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What you need to know about the European Elections

The EU elections are happening very soon, but what are the European elections, what do MEPs do, who’s voting and why does the European Union exist? We’re here to answer your questions.

This month approximately 400 million people within the European Union's 28 member states can vote in the European elections. These Europeans will elect 751 members to the European Parliament. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are directly elected for five years. Each country has its own election rules but most have a common schedule.

The last European elections in 2014 were the largest transnational elections ever held at the same time. This time the stakes are even higher. By voting, you help decide what kind of Europe we have in the years to come.An interesting aspect of the European elections this year is that, due to Brexit, the UK has to redistribute 27 of its 73 seats to other countries. For example, Ireland will be expected to have 13 MEP’s voted in this year instead of its original 11 in previous elections.

What do MEP’s do?

These elections are all about selecting who you want to represent you as an MEP. This is more important than you think because MEPs will defend your interests in the EU. Not only can MEPs shape and decide on new legislation, they also vote on new trade agreements, scrutinize the EU institutions and how your tax money is spent, as well as launch investigations into specific issues.

Voting in a European election

This is a bit of an obvious statement, but to be eligible to vote in European elections you must be a citizen of the European Union. You are not allowed to vote at the elections in more than one constituency. If you are living in another Member State, you are entitled to vote in the European election in that country.

The rules say that some form of proportional representation should be used when electing MEPs. This system ensures that if a party gets 20% of the votes, it will also win roughly 20% of the contested seats, so both larger and smaller political parties have the chance to send representatives to the European Parliament.

Countries are free to decide on many other important aspects of the voting procedure. For example, some split their territory into regional electoral districts, while others have a single electoral district.

Each country in the EU has different voting traditions and these will be on-going from Thursday (the day on which the Netherlands usually vote) to Sunday (when most countries hold their elections). If you want to know who the candidates in your area will be and where your local polling station is located, check with your national election authority.

So, why does the European Union exist?

The EU is a political and economic union of certain European states. At this moment it has 28 member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK. The EU grew out of 3 communities that were founded after World War II to establish peace and prosperity in Europe.

The EU has 4 main aims:

• To establish European citizenship. This means protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

• To ensure freedom, security and justice. This means co-operation in the field of justice and home affairs.

• To promote economic and social progress. This involves the single market, the euro, environmental protection and social and regional development.

• To assert Europe's role in the world.

The EU is run by 5 main institutions: The European Parliament, The Council of the European Union, The European Commission, The European Court of Justice, The Court of Auditors. There is also the European Council, which is not a legislating institution, but defines the EU's overall political direction and priorities.

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