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Page last updated at 08:46 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 09:46 UK

European families' election views

A young and older woman walk in front of a European elections billboard in Brussels (L), while two women pass an elections poster in Strasbourg
Does a generation gap exist between European voters of different ages?

Ahead of next week's European Parliament elections we asked families across Europe about their preferences, to see if there is a generational difference in voting trends.

We asked families in four European countries to debate the issues surrounding the election and tell us what emerged.


ANDREA MAZZELLA, student, 19, Naples, Italy. Number of family members voting: 4

Andrea Mazzella

After initially being undecided, my family and I have decided to vote Italia dei Valori (IdV), the socialist centre-left Italian opposition party I voted for during last year's national elections.

My father Michele, who is a 53-year-old dentist, is voting IdV because he thinks its candidates are skilled politicians.

Its programme is simple yet rational and, most importantly, it is one of the few Italian parties that doesn't include candidates who have been involved in criminal trials or accused of corruption or similar charges.

The main concerns for him in these elections include fighting illegality, corruption and the Mafia. He says that the European Parliament has not much influence at a national and local level, but believes it should have more.

I will be ashamed for my country if some candidates are elected
Andrea Mazzella

My mother Paola, a 41-year-old schoolteacher, chose to vote IdV because she thinks its female candidates are competent.

She says she'd like the EU parliament to legislate on sustainable development, a greener society and mothers' rights at work.

In her opinion, the existence of the parliament is good, but she's afraid that its complicated bureaucracy prevents it from having a greater impact on Europeans' lives.

LOCATION OF FAMILIES
Map

My sister Camilla, a 21-year-old law student, is going to vote IdV because she likes its programme and the fact that none of its candidates are currently being investigated for any wrongdoing. She also mentions that she doesn't trust most other parties' candidates.

In her opinion, the main issues the European Parliament needs to address are immigration, renewable energy policies and the fight against the Mafia in Italy.

She thinks that these elections are important, since the parliament has an impact at a national level, but she also states that it could and should have more power.

I'm going to vote IdV for the same reasons as my family members, though I would be happier to vote for a leftist party similar to the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE).

To me the main issues are transparency, unity on international politics, common policies on the economic crisis, secularism, better education and healthcare policies, immigrants' integration and European integration.

CASE STUDY: ITALY
Population: 59 million
Number of seats in Europe: 72

I hope the centre-left is going to gain control of the European Parliament, but I'm quite pessimistic about it. I reckon the right-wing and the Eurosceptic parties will increase their power, but in my opinion European right-wing parties are still more progressive than the Italian ones, so I would not be too dissatisfied anyway.

I will be ashamed for my country if some candidates are elected. For instance - the young actress from Berlusconi's party who has no political or social experience, and whose only merit is to be pretty.

I reckon the European Parliament is quite powerful, both at a European and national level, so we need to be properly represented there.

SZILVIA DANKO, 38, works in sales, Budapest, Hungary. Number of family members voting: 4

Szilvia Danko

Most of my family members want to participate in the elections, although I think the turnout will be lower than in general elections.

In Eastern Europe people generally lack knowledge about EU institutions and do not understand the importance of it.

Some political parties even question the point of having joined, which is a ridiculous standpoint if you ask me.

I was hoping to vote for the Green Party and so I was disappointed to see that they will not be fielding any candidates, because they could not collect enough recommendations. [A certain number of recommendations has to be collected by petition before a party can put forward a candidate.]

But there is another party, the Alternative Humanist Party, which seems to be the right choice for me and my husband, who is 39, as they are quite green and appeal to us politically.

Szilvia Danko's family discussing their views on the elections

My mother tends to listen to my advice but she might change her mind in the voting booth
Szilvia Danko

Environmental issues, professional expertise and ethical standpoints are the values which influence our decision and we hope that the elected MEPs will represent our interests in this respect. We do not want a two-tier Europe, we want one united Europe which is ours too.

My parents are disillusioned with the ruling Socialist Party and haven't decided which party to cast their votes for yet.

My 61-year-old mother tends to listen to my advice, but she might change her mind in the voting booth.

My 67-year-old father, meanwhile, is still contemplating his vote and he might finally choose the biggest right-wing party, Fidesz.

They expect nothing from MEPs and think Hungarian politicians are dishonest and act only for their own personal gain - true to a certain extent, and perhaps they can justify it by pointing out that a wage gap still exists between the old and new member states.

CASE STUDY: HUNGARY
Population: 10 million
Number of seats in Europe: 22

My extended family living in the countryside have been right-wing supporters for the last eight to 10 years and they remain loyal to their choice.

The parents have long-influenced the younger generations and the family is more united than we are here in the capital.

In their opinion, the results of these elections will show what next year's general election has in store for them, so it is a kind of pre-election test.

My wish is to have several political parties from all sides represented in the European Parliament, like in western countries, reflecting our political maturity and tolerance.

SOFIA DUARTE, 46, IT consultant, Lisbon, Portugal. Number of family members voting: 6

Sofia Duarte

Once more, the European elections in Portugal are either fully focused on national issues or are non-existent, in terms of the little amount of coverage or interest they receive.

I have been reading the headlines of two or three newspapers here every day for the last few weeks and I couldn't see anything referring to these elections.

