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Skepticism among voters over impact of European elections

Elections for the European Parliament are underway, but despite the EU growing in power as a world force, there is still skepticism about how directly it affects people's everyday lives.

BRUSSELS: Elections for the European Parliament are underway with people across the 28-country bloc heading to the polls.

The political make-up of EU, being Asia's biggest trading partner, and the strength of its economy will be of interest globally.

European elections are unlike any others, as voters are heading out to choose the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to represent them in the parliament -- one of three political institutions that make up the EU for the next 5 years.

Once parliament is elected, there will be a political battle between the MEPs and the European Council -- the representations of the 28 national governments -- over the make-up of the European Commission, which is the bloc's most powerful body.

It is a complicated turf war -- and has left many EU citizens nonplussed.

One EU citizen said: "I think like everyone, we feel they (the elections) are a bit far away from our day-to-day activities, but I'm still convinced that the European construction is something good and it's brought a lot of good things here in Belgium and in Europe.”

The big issues expected to sway voters are immigration and the economy.

Southern states who are still only tentatively seeing their economies improve, like Spain and Greece, are still unhappy with EU austerity measures.

Many countries like the UK, France and Holland are seeing a big rise in far-right parties who see free movement of citizens within the EU as a major problem.

But what impact do the elections have globally?

Fraser Cameron, director of the EU-Asia Centre, said: "The important point is the European Parliament is gaining across the board in terms of its competence for dealing with different aspects of EU policy, so all Asian governments and all Asian missions here will have to take the views of the European Parliament into account.

“On the other side, the European Parliament is also very well aware of the growing importance of Asia, so I think there's no doubt the elections will be very important in terms of EU-Asia relations."

The results of the elections will have a big influence in political spheres, but despite the EU growing in power as a world force, there is still skepticism about how directly it affects people's everyday lives.

For the last three EU elections, less than half of people eligible to cast their ballot did so, but after a big push for transparency and engagement by the European Union, they are hoping that many more in Brussels will vote this time round. 

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