May 22nd, 2019
Starting tomorrow, Europeans will cast their votes to elect their members of the European Parliament. In an increasingly polarized world, Europeans are less likely to understand the points of view of someone from a different city or with opposite political views. But this understanding is essential to a healthy political discourse.
The German news website Zeit Online, with technical and financial support from Google, wanted to bridge the gap. Together with 15 other European media outlets like Der Standard (Austria), Efimerida Ton Syntakton (Greece), Financial Times (UK), Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland), La Repubblica (Italy) and Politiken (Denmark), ZEIT ONLINE created “Europe talks,” a platform that brings together thousands of Europeans with diverse views to debate politics. The idea behind “Europe talks” is simple: diverse opinions make conversations more interesting and foster mutual understanding.
In total, almost 6,000 people held a cross-border debate in person or video conference on May 11. People of all ages traveled far and wide to participate: two debate partners traveled a combined distance of 4,000 kilometers for the debate, and the oldest participant was 91 years old. 500 participants met their debate partner in person at the kick-off event held at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. The event included prominent guests like ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti; Philippe Van Parijs, philosopher at the University of Louvain; or Yasmine Ouirhrane, “Young European of the Year 2019.“ ZEIT ONLINE wrapped up ten of the many interesting conversations.
Europe talks stems from “My Country Talks,” a project initiated by ZEIT ONLINE. Since 2017, we provided funding to build the technology that powered My Country Talks, which matches people to debate, based on a questionnaire and the country they live in. Since then, nearly 80,000 people people with diverse political views have participated. Now when Europeans head to vote in the coming days, hopefully they’ll know their region and their neighbors a bit better than before.