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25 April 2014

European elections: Your vote counts

With 766 members and more than 400 million voters, the European parliament elections are the second largest in the world. On 22 May voters will go to the polls to decide who will represent them. 

Despite the size, scope and influence of the European parliament only 43 per cent of British voters showed up to vote at the last election in 2009. 

The lack of engagement is not entirely surprising. The European parliament can seem complicated, far away and disconnected from our daily lives. Added to this we focus a lot on whether Britain should be in or out the European Union. While this is important it is not the only European conversation and it can detract from meaningful debate during the elections. 

The reality is that the UK is part of the EU. Even if this changes in the future our place in Europe and relationship with other European countries will be always be important.

Therefore it is crucial we have thoughtful public debate about the sort of Europe we want, Britain's role in this and key issues including economic growth, immigration, trade and the environment. 

However getting information on party positions on policy can prove challenging. As with other European countries, British political parties should be actively presenting their strategy and policy to the voters. In Germany for example there are posters and billboards promoting the elections, parties and policies. 

Many of the issues relevant to the European elections are also relevant on a national level. So it is not unrealistic to expect we could achieve a level of debate that encompasses more than in or out and Nigel Farage's latest musings. 

Over the coming weeks political parties have the chance to engage with voters; to share their narrative for Europe going forward. Hopefully they will work hard to tell voters about their strategies, values and policies so that we will be both inspired and informed.  

As voters we have an important part to play in this democratic process. Our vote counts. Our opinions matter. On 22 May we get the chance to have our say about the Europe we want, the issues that matter to us and most importantly who we want to represent us. 

Some of us may question our membership of the EU. Some may question the structure of the European parliament. Others may be discouraged with the apparent lack of accountability or by decisions made in the current term. These are just some of the issues we can express our views on through our vote. 

This election will determine who will play a crucial role in setting the rules in the Eurozone and the single market. The next parliament will also choose the next commission president. This is the first time voters will get to have a say on who holds this powerful office. 

Decisions made far away in Brussels affect us right here in Britain. Whether we show up to vote or not our lives will be impacted by the outcome of the upcoming election. 

More information:

Find your local MEP: www.europarl.org.uk/en/your_meps.html
European parliament elections website: www.elections2014.eu/en

Amelia Abplanalp, public policy officer.