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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June, 2004, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Weird and wonderful Euro vote tactics
By Alexandra Fouché
BBC News Online, Brussels

What would it take to convince you to go and vote in the European elections?

Would a message on a beer mat do it? Or perhaps an appeal from a national football star?

These are just two of the ways being used around Europe to publicise the vote, which takes place in different countries between 10 and 13 June.

Hofburg Palace in Vienna
Vienna's Hofburg palace bearing an election message
There are many others: hot air balloons, comic strips and ingenious websites have all been pressed into service.

In Estonia, one party, Pro Patria (Isamaaliit), is serving coffee in the larger bus stops and in front of shopping centres early in the morning and after work to encourage voters to discuss the issues affecting the country's first elections to the European Parliament.

In Vienna, meanwhile, the logo of the elections has been displayed on the facade of the Hofburg palace up till the middle of May, advertising the date of the election.

The same thing was done on the Byzantine walls of the old city of Nicosia in Cyprus.

Transport

Different forms of transport have been enlisted to spread the message.

In the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, a tram decked to the colours of the campaign is touring the city ahead of the elections.

There have also been a couple of Euro election buses in Porto as well as Lisbon, and an advertising campaign on the back of buses in the country's main cities.

Meanwhile, in Spain, several hot-air balloons have been flying over the country on an advertising mission.

Advertising campaigns can sometimes backfire, however.

Advertisement - the nipple was not allowed to be shown
In most EU countries, the advertisement showed a nipple, but not the UK
A Europe-wide advert devised by the European Parliament encouraging people to vote was censored in the UK to eliminate the glimpse of a bare nipple in the scene of a mother breastfeeding her baby.

The advert shows people making important choices from birth onwards.

It is being shown unedited in most of the other countries of the union.

Beer message

In London, the European Parliament office has resorted to beer mats to encourage young people to go voting.

Some 400,000 beer mats have been produced and distributed in different pubs in England, sporting slogans such as "Be a player in Europe" linked to the European Cup or "I drink therefore I vote".

The UK's Independence Party has also seized on this particular medium.

Drinks mats will be delivered through people's doors with the party's "Say NO" slogan, encouraging them to oppose the signing of the European constitution.

To me it's not important what you vote, it's that you vote
Danish football player Martin Joergensen
In Denmark, football players have been enlisted to give the campaign a boost.

Jon Dahl Tomasson, Martin Joergensen, Martin Retov and Morten Wieghorst are working to ensure fans do not forget to vote as the Euro 2004 football championship gets under way the same weekend as the elections.

In posters and free postcards available in cafes and restaurants across Denmark next week, they will urge Danes to register their vote - either directly or by mail.

"To me it's not important what you vote, it's that you vote," Mr Joergensen said in a statement released by the June Movement, a Eurosceptic group in Denmark, reports the Associated Press.

European Parliament comic strip
Even comic strips are used to help explain the job of Parliament
Also in Britain, where turnout is expected to be, as in the past, very low, a comedy club hosted a series of performances across the country to encourage people to vote.

The comedians were asked to take the "broadest view of Europe" by the European Parliament's UK office, and in the event made jokes on national stereotypes rather than the Common Agricultural Policy.

In Belgium, a comic strip devised to shed some light on the inner workings of the European Parliament is being published in a Brussels newspaper daily.

Web help

In Scotland, the Greens leafleted outside cinemas showing a so-called eco-disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow, to remind people that environmental disaster did not just happen in films.

"With the European election coming up, there has never been a better time for the climate change message to reach the public, because only political action can stop climate change and only the Greens have shown both the necessary understanding and the political will to make it a priority for Europe," Green Member of the Scottish Parliament and environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell said.

If you still cannot make up your mind who to vote for, there is always the StemWijzer (VoteMatch in Dutch), developed by the Dutch Centre for Political Participation.

By answering a series of questions about your political opinion on an EU president, a European ecotax or asylum policy, this website helps you establish which party you are closest to and shows your preference for the other parties in descending order.

Now you really do not have any excuse not to go and vote.




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