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Why the European elections matter

Answers to frequently asked questions about the European elections

FRANCE goes to the polls on Sunday to select 74 politicians to represent the country in the European Parliament for the next five years.

Here, we answer frequently asked questions about voting in the European elections:

Who can vote?
Voting is not compulsory in France, but all EU citizens aged 18 and over who live in France and have full voting rights in their country of origin are entitled to vote as long as they specifically registered to do so at their mairie before the end of last year.

The voter registration application to be on the «complementary list» (the voter list of non-French people) for the EU elections is distinct from the application for the one for the mairie elections and has to be accompanied by a written declaration that the person will not also vote outside France. If you are on the list, you should therefore vote in France but not also, for example, in the UK.

Otherwise British citizens who have not been out of the country more than 15 years are entitled to vote in the UK’s election instead (in person, by post or proxy) if they registered by May 7. Elections in the UK are earlier than in France this year – May 22 instead of May 25.

Who can stand for election?
With certain exceptions, all EU citizens aged 18 and over who live in France and and are fully entitled to stand as candidates in their country of origin are eligible to stand.

Exceptions in France include the President; members of the French government; MPs; European Commission members; any member of the board of the European Central Bank and a municipal councillor in a local authority with 3,500 or more inhabitants.

Will the turnout be as low as it was in the local elections?
It is possible. Some analysts argue that European elections are fought on national issues, and used by voters to punish their governments mid-term.

Turnout across Europe has fallen in every EU election since 1979. In 2009, the overall turnout was 43%, down from 45.5% in 2004. In Britain the turnout was just 34.3%, down from 38% in 2004.

In France, turnout for the European elections has followed the downward trench. In 1979, the year of the first European elections, turnout was 60.71%. It was 40.63% for the last election in 2009.

MEPs fear that a new abstention record will be set this year, as it was in March’s local elections.

Voter apathy is being blamed for the rise of parties such as Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National, which takes a highly critical and Eurosceptic view of the EU. Latest opinion polls predict the FN could pick up as much as 23% of the vote in France.

What do MEPs do?
The European Parliament is the only directly elected body in the EU. Its members represent the 500 million people living in the European Union’s 28 member states.

MEPs divide their time between their regions in France and Brussels. For one week every month, they go to Strasbourg to debate and vote on new European laws with MEPs from other EU member countries.

How much are they paid?
MEPs all receive the same basic salary.

The monthly pre-tax salary of MEPs, under the single statute, is € 8.020,53 (May 2014). It is subject to an EU tax, after which the salary is €6.250,37.

This salary may also be subject to a national tax in the respective Member States. The MEPs’ basic salary is set at 38.5% of the basic salary of a judge at the European Court of Justice.

How is the European Parliament set up?
Coming into Sunday’s elections, the European Parliament is made up of 766 MEPs, representing 28 member states. After these elections, the number of MEPs will fall to 751.

France is represented by 74 MEPs; only Germany will have more, with 96.

What are you voting for?
MEPs are the EU’s lawmakers: without their input and approval, most EU laws cannot come into being.

The European Parliament has the power to approve, amend or reject new European laws in a number of areas, including consumer rights, the environment, international trade, labour laws, animal rights and economic development.

Following the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, Parliament was granted power over the new important policy areas - notably agriculture and civil liberties - in which it had previously only had a consultative role.

It also approves the EU budget and, from this year, the president and members of the European Commission.

How does Europe affect everyday life in France?
Euro MPs do not set taxes or decide if a local school or hospital is going to close, but they do have a big influence on our lives.

Their decisions in Brussels directly affect jobs, family life, health care, the food we eat, the toys our children play with and rules about recycling and energy.

How does the list system work?
In French European Parliamentary elections, voters are given the chance to elect all the MEPs for their region.

Each party puts forward a ‘list’ of candidates known as a regional list. You vote for one of these lists, or for an individual candidate standing as an independent.

The number of MEPs elected from each party to represent a region depends on the overall share of votes that party receives.

For list votes, seats are allocated to the candidates according to the order of names on each list.

France has been split into eight electoral ‘constituencies’ or ‘regions’ for the ballot - seven in metropolitan France, and one covering overseas departments, territories and communities.

The country has been divided as follows:

North-west (10 seats): Basse-Normandie, Haute-Normandie, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardie

West (9 seats): Bretagne, Pays de la Loire, Poitou-Charentes

East (9 seats): Alsace, Bourgogne, Champagne-Ardenne, Franche-Comté, Lorraine

Southwest (10 seats): Aquitaine, Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées

Southeast (13 seats): Corse, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Rhône-Alpes

Massif Central (5 seats): Auvergne, Centre, Limousin

Ile-de-France (15 seats)

Overseas territories (3 seats in total):
Atlantique: Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (1 seat)
Indian Ocean: La Réunion, Mayotte (1 seat)
Pacifique: Nouvelle-Calédonie, Polynésie française, Wallis-et-Futuna (1 seat)

A list of all candidates for the European Elections in France can be found here

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