Cheat sheet on the Euro Elections - what you need to know

When I worked in France I used to confuse my colleagues whenever I mentioned Europe. I used to blather on, 'now that I live and work in Europe'.

Of course, their inevitable response would be: 'but you lived in Europe before, when you were in the UK. The UK is part of the Europe you know'.

Quite.

Only the British could say, as they did in a famous newspaper headline in the 1950s, 'fog in Channel, Continent cut off.' It is any wonder that we don't know as much as we ought to about European politics? (In fairness, the Channel is very foggy-see above).

So today, the day of the elections to the European Parliament, we have produced a quick 'cheat sheet' on them.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Elections happen every five years
  • The current election will take place across the EU on 22-25 May 2014 (although it will be today only in the UK given that British elections traditionally only ever happen on a Thursday)
  • Seats are divided roughly proportionately to the population of member state from 96 for the largest state (Germany) and six for the smallest states (Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta)
  • The number of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) cannot exceed 751
  • The number of UK MEPS for election today is 73
  • UK MEPs are elected in 12 European electoral regions, each represented by between three and ten MEPs

Moreover, the 2014 elections are the first to be held under the Lisbon Treaty which gave the European Parliament greater influence over the choice of President of the European Commission.

(If you want to know more about how this new process will work (or won't work-it isn't exactly clear at the time of writing), the BBC's Gavin Hewitt has written a blog piece on this; and on the debate held recently by the candidates for this position.)

The theory is that these elections are moving us towards a more democratic EU.

The current candidates for the President of the European Commission are:

  • Martin Schultz (from Germany): Party of European Socialists (PES)
  • Jean-Claude Juncker (from Luxembourg): European People's Party (EPP)
  • Guy Verhofstadt (from Belgium): Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE)
  • Ska Keller (from Germany): European Green Party
  • Alexis Tsipras (from Greece): Party of the European Left

As Gavin Hewitt dryly observes, 'it is fair to say that none of them would turn heads in a Manchester shopping mall.'

For me, it is also interesting to note that:

  • ​all but one of the candidates come from one of the original six founding countries (out of a potential pool of 28 member countries), and
  • the European Conservative and Reformists (ECR) party – to which the Conservatives belong – and the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) party – to which UKIP belongs – have both chosen not to nominate a candidate for Commission President.

In any event, by August we should know who the candidate will be, all being well.

So at this stage, you are champing at the bit to vote?

No, not yet?

Oh well, below are links to some of the main party's manifestos for you to muse over whilst you decide whether to head to the polling station in today's stormy weather (well, in some parts of the country).

There are other parties of course. Anyhow, that'll do for now. Whatever you do, don't take a selfie with your duly completed voted slip as according to the Electoral Commission you could face a £5,000 fine or six months in prison.  That's one selfie worth avoiding...

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