If Finland and the EU were on a reality TV show, what would their relationship be like?
Imagine the show is Love Island, and there’s other countries there too. How would they interact, and what would they learn from each other?
That’s the premise of a new chat video series developed by students in Turku aiming to make the EU relevant to young Finns by discussing it over three ‘Chatfiction’ episodes.
“Basically the main characters are Finland and the EU and they are testing their relationship. There’s a conversation between two people and the story evolves when you watch the conversation” explains Milena Raappana, one of the Turku University of Applied Sciences TUAS journalism students behind the project.
The chatfiction shows have been funded and produced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as part of an effort to get more young Finnish people talking about the EU, and understanding its role in Finnish society.
While other countries have had active public discussions about what sort of reforms a post-Brexit EU might need to make, Finland has lagged behind. Analysts note there’s been scant government-lead discussion about what the future role of the EU might be, or what meaningful reforms might entail.
Finland’s ‘Let’s talk about the EU’ campaign is the belated effort to promote discussion.
But it seems the official #munEU hashtag – ‘myEU’ in English – has not been a viral hit. So far it has only been used by a handful of bureaucrats, official organisations and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s (Centre) official account.
A search on Twitter didn’t reveal a single instance of a young Finnish person using the #MunEU hashtag during 2018; not even the students at Oulu University or other young people Sipilä met in February when his account was using the hashtag repeatedly as he visited the city to promote the initiative.
Turku students say they developed the short video series in a format that would appeal to young Finns, who wouldn’t otherwise be spending much time talking about the EU.
“I haven’t lived when Finland wasn’t in the EU” says 22-year old Milena Raappana.
“Basically I take it for granted, but when I have done this project I learned many things, and I think it is important to discuss about the EU, because the EU has many little things that affect our lives. It’s important that we don’t take them for granted, and realise what all those little things are” she says.
The target audience for the video series – like the students themselves – are first time voters at the next European Parliament elections scheduled for May 2019.
“Their insight of their own age group was certainly helpful in the project” says the Foreign Ministry’s Johanna Kaprio, who oversaw the project.
“It gave us the opportunity to discuss with them how the EU affects the everyday life of young people in various occasions. We discussed everything from the common currency to student, worker, and volunteer mobility; passenger rights and other consumer rights; digital single market issues, the end of roaming and geo-blocking, climate change and environmental policies” Kaprio adds.
Finland’s EU Relationship
While young Finns might not be debating EU reforms, as a group they’re broadly supportive of Finnish membership of the soon-to-be 27 member block.
According to a study carried out by Suomalaisen Eurooppaliikkee, the NGO umbrella organisation of the Finnish European Movement, 81% of young people in Finland regard EU membership as a positive thing for the country. Some 89% of those questioned in the survey said that while they identify first as Finnish citizens, they also consider themselves to be citizens of the European Union.
That trend is echoed through Eurobarometer survey results as well, the official European Commission poll of public opinion on various topics that dates back to 1974.
The latest results show:
- 83% of Finns have a ‘totally positive’ or ‘neutral’ view of the EU;
- 69% of Finns have an ‘optimistic’ view of the future of the EU;
- 55% of Finns think their voice counts in the European Union;
- 75% of Finns support using the euro as Finland’s currency;
- 81% of Finns overall feel like they are citizens of the EU.
While these sorts of statistical studies might be inspiring for anyone working inside the Brussels bubble, they don’t even register for many young Finns.
The chatfiction video series – more episodes might be produced if they become a hit – aims to make the EU more approachable.
“I think that our goal was that we would kind of want to educate young people, but not in a way like ‘this is the EU, dry and boring'” says Raappana.
“We wanted to do it in a fun way, and with humour. I think that was our main goal, to make young people think about the EU and realise that is is quite a big part of our lives”.