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May 23, 2019

Luxembourg - Je peux voter / This time I'm voting - European Elections May 2019

As Europe has already started the voting process for the 2019 European Elections, I come to you with a post about those elections, a bit of history and facts and at the end an exhibition. So here we go.

When is Europe voting?

The people in Great Britain and the ones in the Nederlands have already started voting on the morning of May 23rd and it is estimated that 427 million electors will cast their ballot today. Although the Brits have already voted to get out of the EU, since Brexit was postponed they had to organise elections. One thing though, although voting today the final results will be public on the evening of May 26th when all the European countries will have finished their electoral process.

Tomorrow, on May 24th the Irish will go to the voting stations and on Saturday, May 25th, Slovakia, Latvia and Malta will express their political preferences in these European elections. Czechia will vote on two days, Friday and Saturday, so May 24th and 25th. 

The rest of 21 European Countries (out of 28) will vote in these European elections on Sunday, May 26th, and the first results will be made public on Sunday.

An elections related exhibition in Luxembourg 

Europe is voting to elect the future Members of the European Parliament for 40 years, the first European Election took place on June 7th, 1979. I wasn't even born that day, but I've started voting for the EP in 2009 when Romanians voted for the first time and ever since I vote.
I don't know much about politics, but I do know that regular citizens have just one or two ways of controlling the politics, the vote once every four or five years and the protests when something out of place happens. Some countries in the EU protest a lot and some not at all, but they all vote. And we vote for the European elections once every five years, so in '79, '84, '89, '94...you get the point. 

In Luxembourg there was an ample campaign asking people over 18 years old to register to vote. I even took part in one or two events on the theme, but I was already convinced. I did not register to vote in Belgium, though, because I know nothing about the Belgian politic system and I also feel my vote is worth more if I vote for my home country, Romania.

I won't go into details, because I refer from making politics on this space, but I feel that this year more than ever Romania needs a fresh perspective, it needs to realise it is part of this great thing which is European Union and it should fight for its rights.

But I've digressed, along with the events to promote the European elections, at the House of Europe in the Luxembourg City Centre there is an exhibition with posters from all over Europe. It is free to visit and I wanted to take this exact picture, when we visited the exhibition, standing next to the first UK poster for the European Elections in 1979. As the Brits chose to exit the EU, in 2019 they vote for the last time in this elections. 

The exhibition will be open until May 26th so if you are interested in a little bit of visual history please do go and check it out.

A bit of history

As I've said Europeans voted for the first time to elect the MEP in 1979. Back then only Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Nederlands, United Kingdom and West Germany voted. In 1984 Greece joined the elections and four years later Spain and Portugal. In 1999 Austria, Finland and Sweden voted for the first time to elect their MEP's. In 2004 the largest extension of the EU took place and that meant that 10 more countries joined the European Elections, Cyprus, the then Czech Republic turned Czechia in the meantime, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Then, in 2009 it was our turn as Romanians together with our neighbours, the Bulgarians voted for the first time. In 2014 Croatia voted for EP for the first time and this year no new country joined the EU, but it will be the last time that these exact 28 countries will vote as this year Brexit will happen.

As long and complicated as this seems, know that around these dates the new countries who entered the EU after 1979, hold their own country elections to send members to the parliament. Greece in 1981, Portugal in 1997, Spain in the same year, Sweden 1995, Austria 1997, Bulgaria and Romania 2007, Croatia in 2013.

Some logistics

Once you have read all that, you might wonder how the places in the European Parliament are distributed. Well, know that it depends on the population of member states and follows the principle of degressive proportionality. That means that countries that are smaller in terms of population should have fewer MEPs than bigger countries. At the same time, MEPs from larger countries should represent more people than MEPs from smaller countries. As a rule there are no less than 6 seats per country and no more then 96. Germany as the largest member of EU in terms of population has 96 seats, followed by France with 79 and Spain with 59 seats. On the opposite, Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus have only 6 seats in the European Parliament. Romania currently holds 33 seats.

According to the Treaty of the European Union, no more than 750 MEP plus a president will be elected on May 26th. Out of this number in the event of Brexit the 73 places that UK currently holds will be distributed as follows, 5 to France and Spain, 3 to Italy and the Nederlands, 2 to Ireland and 1 to Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Croatia, Estonia, Poland and Romania. No member state will lose any seats.

Now that you made it this far, I have a big thank you for you! I really enjoyed documenting this article and as hard as it was I know that it is interesting. All of the facts are on the European Parliament website, I just made a tough selection of them all.

I will leave you with a few posters and remind you can still visit the exhibition at the House of Europe in Luxembourg.
"Do not just follow the heard. Choose your path for Europe", Luxembourg 2004 

"European elections, you decide!", Romania 2009 
UK 1979
I hope you enjoyed reading this long article as much as I loved putting it together. As usual I'll wait for you on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

May 9, 2019

Luxembourg - What do we actually celebrate on May 9th?

Following a lively argument with my friends, I've decided to look into this day and give you the answers, because as usual not everything is clear as water. So what do we, as Europeans, celebrate on May 9th, also called Europe Day?

If you are a little bit older than me, you might remember that on May 9th we used to celebrate "Victory day" that was the day in which in 1945 the Germans surrendered and the WWII was over. It was celebrated mostly in the former soviet republics and the countries in the Eastern Block and particularly in Romania replaced the May 10th, King's Day. Celebrated, but not declared a public holiday (i.e. you had to go to work that day).

