Will expats vote in the EU elections?

Published 2019-05-22 13:56

The European Union (EU) elections begin this Thursday 23rd of May. Does the European expatriate community feel concerned about these elections? Are they going to vote? We asked a couple of them living within or outside of the European Union.


Expat in Japan. Writer for Expat.com. Pop culture and lifestyle blogger.

Tamar, French expat in Japan

As a young student, Tamar feels it is essential for her to vote.

"In my family, we all vote. I have always seen my parents vote. When I was little, I even went with them to the polling station. They have taught me the importance of voting. At home, we would always discuss politics. We would watch debates on TV and have our own debates and I think this is what made me so adamant about voting and politics. Thanks to my parents, I learned a lot. I learnt to take a step back from what we see on the television. On television, and on the net, we see so many things and we do hear the worst about the EU. Maybe because of the economic crisis? People try to put the blame on someone and usually see each other as an enemy. It's sad. If we all came together, we would be stronger."

But the 21 year old believes the leaders of the European Union are not exactly making things better. "The heads of state are not doing their jobs. Time passes, and nothing changes. It feels like the EU is basically just an economic union and nobody identifies with it anymore."

But for Tamar, young people can make a difference. "Young people can make things happen. The political scene is dominated by old people. In France and in other countries. Young people absolutely need to stand together and enter politics. We cannot stand isolated anymore. France alone is no longer a power capable of competing with the United States, for example. It is France, in the Union, it is the EU that can weigh on the international scene. People have to understand that. So, yes, I will go to vote. "

Simon, a British expat living in Austria

“It's a given right to vote, people have died in the past in order for us to have the right to vote. It's important to be represented in any parliament to have someone fight for your rights. Living in a democratic part of the world you have a say who can represent you. There are people in the world that have no choice and live under a dictatorship”. For Simon, not voting would be absurd.

The British expat currently living and working in Austria is registered to vote in Wales, United Kingdom as well as in Austria. He is only entitled to vote once and because he has not received his ballot from the UK, Simon will vote in Austria this coming Sunday.

Laurent, French expat in Mexico

Laurent has been living in Mexico for over ten years. In France, he studied international relations but has since become a sports coach.

Will Laurent vote in the next EU elections? "I’m not sure, it will probably be a last minute decision. But I think I will go to vote. I usually do. Even if my life is in Mexico, my heart stays in France. I go back to see family every year. I know that we are talking about European elections, but it is still very much related to our country anyway. So, for me, France. I mean: decisions made by the EU have an impact on French politics. "

For the 40-year old sports coach, getting together is important. He deplores the lack of cooperation and dialogue between states.

"I want to see the EU as a system that allows us all to move forward. In "European Union", there is still "union", no? But states seem to not take full stock of this, they unite when it suits them. Otherwise, it's war. For example, what taxes should major groups like Google pay? If all states agreed on the percentage, there would be no tax havens. But we have Luxembourg, and Switzerland, even if it begins to lift a little bank secrecy. I thought that after the Panama Papers things would be more transparent, but no. That's what is annoying. It is almost like our governments think we are idiots: "Come and vote so that we can do whatever we want!" That's why so many abandon Europe and in the end, the EU. People are fed up. They hardly even know why they are voting. "

But without a vote, things will not change. "People fought for the right to vote. People died for that. It's still important to vote. In general, I vote for the presidential elections. For the Europeans, it depends. But there are so many bad things happening in the world that I want to vote. And then, I'm tired of seeing Euro-skeptics and populists. People might think differently, but I believe that the future is an even stronger Europe. Maybe in a hundred years we will even be a federation, who knows?

Joe, Dutch expat in Cambodia

Joe will not vote in the elections for the European Parliament this weekend. The expatriate who retired to Thailand and then to Cambodia, explains that he no longer feels concerned by European politics 12 years after leaving his country.

“For me, the situation is very clear: when I left my country in 2006, I left everything behind me. I am no longer entitled to social benefits etc. I no longer pay tax or social security. I am now an 'Overseas citizen'.” A choice that Joe is very happy about.

Despite this, does he follow politics in Europe at all? "I make it a point to follow the economic policy of the European Union to understand the global economy but that's it," he says.

Driss, French expat in the United Kingdom

Driss has been living in Manchester since 2016. The thirty-something followed very closely the referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union. Ahead of Brexit, the young thirty-something finds it hard to immigrate again.

