DAY IN A NUTSHELL
The European Parliament election kicks off with voting in the UK and the Netherlands. It is a crucial test for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with a general election due within a year.
The official results will not be known until Sunday evening - once voting has finished across the 27-nation EU. But controversially Dutch officials plan to announce some "preliminary" results on Thursday evening. Much attention will focus on voter turnout, which has fallen in each European Parliament election.
"Europe needs charismatic politicians. And another thing: why aren't there any European candidates? Why, as a Dutchman, can't I vote for [Greens leader] Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is running in France?"
(Dutch writer Geert Mak, author of In Europe, interviewed by the German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung.)
NEWS IN NUMBERS
The attendance record of UK and Dutch MEPs at full sessions of the European Parliament in 2004-2009 was similar, according to the votewatch.eu website: 85.8% for British MEPs and 85.2% for the Dutch.
Austria holds the best attendance record: 92.7%. Italy's MEPs came bottom of the table, at 71.9%.
Voting in Monnickendam: The Netherlands was among the EU's founding states