Today, 9 May 2019, annual celebrations are taking place across Europe for “Europe Day,” marking the anniversary of the Schuman declaration and acknowledging peace and unity across Europe. Just two weeks after these celebrations take place, on 23 May 2019, eligible European citizens will have a chance to vote in the European Parliamentary elections.
The European Parliament is the only directly elected European Union body and represents the EU’s 500 million inhabitants, while also playing a key role in electing the President of the European Commission.
The European Parliament shares power over the EU budget and legislation with the Council of the European Union.
Taking place every five years, the last European Elections were in 2014, when many students of the University of St Andrews would have been too young to vote.
This year, however, everyone over 18 years old and registered with an EU passport may exercise their right to vote on Thursday 23 May.
The deadline to register to vote was midnight on 7 May. To elect someone to vote on your behalf, you must register to vote by proxy by Wednesday 15 May.
Once you have registered to vote, you will receive a notice in the post which will tell you where your local polling station is located. Students can either vote here in Scotland or from their home country. Votes for the elections will be counted on Sunday 26 May.
To find out more on how to vote, information can be found on the St Andrews Students’ Association’s Facebook event for the Parliamentary Elections, or at https://www.yourvotematters.co.uk/how-am-i-represented/european-parliament.
In the elections, 751 Members of Parliament from across Europe will be elected into the EU Parliament. For Scotland, six MEPs are elected to represent the country in Strasbourg and Brussels.
Catherine Stihler, former rector of the University of St Andrews and current MEP for Scotland, stresses the importance of students using their right to vote in this year’s elections.
Ms Stihler said, “I would advise people to use their vote as it really matters, particularly for those who didn’t have the right to vote in the 2016 referendum.”
The Students’ Association will also be holding a live candidate husting on Friday 10 May, where candidates from a range of political parties will give short speeches followed by questions from the audience. More information on this event can also be found on the St Andrews Students’ Association Facebook page.
For the UK, these Parliamentary Elections are unique. Though the UK was not expected to initially take part in the elections, the latest delay in Brexit means it is likely that we will. However, it is uncertain for how long they will remain part of the European Union as well as how long those elected will remain in Parliament.
The current rector of the University of St Andrews, Srdja Popovic, outlines why our current political climate makes student engagement even more important.
Mr Popovic said, “In our turbulent world and ever-changing neighbourhood, student participation in European elections is necessary to influence decisions, policies, and paths that Europe is going to take in the next five years.
“In my deep belief, the Europe of the future is a Europe of active and engaged citizens who take their destiny and future into their own hands.”