Letter: Citizens of Europe

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The Independent Culture
Sir: In common with thousands of EU citizens resident in another EU country I am entitled, in theory, to cast a vote in the forthcoming European parliamentary election in my country of residence. In practice, the bureaucratic obstacles which are placed in the way of such a potential voter are enormous. I was, therefore, unsurprised to discover that last time round of the 9,840 non-German EU citizens entitled to vote here in Essen only 211 managed to do so.

Here in Germany any citizen from another EU country wishing to participate in the European election has to "apply for an application form" from the local Wahlamt (election office), fill this in and return it by 10 May. I am informed by an official concerned that this procedure is to enable checks to be made with the authorities in the applicant's home country to avoid cheating.

Little or no publicity is given to this: most Germans and almost all foreigners will have no idea what a Wahlamt is, let alone where it may be found. Although the Wahlamt has automatic access to names, addresses and nationalities of all residents of this city, officials there do not see notifying citizens of their rights - perhaps by sending out the relevant application forms to all entitled - as any part of their remit.

German officials, of course, devoutly believe that their procedure is the only, and correct, one and must therefore apply in all the remaining EU countries. I have no way of verifying this.

This procedure is blatantly discriminatory. Native German citizens entitled to vote will be automatically sent a postcard from the Wahlamt confirming their right to vote, to be presented at the polling station.