"I wanted to start my own business here in Manchester. It is not Brexit driving me to change countries. It is true to say that I was very surprised by the outcome of the referendum, young people mostly want to stay in the EU. I think a lot of people would want a second referendum. Even politicians want that. But, a vote is a vote- it is democracy. It's terrible to think that in this particular case, even if we see clearly that we are going into a wall, we still run straight ahead because we voted. I think that somehow shows the limits of a referendum. You are asking people to think ahead but people see the very short term. They're going to think, "I'm hungry now, I'm not happy right now, I'm saying no." They use the vote as a way of saying, "I'm fed up," without thinking of all of the consequences. "

Driss says he wants to travel and discover more countries. For him, this can strengthen the sense of belonging to a larger group rather than his own country. "My vote is so important to me. It might be the lawyer in my speaking. I also believe that being open to the world is a good thing. In general, the expatriates I meet are all just that: tolerant, open, understanding. They want to discover others."

Pat, an Italian expat in Portugal

For Pat, voting in the European elections will be difficult this time around. The reason? He will have to either travel 300 km to Lisbon or back to his home town in Italy to be able to cast his vote. The Italian citizen is furious.

“I have received the voting "invitation" from the Italian Embassy in lisbon, but I can cast my vote on condition that I drive to Lisbon to the Embassy.  I have no time to drive 300km (return) and I think this is an infringment of my voting rights. I should be allowed to vote either by post or online. I also received a postcard reminder from the town where I lived in Italy inviting me to go back there to vote for the local elections.  They offer a discount on the return trip by railway. I am speechless…”

For him, voting is extremely important. Pat is an European citizen and is proud of it. “Of course I am entitled to vote! I consider myself a citizen of this Union, my cultural, historical and linguistic roots are European. I've travelled all over this continent and this is where I belong, and I'm sorry the UK has decided to leave for many reasons, not least because English is for all purposes the EU common language.”

He keeps up-to-date with European politics. “I do see that the Union is incomplete, we need to vote and take a serious interest in the commissions' work to make it stronger and overcome states interests.”

Corenthin, French expat in Germany

Corenthin has been living in Germany for three years. He left with his wife who found a job in Berlin. But the pair do feel that the European Union has lost touch with reality.

"I do not vote for the European elections. I do not feel it is important to do so..." Real elections to me are the presidential elections. I do vote for the presidentials. As for the European Union, it is an economic decision but what else do we gain from that. There is too many of us. We have zero common values. Heads of state speak a whole different language. They only speak to their kinds, the rich. It's even worse when you have not studied. Let’s talk about the German miracle! When I was still living in France, I kept seeing all the praise Germany got. In reality, however, when you have not been to university, you cannot find a job, you are forced to train or to accept jobs you do not want to do. We are treated like kids or fools! We lose our freedom. We must accept anything. Europe is a breaker of dreams. "

Fred, British expat in Indonesia

Fred will not vote in the next elections for the European Parliament. And this, since the Brit gave up his nationality as he opted for the Indonesian nationality instead. Nevertheless, Fred could talk about European politics for hours if he was given the opportunity. If he could, he would vote.

"I read about six news sites online every day and more if I have the time or if there is something happening. I read a lot about the chaos that is the European Union. I recommend the vote to those who can do it. If you do not vote, you reject democracy. You also have to accept the result, just as with Brexit. If you don't, you're rejecting democracy. We must also consider the best for the country when we vote and not just one’s personal gain. ". "

If he is in favor of European integration, he thinks that there is a lack of uniformity and organization. "You simply can not unite a currency with basic units as varied as the Euro. The Italian lira and the Deutsche Mark are just not the same thing so the union is never going to work, " he says.

Mariella, French expat in Japan

Marielle has been an expat for a little over seven years. The newly wed and mother is a little worried about the future but remains convinced of the importance of one’s vote.

"In Japan, politics is not really a conversation subject! In France, I was used to debates with friends, with family… But not here. People do have opinions, but keep them to themselves, for fear of provoking debate, actually. I have looped in my husband, in-laws and close friends, however. Now, we do talk politics. Back in France, it was just a habit to vote. My parents voted, I voted. I knew that politicians would do what they could in the end. Or, what they would like. It's something that bothers me today. I would like citizens' voices to be heard more. That's why in France, I got involved in associations. In Japan, I do not do it yet, but, who knows! "

If Marielle enjoys her life in Japan, she does think ahead. " I am voting because I believe it is our biggest weapon. We can change things by voting and participating in political life. It is here, in Japan, thousands of kilometers from France, that I came to realise this. Because of the economic crisis, many only see the downsides of the EU. European leaders worry more about the people, get on the human scale. They should also stop making stupid decisions and being fooled by lobbies. It's annoying. One sometimes has the impression that the word of a Monsanto weighs more than that of a head of state. The world is not only the financier, the money. Those who oppose the ban on pesticides, those who vote absurd laws do not live next to the fields full of pesticides. They do not breathe in this pollution all day. Sometimes I would like these politicians to live our lives for a while. They might understand us better. "