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Page last updated at 06:20 GMT, Sunday, 7 June 2009 07:20 UK

A toast to Europe's diversity

By Jonny Dymond
BBC News, Brussels

"I'm a bad Dad," I said to my eight-year-old son, Jake, on the phone last night. I was in Nuremberg, he at home in Brussels. It was the first of what will be many apologies for a five-and-a-half week absence.

BBC correspondent Jonny Dymond
I'm Jonny Dymond and I've been taking the temperature in nine EU member states, asking voters what they think of the EU and what their priorities are.

"No, you're not," he said, thoughtfully and in that rather precise way that some children have. "You just have a bad job."

Hm.

There have been more than a few times over the past few weeks when, watching the roads of Europe spool out in front of me, I have pondered the worth of what Europe producer Cara Swift and I have been been trying to do.

As I have approached innocent victims - at racecourses and sausage factories, at ukulele-playing contests and job centres - I prepare myself for the spiel.

Cars on UK motorway (file pic)
It's goodbye to all this traffic and motorway stops for a while

"Hi," I've said, 100 times and more. "My name's Jonny Dymond, I work for the BBC and I'm going round Europe ahead of the European Parliament elections and I'm trying to find out what people think of the EU. Are you going to vote? What do you think the big issues are?"

Some people engage willingly. A fair few look for a nurse or a policeman to help. Most people's eyes glaze over at the mention of the words "European Parliament".

They generally re-engage at the phrase "EU".

In some countries I thought I knew what was going to come. In many I was surprised.

"I would rather have met you today," I told a school teacher in Latvia, "than interviewed five prime ministers".

The fantastic thing about talking to people - as I have mentioned too often to friends and family - is that that they say such interesting things.

Go-it-alone tendency

In Britain it has been no different. But I have to admit to some bafflement.

It's not the complaints about the cost or the bureaucracy or the meddling or even the erosion of sovereignty.

These are logical, understandable and shared by many, many people across Europe.

A family in Krakow, Poland (file pic)
Krakow, Poland: Open borders have created new opportunities

Nor is it the deep concern over the terrible gap between the governors and the governed within the EU. In my travels I have been witness to a chasm of understanding between Brussels and the rest of the EU.

But the insistence that Britain is not part of Europe, that somehow we stand alone - like the Low cartoon of 1940 - seems to me to misread 1,000 years of history.

I know we won the war, with just a little help from our friends. But there have been other battles since then, battles to bring Europe together. Battles that Britain and its newer European allies have won.

Monuments to those battles stand, lonely and crumbling, at Europe's now deserted internal borders. The concrete customs sheds, the long patches of no-man's-land, the traffic lanes for passport checks that now no longer happen.

These I have witnessed, and occasionally got lost in, as Cara and I have pushed on through the long European night, trucks for the main part our only company.

The benefits of a unified Europe - peaceful, free and prosperous - are taken for granted very quickly these days. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe, that in my youth were a blank space in my mental map, will one day, sooner rather than later I hope, be as rich as their cousins to the west.

The wild diversity of Europe's different countries and regions continues to thrive and prosper, despite the fears of some.

This is the Europe that Jake and his little brother Isaac will grow up in.

And this is the Europe I have had the good fortune to report on.

Not such a bad job, after all.

Jonny Dymond's route across Europe
4 May - France
8 May - Ireland
12 May - UK
16 May - Sweden
21 May - Latvia
25 May - Poland
29 May - Austria
2 June - Italy
5 June - Germany



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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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