The elections kicked off on Thursday when voters in the UK and the Netherlands went to the polls. Voting continues until Sunday with the first results expected early evening.
Parliament is desperate to see improved turnout at these elections, not least because previous declining participation rates have been seized on by Eurosceptics as a sign of disinterest in the EU.
Among the soccer players who are backing the campaign to encourage people to vote are German goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, Sweden midfielder Nilla Fischer and Finland captain Tim Sparv.
The campaign, using the hashtag #thistimeimvoting in multiple European languages, encourages citizens to vote in the four-day EU-wide poll.
Voter turnout in the last elections five years fell to just above 42 percent, an all-time low since the first direct elections were held back in 1979.
Portugal captain Cláudia Neto, Bulgaria midfielder Svetoslav Dyakov and Stefan Schwab of Austria are among other national team players participating in the continent-wide initiative.
Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Trapp said it was “important that citizens contribute to the European Union’s future.”
“I am very pleased to see the involvement of so many European professional footballers in this campaign. This is testimony to the unity and pride that Europeans feel about their continent” Antonio Tajani, European Parliament President
Fischer, who has played more than 150 times for Sweden, said she planned to use her vote to “fight for equal rights.”
“It’s really important that we take a stand and that different players take a stand to get people to vote because it does matter,” Fischer said. “It’s very, very important to take part in elections.”
The campaign is also supported by 10 European player unions: AIC (Italy), VDF (Austria), HUNS (Croatia), AFE (Spain), SJPF (Portugal), SFS (Sweden), SPINS (Slovenia), CAFH (Czech Republic), JPY (Finland), and PASP (Cyprus).
FIFPro Europe general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffman said, “We would like to thank every single footballer player involved in this campaign. It is fantastic they are using their prominent public profile to encourage citizens across Europe to vote.”
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said, “I am very pleased to see the involvement of so many European professional footballers in this campaign.”
“This is testimony to the unity and pride that Europeans feel about their continent and sends a strong message about protecting the future of Europe.”
The assembly has gone out of its way to raise awareness of the elections in a bid to reverse a 40-year-long decline in voting.
“It is important that citizens contribute to the European Union’s future” Kevin Trapp, footballer
It points to the increased powers and influence of the Parliament in 2019. This includes oversight over the EU budget and the ability to sanction the election of EU commissioners.
The bid to increase turnout to at least 50 percent this time is also backed by around 500 film directors and actors who signed a “European Manifesto” at the Cannes film festival this week.
The text signed by, among others, Belgian directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, German director Wim Wenders and UK actor Ralph Fiennes, calls on Europeans to stand up for a “free and democratic Europe, a Europe of freedom of thought and expression” by voting.
Parliament said its official 30-second “Choose your future” TV ad has been shown more than 1,600 times on 79 major European TV channels in 25 Member States and viewed 130 million times on social networks since its launch on 25 April.
The video, aimed at young voters aged 18-24, reached 8 million views within the first five days of its launch.
Meanwhile, Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, said climate change “for the first time” will top the agenda in the poll.
She said, “This will put pressure on more conservative politicians to finally acknowledge the need for climate action in their election campaigns.”
“It’s really important that we take a stand and that different players take a stand to get people to vote because it does matter” Nilla Fischer, footballer
She added, “The immense momentum gathered by youth climate strikes across Europe has forced centre and conservative parties of the current European Parliament to recognise that they can no longer downplay the climate crisis.”
CAN Europe says that after being criticised for not doing enough on climate, both Manfred Weber, representing the European People's Party (EPP) and Margrethe Vestager, of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), “have been forced to give more attention to climate change in their election campaigns.”
It said, “This is a sharp turn compared to the EPP’s and ALDE’s stance on climate policy in the current legislative term, during which both parties have not lived up to the urgency of climate action.”
In a ranking of EU political groups and national parties on climate change published by CAN Europe, the EPP scores just 14.3 percent, and was classified by the NGO as “Dinosaurs who have not yet grasped the need for action against climate change.”
ALDE scored 38.1 percent and were branded by CAN Europe as “delayers who generally support climate action, but do not act with the required urgency.”
Trio said, “In the last five years conservative and centre parties have not done enough to stand up for European citizens and protect them from the climate crisis.”
“The youth climate strikes created the momentum for all politicians to acknowledge that climate change is a topic they can no longer ignore. After the European elections we will hold MEPs accountable and make sure that their promises are followed by concrete measures to tackle the climate emergency.”