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EU elections in Austria attract expat apathy

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EU elections in Austria attract expat apathy
Photo: European Parliament
14:20 CEST+02:00
Among Austria's expatriate community, there is a general lack of enthusiasm for the EU elections being held this weekend.

After a small and therefore statistically invalid poll held by The Local on Facebook, more than 75 percent of expats in Austria said that they would like to vote in the European elections this weekend, but weren't registered.

EU citizens had to register to vote in Austria before March 12, but many complained that they were not informed of this and that the procedure to register was overly complicated. 

The remaining percentage of respondents were split fairly evenly into three groups, for the choices of "would like to vote, but don't have the info", "already voted" and "not an EU citizen so not voting anyway".

Vincent Frate has dual Belgium-Italian citizenship, but works in Austria. He said "of course" he plans to vote - and as voting is obligatory in Belgium it's not even a question for him.

However, as he is not registered to vote in Belgium or Austria for the elections and only realised recently that this is the case, he will be voting for the Italian representatives in the EU Parliament. 

He says any party he votes for "should be pro-EU, and have the will to work together with others to develop the EU in a way that makes living here better, and safer." 
 
"Here in Austria political parties don't really speak about the EU elections but focus on local issues... The first time I read something about the top candidates of the EU parties in the Austrian media was a few weeks ago," he added. 

Canadian-Turkish student Emil Jabbarli can't vote in EU elections but has been following the campaign. "I am generally interested in elections, I even participated in election campaigning while back in Canada, but these elections seem to be a bit devoid of real issues, at least in Austria,” he said.

“I saw some FPÖ posters about Turkey not being a part of Europe. Turkey's membership is not even an issue currently, it hasn't been an issue since at least five or six years, maybe more. But when you see right wing parties returning to their familiar stories you know that things are a bit slow," Jabbarli said.

Andrew M., a British expat who is a long time resident of Austria, said “If I could vote online, I would. It’s too much trouble. There are more interesting things to do on a Sunday.”  

He told The Local that he received the voting information card along with some political advertising from one of the local parties via post, but the procedure for actually voting on the day seemed cumbersome, and queuing for a postal vote card would likely take more time than he cared to spend on exercising his democratic right.

Jody Manning from Wales said: "If I am on the register I will vote - I thought I had voted in the last EU elections and didn't, therefore, have to make my selection again, but now I'm not so sure it was an EU election..."

"I was only reminded, (and inadvertently) by a friend that one needs to make the selection before the deadline. Unfortunately that was just after the deadline... I wish there was a mail drop or something warning EU citizens to make their selection before the deadline," she said.

Not every expat was unable to vote, however.  Angelo D'Agostino, a long time Italian expat reported: "I am going to vote in the EU elections because, as a European citizen beyond our national borders, I feel the responsibility of working hard to build a stronger Europe. Italy is one of the countries with the highest rate of young people's unemployment in Europe: it doubled since 2007, reaching approximately 41% (http://www.elections2014.eu/it/news-room/content/20140226STO37008/html/Garanzia-per-i-giovani-dalla-parole-ai-fatti).

As an Italian who lived almost half of my life abroad, I recognize the importance of facilitating mobility among European countries, and offer to young people as well as to established professionals, the chance to find new opportunities and share skills and expertise on an international market which may be more efficient in locating resources and in recognizing talent, competence and commitment". 

 

 

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