European Parliament

One year ago, I was working in the International Office of my university and I got the opportunity to participate in an excursion to the European Parliament, in Strasbourg. I got to know everything about the parliament and some other European institutions, and, funny fact, I actually saw the president of my country speaking in the parliament (maybe a story for another day). So let me tell you a bit about the history of the EU parliament.

The European Parliament started off in the 1950s, back when European countries were looking for ways to ensure peace after World War II. Initially, it was just a group of representatives from each country’s parliament, meeting up as the „Common Assembly“ of the European Coal and Steel Community. They didn’t have much power and mainly gave advice. Things got real in 1979, when the European Parliament was directly elected for the first time. This change was a big deal because it meant that the people of Europe now had a direct say in what happened at the EU level. It also changed its name from the „European Parliamentary Assembly“ to just the „European Parliament.“

Over the years, as the EU grew, so did the Parliament’s powers. Today, the European Parliament is a major player in the EU. It’s involved in making laws, overseeing the European Commission (which is kind of like the EU’s executive branch), and shaping international agreements. Every five years, people across Europe vote in new representatives (MEPs) to the Parliament. And that’s what is happening this year!

Me in front of the EU parliament.
Elisa in front of the EU parliament.© Elisa

The elections

As I said, the European elections happen every five years to elect members for the European Parliament from every country of the European Union, and the citizens vote for their national political parties. It is the most important election in the EU because the Europeans are deciding who will debate legislation, from supporting the economy to climate change and security, basically deciding what happens in the EU. There are a total of 720 members of the European Parliament.

As I said before, for me, this is the most important election in the EU because it is the only EU institution that is directly elected by the people, which is a great expression of the democratic principles of the EU. If you are an EU citizen, it is your right, and you must vote in the elections. It means that you are free to choose a party that you identify with and that you think that the EU would be better if they had those members in the parliament. It’s a right that many fought for, and it’s important to use.

I was surprised when I got home one day and I got two letters from the “Wahlamt” (electoral office) of my municipality, one in English and one in German. I would never think I would get an English letter from my municipality! It said that the European elections are happening and that, as an EU citizen living in Germany, I can vote either for my home country Members State, or for German. I was even more surprised to learn that I can vote for German Members. But of course, I will vote for my home country party.

The election invitation that Elisa received in German and English.
The letter I received.© Elisa

Vote!

As mentioned before, only EU citizens can vote in these elections, but that doesn’t mean it’s also not important for emigrants or for people in the rest of the world! Even if you can’t vote, it is important to pay attention to what is happening, because, in one way or another, you are involved. The European Parliament has a big say in shaping EU laws about migration, asylum, and integration. The members elected can influence the treatment and rights of immigrants across Europe. They’re key to pushing for laws that protect immigrants‘ rights and ensure they’re treated fairly. In addiction, the members vote on important environmental regulations, such as air and water quality standards, which have a big impact on the planet’s health. 

So these elections are important for everyone! Not all parties have the same views, and that’s alright. But it is important to keep in mind the history and learn from it. It is important to keep in mind that there are still minorities suffering, the climate is still changing, and we need people to fight for the good in the world. Get informed and do your part!

The logo of the European Parliament
The logo of the European Parliament© Elisa

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