The European elections – What are we fighting for?

The European elections come closer and there is still a lack of interest. Come with me and take part in my search for further information about the importance of the European Union, the visibility of homosexual issues and why we all should vote.
The European elections will take place on 7 June 2009. As an EU citizen, i.e. a citizen of a European Member State you are asked to vote for the members of the European Parliament, which is your voice in Europe and furthermore the only directly elected EU institution. Unfortunately a particular topic has dominated the headlines for the last weeks: The low level of interest in the European elections. “The parliament and the institutions of the Community are more distant than ever.” That leads to a low level of interest and the European elections are expected to be a disaster. But it doesn’t have to be like that!

There a lot of possibilities to find out which parties are running for election and to get informed about their issues and programmes. Take the Wahl-O-Mat for instance. Through the Wahl-O-Mat created by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung) it is possible for you and me to compare our views with the answers of the different parties. 29 out of 32 of the registered parties followed the invitation of the Federal Agency to answer the Wahl-O-Mat questions. There is also Vote Match Europe 2009 which should help to determine your preference for the European election and the EU Profiler with similar functions. We can also read what the European press has to say on the European elections at euro|topics and of course the major news on the June 2009 European Parliaments Elections can be found on its website.

But how about outside the world wide web? Visiting Berlin last week, I walked through the ‘Brandenburger Tor’ and maybe two minutes from there, it suddenly appeared on the left side:

the European House. I have never heard of it before, so I was quite surprised and curious about what was inside and how the European Union would be represented. So I walked in and started looking around. There was a lot of reading material on large shelves that explained to me why it was so important to vote. So I picked some up and tried to find out whether they could answer my questions.

Why should I vote?

As already said, the MEP is your voice in Europe. The European Parliament is a powerful player in European Union decision-making and it is the EU legislation that influences our every day life.

What is the European Parliament exactly?

Since the first direct elections in 1979 the role of Parliament in the fabric of the EU institutions has become increasingly important. From a purely advisory board it has changed to a citizen’s representation, which has in large parts the same traditional areas of competence as its national counterparts. The EP has a say in legislation, controls the executive and adopts the EU budget. MEPs have much more power than some believe. Currently 785 MEPs represent all EU citizens.

How many EU citizens have the right to vote?

There are around 375 Million EU citizens from 27 member states. And as an EU citizen everyone can vote in whatever EU country you live, even if you are not a citizen of that country. But there are also some national requirements that have to be fulfilled.

Ok, that sounds pretty big and important. But I was looking for some more good reasons, some issue I care passionately about. I finally found what I was looking for: the brochure to combat discrimination in the European Union. I started to turn the first page.

There was written in big white letters ‘What we should know’.

What should we know?

What we should know is that only every third European knows about their legal rights in relation to discrimination comprehensively. And it is one task declared by the European Union to inform every single homosexual person about their rights. And more. In the past the European Parliament has proved to be a driving force of European anti-discrimination and equality policies. So a normative framework to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation has been created with for instance the Anti-Discrimination Directive.

And finally, I found these lovely little books.
They are the size of half a matchbox and include your fundamental rights in the
European Union. Article 21 provides that

“any discrimination based on any grounds of sex, race, colour, or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited”.

Even if the Fundamental Rights of the European Union are not legally binding yet, it is worth fighting for more equal opportunities and human rights for lesbian, bisexual, gay, trans and intersex people on European grounds.

After all I am even more convinced than ever that Europe concerns all of us and it’s the European Parliament Members who decide on important policy issues and also in areas which affect you and me. I am going to vote!

And you?

Posted on eurOut on May 19, 2009


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