The main headlines have focused on Prime Minister Jose Socrates saying that he was ready to discuss national issues, or our president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, saying that European issues should be discussed generally.

It seems that the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), are the only ones trying to bring European issues into focus.

I have even heard candidates of the ruling Socialist Party saying that they were going to the European Parliament for a few years to "make a name" for themselves, whatever that means, and come back - in this case it was a city hall president of a city in the north of Portugal.

CASE STUDY: PORTUGAL
Population: 10.7 million
Number of seats in Europe: 22

I think this summarises what the European Parliament represents for some of these candidates - a good salary for a few years with all expenses paid.

I know that there are some people doing a valid job in the European Parliament, especially when representing Europe whilst monitoring other countries' elections and really working hard for some of these directives. But most of them just seem to go there for the money.

Also, in this country, our leaders are trying to convince us that 60% of our laws come from Europe and that we really should vote.

What they fail to tell us is that those rules come from the Commission (where we have no vote) and not the parliament.

So, as far as my family goes, in these elections we are all going to vote for the parties that we usually vote for.

The abstention in Portugal is going to be huge, not only because of the lack of interest but because the election day falls on a Sunday, just before national holidays
Sofia Duarte

My sister, Filipa, who is 47, will probably vote for the Socialist Party, since she thinks they are doing a good job. My brother-in-law will probably vote the same way.

As for the rest of us - myself and my mother Ana, who is 72 - we will vote for the opposition centre-right party, since we know that the government might be doing some good things, but it is also compromising our future with some very wrong decisions - so we will send them a message with our vote.

I have a niece, also called Filipa, who is 18 this year and is going to vote for the first time. She really does not know who to vote for and she has been asking us why we are voting the way that we are.

So I told her that I would make a summary of what each party is doing for Europe and I searched every site of every party that has representation in our parliament. It was amazing how little information about Europe I found on each site.

I hope that the parties get their act together these last few days, although the abstention in Portugal is going to be huge, not only because of the lack of interest but because the election day falls on a Sunday, just before several local and national holidays - a time when people here are usually away!

RADKO ISTENIC, 66, mechanical engineer, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Number of family members voting: 3

Radko Istenic

We are a family of four, including three voters who will take part in the poll on Sunday 7 June, but as yet remain undecided.

My wife, my daughter and I all have issues that matter to us, but we still really have to read up on what each party is proposing before we decide how to vote.

For me, the environment and energy are the main issues that matter for Slovenia in these European elections.

As a nuclear engineer, my primary concern is our energy problems - something that we were reminded of during the dispute last winter over the gas pipeline through Ukraine.

We were affected here by that dispute and it reminded us that we need to use other sources of energy.

Europe's ageing population is a very important issue. We have a large older population here in Slovenia and we need better medical help
Radko Istenic

It's an issue that needs to be addressed properly, domestically and across the EU.

But I expect it to be tackled in a rational way, and in a way that considers properly the impact of various energy sources on the environment.

We have heard a lot of talk about tackling climate change across the EU, particularly by some parties in Germany, which is simply unrealistic.

The parties here are addressing the issue and none of the main parties are against the adoption of nuclear energy, for example.

I may vote for the opposition centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party, but am also looking at what the ruling centre-left Social Democrats are proposing on the matter.

Another issue that is very important to me is Europe's ageing population.

CASE STUDY: SLOVENIA
Population: 2 million
Number of seats in Europe: 7

We have a large older population here in Slovenia and we need better medical help.

As an older person, you also worry about whether your pension will be secure when you finish working.

I am lucky as I can work into my seventies, but many have to stop work earlier and they need to be able to rely on their pensions and healthcare.

My wife Majda, 49, is also concerned with the environment, as well as issues affecting rural people.

She is concerned that farming and agricultural issues are not being properly addressed by the EU or on a national level.

She is going to keep an open mind and listen to what all candidates are offering, rather than parties, and decide before voting.

My daughter Kim, who is a 19-year-old student, is voting for the first time and is refusing to decide at this stage how to vote.

She is still looking at all the parties and will make her mind up in the coming days.

She is certainly not going to be influenced by her parents!



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MEP Seats

  Votes MEPs
Party % +/- % Total +/-
EPP 33.4 -1.4 264 -18
Socialists 23.2 -4.1 183 -26
Liberal 11.0 +1.6 84 +5
Green 7.4 +1.3 50 +9
Left 5.3 -0.6 34 -2
UEN 3.4 +1.6 28 +2
Ind/Dem 2.7 -1.8 21 -15
No Group 13.6 +3.4 72 +3.4
0 of 27 countries declared.

UK Total MEP Seats

Party Votes MEPs
% +/- % Total +/-
CON 27.7 1.0 *26 1
UKIP 16.5 0.3 13 1
LAB 15.7 -6.9 13 -5
LD 13.7 -1.2 11 1
GRN 8.6 2.4 2 0
BNP 6.2 1.3 2 2
SNP 2.1 0.7 2 0
PC 0.8 -0.1 1 0
OTH 8.5 2.4 0 0
SF 1 0
DUP 1 0
72 of 72 seats declared. Vote share figures exclude Northern Ireland as it has a separate electoral system to the rest of the UK
* Includes UCUNF MEP elected in Northern Ireland
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