A voter casts her ballot at a polling station during the European Parliamentary election, in Berlin, on June 9, 2024.

Editor’s Note:Paul Hockenos is a Berlin-based writer focusing on renewable energy in Europe. He is the author of five books on European issues, most recently “Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall and the Birth of the New Berlin.” The opinions in this article are his own. Read more CNN Opinion.

Berlin CNN  — 

The last time the European Union voted, five years ago, teenagers across the continent were taking to the streets en masse: demonstrating for serious climate protection policies. They had no say, they inveighed, on decisions that would define their lives for years to come. “We’ll go to school if you keep the climate cool,” they taunted with verve, justifying their audacious skipping of class to protest.

Paul Hockenos

Surveys show that young people (usually the 18 to 24-year-old bracket) in democracies on both sides of the Atlantic tend to cast their ballots for more reform-minded, left-of-center parties, rather than those on the right. This was why European conservatives had long opposed giving 16 and 17 year-olds the vote — even though older teenagers are legally permitted to work, drive vehicles and pay federal income taxes.

And, indeed, in the 2019 European Parliamentary elections, the youngest voters turned out in droves, expressing their concerns about global warming in what observers called a “Green wave.” A third of Germany’s young people voted for the Greens.

Fast forward five years, and it’s a very different story.

This European Parliamentary election, which wrapped up on Sunday, was the first in which Germans as young as 16 were eligible to votesince the age was lowered from 18.

And in Austria, Belgium, Malta and Greece, 16 or 17-year-olds had the right to cast their ballot. These minors finally had a say on those issues that will affect them for years, if not decades, to come.