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Brussels Expat Voting 101: 7 small steps to the ballot box

Apr 22, 2014
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It’s apparent that, for the EU expat, the question of voting in this year’s European Parliament elections is not really a question of why, but how. The Bulletin has taken it upon itself to collect all the essential information an expat will need to know to guarantee a ticket to ballot box on May 25th.

1. February 28th: get registered before it’s too late!
This is perhaps the most important piece of information on this list, given its urgency. To be able to vote in the European Parliament elections, you must be registered on the voters list. For EU expats residing in Belgium, this means you have just one week left.

2. Do you meet the voter criteria for European Parliament elections?
Consult the BLBE website to make sure you meet all voter criteria, including: being a citizen of one of the EU Member States, older than 18 years, residing in a Belgian municipality, eligible to vote and registered on the voters list.

3. Enrol on the electoral register in Belgium – surprisingly painless
Contrary to expat perceptions, the process of enrolling on the electoral register in Belgium is quite easy – with the right information.

For people who like ticking off boxes, the BLBE provides a useful registration checklist for voting in Brussels Communes. Meanwhile those preferring a more visual explanation can watch the presentation “Voting in Brussels, Yes, you can!”.

For EU expats living in Belgium’s other regions, the Federal Public Service also has made a special document adapted to your situation.

4. Fear not the Belgian compulsory vote
To reiterate the assuring words of Larry Moffett, VP of the European Young Innovators Forum, from an earlier Bulletin issue on local elections: “the much-feared fines for non-participation are largely symbolic (a first-time offender may receive a reprimand or a small fine of 25 to 50), and are hardly ever enforced.”

5. Making an educated vote in no time
Learning about the European parties, policies and which MEP to vote for has never been so easy, thanks to the website MyVote2014.

The website includes statistics on how MEPs voted in the past, fun quizzes on EU policies, and The Bulletin’s personal favourite: a game called “Cast Your Vote” in which you vote yourself on 15 items voted on in the European Parliament. At the end you see which MEPs most closely match your views.

6. Debate the EU issues before you solidify that vote
Want to have your say outside of the voting box? Consider one of the many platforms geared towards publicly debating EU issues.

For live action, you can attend one of the Citizens’ Dialogues organised by the European Commission held in town halls across Europe, bringing together Commissioners, Members of the European Parliament and citizens.

Otherwise, online debates are continuous on websites like Debating Europe and Elections2014.

7. Learn why “This time is different”
Such are the words of the European Parliament’s voting campaign. And it true: because this May, voters will have a clear say in who takes over at the helm of EU government. So when EU member states nominate the next European Commission president to succeed José Manuel Barroso this fall 2014, they will - for the first time - have to take account of the European election results. The new Parliament must endorse, or ‘elect’ this candidate for Commission president, in the words of the Treaty. For more differences check out the Parliament’s “Act.React.Impact” website.