This article was originally published in londynek, a Polish online paper, 3 March 2014
To read the article in Polish, click here
"We should not be indifferent to who wins the local or the European elections in the UK. We should remember that we too can vote and influence the outcome of the elections " - Roger Casale (standing) addressing activists at the start of the second phase of their "Vote! Vote! Vote” campaign.
New Europeans is a membership association founded in June 2013, which champions the rights of EU citizens. These include the right to freedom of movement, that is to live and work in any member state of the EU, and the right to vote in local and European elections.
The association is reaching out to all member state communities and representatives in the UK. The Chair, Roger Casale is the former Labour MP for Wimbledon.
"Many European citizens living in the UK are not aware that they have the right to vote in local and European parliamentary and indeed for the London Assembly and the Mayor of London. Our campaign aims to make EU citizens aware of their voting rights and to encourage them to vote.”
Both the local and European elections will be held on 22 May this year. To be able to vote, you need to register, either through your local council’s website or via the Electoral Commission website.
"There are a number of barriers which prevents EU citizens from exercising their right vote. One of those barriers is a lack of awareness about the registration process itself.
In the UK, you must register to vote – whereas in Poland this is not a requirement. Registration procedures can be complex so we must make sure that the information in available in polish and I other languages.
We Poles have our Polish-American media, which should help us to understand the laws in force here, "- says Monika Tkaczyk from New Europeans. She adds that not all potential voters will be interested in the European elections. Many do not feel that they are an integral part of British society.
There are now over 2.2 million nob-British EU citizens living in the UK - including hundreds of thousands of Poles.
"I'm not sure if the political parties in the UK have woken up to the fact that EU citizens have huge voting potential - almost 10% of the British electorate" - says Roger Casale.
"The upcoming elections are a great opportunity for making sure that the voice of Poles, Czechs, Bulgarians indeed all citizens of Europe are heard in the European Parliament and in local councils" he concludes.