to democracy, the rule of law and human rights. These principles are guaranteed in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

What we expect from Europe

Develop the EU as an attractive science area: The EU must ensure that international cooperation in education and research remains guaranteed and is further expanded. Europe must remain an attractive location for research and innovation that is open to international students, researchers and teachers, while at the same time preserving European standards and values.

Promoting research co-operation between regions: In order to achieve synergy effects, investments in high-quality science must be distributed across all regions, including the provision of an appropriate digital infrastructure.

Introduce a university compatibility check: The EU should carry out a prior assessment of legislation that could affect universities and their activities (e.g. in the areas of trade, migration, digital transformation or the rule of law), involving the higher education sector, and ensure that new regulations do not hinder education, research and innovation.

Provide ambitious financing: EU research programmes must be ambitiously funded. National and European research spending should be coordinated in order to create added value.

Voting as a signal for a common, vital Europe

More than 370 million EU citizens will be called upon to elect 705 representatives to the EU Parliament from 6 to 9 June 2024. This EU election is the first in which UK citizens will no longer be able to vote due to Brexit. The universities are relieved to note that - contrary to some fears - the centrifugal forces in the European Union have not increased after Brexit. Nevertheless, the example of the UK in particular shows that the dangers of anti-European propaganda should not be underestimated. With this in mind, we consider a high turnout in the EU elections to be an important signal for strengthening the Union and European democracy, as the EU Parliament is the only directly elected institution in the Union. Oliver Vitouch: "Democracy does not come for free. It has to be fought for, preserved and nurtured again and again. We cannot be indifferent to an energetic, vital, forward-looking Europe - and the geopolitical developments of the disinformation age make it abundantly clear how important courageous cohesion and the voice of reason are today." Ulrike Prommer: "Given the current geopolitical situation, it is important for us to send a clear message in favour of a united Europe. That's why universities are voting for Europe on 9 June 2024!"

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