Monday, 8 June 2009


Or 'Why I wish I had voted in the European Parliamentary Elections'.

I opened the browser to write another 'how to flirt with a feminist' post, but then I started reading the news (dutifully comparing vocab across the board, aren't I good?) and realised that I would rather express my reactions to the election results: the flirting post will keep another day.

Yes you heard right, ultra-feminist blogger Pinolona did not go to the ballot boxes to exercise her democratic rights (Emily Pankhurst, suffragettes, hunger strikes, guilt, guilt, guilt). She wasted her opportunity and here's why:

1/ To be able to vote in Poland I would have had to have registered before April 27. I discovered this in early May, when people started talking about Euro-elections.

2/ I could have voted in the UK, had I registered before May 27, by:
a) postal vote - going to the post office in Kraków and queuing takes an average of an hour/an hour and a half out of my working day, and please bear in mind that this already includes a four-hour block of classes in either the morning or the afternoon. An extra hour or so lost in the afternoon means an extra hour or so at work in the evening. Combine this with the scanty reliability of Poczta Polska and my vote was unlikely to have made its way to South Eastern ballot boxes by Sunday.

b) proxy vote - not sure about this one: ideally I tell my proxy how I want them to vote for me and they tick the appropriate box. In reality, my proxy probably has his or her own theories about choosing the democratic representative of my best interests, and I'd rather make the decision myself...

Now - don't touch that remote! - I actually think the European Union is by and large a Good Thing. So I'm annoyed that I missed my chance to take part.

Why am I so convinced it's a Good Thing?

Firstly, here in Kraków I've had the chance to meet plenty of students and young professionals from outside the old U of E: Americans, Japanese, Ukrainians, Australians, and I've heard their woes over visas. I don't want to have to trek to Warsaw and have my lungs x-rayed and my criminal record checked every time my visa expires. I'd rather not have to make a trip to Slovakia (lovely location though it is) every three months simply to get a new tourist visa.
As a student I got to work in France for a year through the British Council and I spent a brilliant five months in Italy living off a generous Erasmus grant and... um... studying (in between drinking pinot noir and slurping up linguine). I'm also aware that if I had been an 'EU student' rather than a mere 'English' student I would have paid the same tuition fees at St Andrews as the Scottish students (i.e. significantly less). What's not to love?!

In my adult life, I've never worked in the UK other than on a temporary basis during and immediately after my studies. Why should I go back there? It's wet and grey, and apparently full of BNP voters. No thanks.

Then there's the roaming issue - ok, it's expensive, but thanks to MEPs fretting over their mobile bills, it's not as bad as it might be. My only major bugbear is that Polish pay-as-you-go deals haven't quite got it right yet. It'd be nice, for example, not to have to switch off my data package when I switch on roaming, Mr Simplus GSM, are you listening?

And what about the euro, always a controversial subject? I'm divided over this one: on the one hand, given that Europe is still split into 27 very different economies, I suspect that it's better for each unit to be able to devalue and trade their own currencies as they see fit. On the other hand, most of the companies I work for pay in euros, my bank account is in pounds (since I haven't been resident in the euro-zone since early 2007) and I spend in zlots. Where's the sense in that?

Was there more? Oh yes. Charlemagne's column in this week's Economist notes that what the European Parliament does 'comes under the heading of important but boring'. I would be inclined to agree with that. The language professional who goes by Pinolona's real name regularly translates communications relating to the minutiae of European technical regulations. This is definitely not the stuff of action thrillers, and indeed many people complain in the UK that EU regulations are over-fussy. I'm not one of them. If I'm going to live in Poland, France or Italy, I want to know that the milk I buy in the supermarket is pasteurised to the same specifications as it would be in the UK. I'd like to be certain that the structural bearings in my apartment block are certified to the same standard in all four countries.
There's a market economy aspect too: if Poland comes up with an intellectual property stamp that has to be displayed on all goods sold in this country, well then as a foreign content supplier I'd want to know how to get hold of that stamp. Moreover, should one Member State decide that all products sold within its borders should display a national standard only available in that country, manufacturers from other states should be able to say 'look - hang on, how do we get hold of this standard, and aren't you effectively discriminating against the free movement of goods and services?!'
Not to mention the internet: should I decide to indulge in a little online poker, I need to know that as a consumer my rights are protected regardless of where the site's server may be located.

I digress, and no-one is listening any more.

But still, I look at the British results showing UKIP in second place and two new BNP members, and I wish to goodness I'd got my act together.


Norman said...

"If I'm going to live in Poland, France or Italy, I want to know that the milk I buy in the supermarket is pasteurised to the same specifications as it would be in the UK."
Pino, what happens with those, who, while in the UK, want milk Polish Way? You seems to be some kind of "soft" fascist ;]
P.S. Last sentence is mental abbreviation...
P.P.S. This is interesting point of view - all regulations should make food in EU same way as i like it :]

pinolona said...

norman for heavens' sake. It has nothing to do with 'how i like it' and everything to do with harmonisation of safety standards. we're talking about health an safety regulations, not personal taste. these should be the same across the board. And yes, actually, from the amount of Poles who advise me not to drink the tap water here I'd say things were better in the UK actually

Anonymous said...

You should not drink tap water. Water pipes are not 100% clean, no matter where you live.

Norman said...

pino, read SciAm, there was article aboud water standards, where people were forced to drink water enritched with fluorine. It supposed to be better, but after years consequences emerged...
Now, why does product has to be done one way? Why is it better? (i'm not writing about standardization, but about product itself - this could be discussion based on water from 80's perspective as milk case CAN evolve same way)
Most of the time consequences can't be predicted without years of research or years of research after years of finding new ways things happen.
For me, forcing someone to do something ONLY because of someone's fears is like being fascist ;]
It, of course, has to do with 'how you like it', as if you wouldn't like it, you would be against. But it might be, that it was Your mental abbreviation...
It is thing, that's nice to talk about, especially with scientific paradigm. But not in this place and, even more, not until my english improve.
The last thing: why people from western Europe seems to be so much into planned economy? ;]

P.S. And one more thing. Most Poles are told in school and home not to drink water. This one is based on argument "every one knows" and has its equivalent in point of view domain - in Polish it is called "poprawność polityczna".

pinolona said...

that's not true: in the UK they test the tap water because it has to be drinkable.

In France apparently they do too, but no-one drinks it because it tastes nasty (and because then you can show off your social status through your mineral water brand).

I always drink the tap water here and I'm fine so far...

Norman said...

Anon, water pipes are mostly polluted with what's in water. For example, chlorine - for biological stabilisation, but little amount. Sometimes, when something goes wrong, it can be biologically polluted, but same goes for bottled water (i mean: polution, not stabilisation).

Anonymous said...


But they do not test the water at your HOME, no matter if you live in the UK, France or in Poland.

In Poland, UK, France the tap water is tested and drinkable when it LEAVES the main water "station". But there is no 100% guarantee that it is drinkable when it ARRIVES at your kitchen.

I hope you understand what i mean...

Michael Dembinski said...

Do you guys have woda oligoceńska in Kraks?