A solitary EU election voting card in the post
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A solitary EU election voting card in the post

Social media keeps reminding me to get ready to vote, which feels like it's rubbing salt into a wound, writes Jennie Rhodes

Jennie Rhodes


Friday, 31 May 2024, 15:51

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Returning to Malaga from a trip to Austria on Monday, when I'd sailed through airports without border controls, I checked the letterbox to find one solitary European election ballot card. It was of course addressed to my Spanish partner. Not me. A pang of grief. Tears welled up in my eyes.

Before the EU referendum in 2016 I would have had the option to vote either here or in the UK. I always voted and I always chose to do so in England as I felt my vote counted more with the risk of Brexit and a growing anti-EU sentiment. I say growing, although the UK has always been famously Euro-sceptical, even while it was a member state.

Of course, I could have got myself organised to apply for Spanish citizenship (I have lived in Spain for far more than the obligatory 10-year minimum to do so). But like many other things on my 'to-do list', I haven't got round to it.

By and large my rights haven't changed much as a resident in Spain and I am still entitled to the European Health Card, which meant I didn't have to worry about medical insurance for the trip, unlike my two British travel companions.

However, as I flew from the UK with them of course I had to stand in the queue at Salzburg airport to get my passport stamped before we were allowed in. While my friends, despite being ardent anti-Brexiters, were quite excited about getting another stamp in their passports, I protested that only non-EU ones counted and that pre-Brexit we didn't have to get them from EU member states.

When asked where we were from by Austrians, other EU citizens and the Americans we met on a Sound of Music tour (naturally) in Salzburg, I found myself saying that I was 'originally from the UK' but that I 'have lived in Spain for many years'.

Everywhere we went in Austria we saw posters for the different political parties standing in the European elections and back in Malaga there are signs that the campaign is well under way too. Social media keeps reminding me to get ready to vote, which feels like it's rubbing salt into a wound.

Spanish and other EU friends are getting ready to vote. They don't quite know whether to broach the subject with me or not as they know it's a sensitive subject. Why don't I then do as many have suggested, some have already done, and I have told myself: that is, get on with it and apply for Spanish citizenship and so I can proudly say that I am Spanish and European?

Then next time the European elections come round two ballot cards will appear in the letterbox, just like the old days.

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