EU voters in the dark about their power
- 7 May 2014
Elections for the European Parliament are two weeks away. So, time to ask, "who chooses MEPs?"
"Hang on," gasp those of you in the know. "Trick question or an astonishing example of a BBC correspondent who doesn't know a basic fact about the EU?"
Neither. For those not in the know, the answer is clearly not at all obvious.
When the EU's Eurobarometer survey (p99) asked people across the bloc last autumn whether voters living in the EU get to choose their MEPs, half the respondents got it wrong.
The UK was pretty average - just over 50% of people know that MEPs are directly elected by the citizens of each EU country. In one of the founding members of the union, the Netherlands, just 44% got it right.
Which means that half of the voters who can take part in the world's second biggest democratic election, don't know they have a voice.
This of course feeds into the growing sense in many countries that "Brussels" and all the European institutions are unaccountable, and unelected.
MEPs have more power than they used to. Most of the time they work with the governments of the countries that make up the union to create EU laws that affect us all.
Again though, many people don't realise how often EU rules affect daily life across Europe, as I found on a trip to Banbury in the UK.