Why you must vote in the 2014 EU Parliamentary
The EU government and its member states are ready as the 2014 EU Parliamentary election draws nearer. But the most important question is, are you?
The EU Parliament is one of the most influential political entities in the world. It has the power to steer the future of the 28 member states in the EU and every citizen in these countries. But every year, voter turnout declines, showing lack of interest among the people it has vowed to serve.
Why should you care what happens in the EU Parliamentary election?
EU Parliament in your daily life
The EU Parliament is responsible for making a lot of aspects in your life much easier or harder to do. Smoking habits, the price of a cigarette stick and the availability of e-cigarettes is regulated by the EU. How much you’re paying for mobile roaming is influenced by the EU. The use of plastic bags whenever you visit the grocery shop and the amount of bags going to waste is monitored by the EU. Even the ads that appear on your Facebook page can be influenced by the EU!
The scope of the EU Parliament’s power ranges in many sectors your life: employee rights, consumer rights, migration, environment protection and many more. All these things can influence how much you bring home in pay days, how healthy your neighbourhood is and the type and quality of food you eat.
The members of the Parliament are responsible for making laws that encompass the whole Eurozone, affecting aspects of the daily lives of those who reside in the area. There is simply no escaping the rule of the EU Parliament because once the laws they pen come into force you must follow.
This is why their decisions matter. This is why it is important for you to choose who these people are going to be.
If it’s so important, why are there fewer voters every year?
Since the first parliament was elected in 1979, the voter turnout has been steadily decreasing. In the last EU Parliament election, 2009, less than 50% of voters turned out in the ballots.
There are many reasons why plenty of voters are not interested in going to the polls during Parliamentary election. Some of these are:
- EU citizens do not know what the EU Parliament does
- EU citizens do not know who the EU Parliament politicians are
- Focus is given more to the politics of individual states
- No distinction is seen between EU-wide problems and nationwide problems
- Conflicting opinions on how Europe should be structured and run
- EU Parliament is physically invisible in some countries (there are three meeting places in EU and these are found in France and Belgium)
- EU Parliament meeting places are geographically too far
- Language barrier leads to barrier in understanding politicians and parties from other countries
All these factors lead citizens to not feel the influence of the EU Parliament. But some of these are already being bridged. The internet has proven a powerful tool to disseminate information straight from the parliament’s work places through europarl.europa.eu.
The Europarliament website is accessible in 24 languages. It contains essential information like committees, the members or MEPs, political parties, roles of the parliament, key activities, plenary sessions and many more.
These pieces of information are designed to bring the EU Parliament closer to you. All you have to do is find the time to access them. Once you’re connected, you can then be empowered to make a wise vote for the coming EU Parliament election.
Who can vote?
But before voting, you must first know who is eligible to vote. What are the requirements to become a voter for the 2014 EU Parliament election? To vote, you must be:
- A citizen in an EU member country
- Aged 18 (16 in Austria) and above
- Residing in your host country for a certain time (rules vary per country)
- A registered voter in your host country
Non-EU nationals who are not registered citizens in their host country cannot vote regardless of residency and if you are paying taxes.
In Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg, voting in the EU Parliamentary election is compulsory. Meaning, if your name appears in the electoral roll then you’re obliged to vote. You may only vote once in the EU Parliamentary election.
How is it done?
The most common way of voting is by visiting the polling station (usually a public hall or school) nearest you. However, some countries offer other ways in case you can’t go to the polling station on election day. These options include:
- Vote by post. Get, fill out, sign and send a postal vote application form to your local electoral registration office.
- Vote by proxy. Get, fill out, sign and send an application to vote by proxy to your local electoral registration office.
Here’s a walkthrough of how to vote:
- In some countries, eligible voters receive a card by mail that tells them where and when they can vote.
- Once you get to the polling station, your name will be checked in the electoral roll. Bring a valid ID!
- Read and fill out the correct ballot paper…
- Then drop your completed form in the ballot box.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to approach any of the election staff in the polling station. There are 751 MEP positions that need to be filled in the coming EU Parliamentary election. Voting may be done per party (group of people) or per person (independent MEPs).
When is the election?
The elections run from 22 to 25 May in the whole Eurozone. Here are the countries and the corresponding election dates:
- 22 May – Netherlands, United Kingdom
- 23 May – Czech Republic, Ireland
- 24 May – Czech Republic, French Overseas Territory, Latvia, Malta, Slovakia
- 25 May – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Spain