That was then, but now on May 9th we celebrate "Europe Day" or the "Schuman Day". On May 9th, 1950, the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman proposed to place German and French coal and steel production under one common authority. It was after the WWII ended and quickly the West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer agreed to the proposal. Four other states adhered to the same document, Nederlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy and on April 18th, 1951 the Treaty of Paris was signed creating the European Coal and Steel Community.

This first organisation paved the way to what we today call European Union. So on short on May 9th we celebrate the European Union, hence Europe Day, which we started celebrating in 1964.

What makes me celebrate Europe day?

Well believe it or not, Romania is a European Country and since 2007 is a member of the European Union. My tone of disbelieve comes from the fact that people in Luxembourg still don't know Romania is EU. It does not have euro yet (but only 19 out of 28 member states are part of Eurozone) and is not part of the Schengen Area.

None the less as a Romanian and a European I enjoy certain benefits. Let me explain:

1. Free movement. Basically every time I want to go on holiday in Europe, I don't have to bother with visas and other papers. I can only pack my bags and have my passport and that's it. Not only that, but within the EU the same rules apply and if let's say the plane is late, I can benefit from at least a sandwich if not a payed room in a hotel.

2. The ability to work anywhere I want within the EU. We enjoy this sunny life in Luxembourg, because without that much effort we relocated here. True, that only in 2011 Romania enjoyed this freedom (remember we are EU since 2007), but nonetheless now if I want to apply for a job in let's say Amsterdam, I can move there within 6 months. Believe me, I've done it, moving from Ireland to Luxembourg and from Romania to Ireland.

3. The benefit of Erasmus. I am a little bit older for it, but nonetheless Erasmus exists and it is that time in which students choose to spent a semester in another country. Not only that, but recently students over 18 benefit from pre-payed train tickets to travel in Europe, cool no?

4. Protection from unfair treatment at workplace. Apparently under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights if I choose to move to Amsterdam and someone chooses to discriminate me on that, EU will protect me. I am lucky that never happened to me, but know you have that right.

5. Using phone and Internet at the same cost within the EU or no roaming charges. This is fairly new (2017) so let me explain. Before June 15th, 2017 when you would be on holiday in Luxembourg and phoned home to see what the dog was doing, you would have payed a charge on top of what a regular phone call would cost. Also your personal data is protected under EU law.

6. Returning products within 30 days. Also EU is responsible for that, because within EU if you buy a product in Belgium and decide you don't like it, you can ship it and get your money back. It works not only if you buy something from another EU country, but also within your country.

7. Same high standards for food. There is a trend within the Influencers world, where they test the same products in different countries and although on some examples Eastern Europe countries fall short, you as a European citizen can complain to EU authorities.

8. Peace and security. This is the most important one. I can guarantee you we could live without all of the above, but we absolutely need peace. We as Europeans would always find something to fight about and if you google the number of wars that happen in Europe you will be shocked. We enjoy the longest period without war and that makes EU the most successful peace project in human history.

What happens in Luxembourg?

Well Luxembourg is big on celebrating Europe Day being in the middle of it all. In Luxembourg May 9th is as of this year a public holiday, which means you have all the time in the world to tend to your business or to come to Place d'Armes and visit the European Village, where all of the EU countries have a stall and present their country. If you are not a big fan of crowds and noise, I suggest you head to Schengen on the Moselle River and have a nice family day on the banks of the river, visit the museum and find out more about why we should celebrate Europe.

What about Schengen?

Well Schengen is the best example of how peaceful and well made is the European Union, as it is a small village spread between three countries, Luxembourg, Germany and France. It was there that in 1985 the five first countries within the EU, Luxembourg, Belgium, Nederlands, France and West Germany signed a treaty on a boat sailing on the Moselle River. It is said that the windows were covered so the people signing the treaty do not know in which country it was signed. The Schengen Agreement is the founding act of the Schengen Area, where there are no borders and no passport controls. The Schengen Area comprises of 22 countries out of 28, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are legally obliged to join the area once the meet certain criteria, Ireland and Great Britain opted out of the Schengen Area, by their own will and there are 4 states which are not member of the EU, but are part of Schengen, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

I do think this is a long and a sort of tl;dr post, but if you made it this far, pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee and while you sip it in silence enjoy it! As long and as complicated the history of Europe has been, now we are enjoying the most peaceful age yet.

As usual if you would like to say something to complete this post or if you just like to stay in touch, I'm on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu.

May 6, 2019

Belgium - Floralia Brussels 2019

If you live in Luxembourg you should keep an eye on what is happening across the border in Belgium, France or Germany, as many times I've found interesting events in the neighbouring countries which are easy to reach even by public transport, if you own a car, even better.

And one of these traditional events is Floralia, Spring Flowers Exhibition which takes place every year in Brussels. I consider it a good alternative for the years when we don't get to plan a trip to Holland to see the tulip fields.

More than one million flower bulbs were planted for this year's Floralia Exhibition, which takes place for about a month every year at the Groot-Bijgaarden Castle on the outskirts of the Belgian capital city. The property has 14 hectares and includes an indoor exhibition on a 1000 square metres green-house, an orchids show in the chapel and a tower.

This year the exhibition was opened for a month, between April 6th and May 5th and if you did not get a chance to go, here are some photos.










If you are interested, they have a website and a Fb page so just keep an eye out for next year. As usual I will wait for you on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

May 3, 2019

Fashion Revolution Luxembourg - Be sustainable when it comes to clothes

The talk about sustainable fashion as opposed to fast fashion (what we experience in our days with the abundance of clothing stores each one with their own collection that you have to have) has amplified, so much so it created the need to celebrate it and in return the Fashion Revolution week was born. In Luxembourg they organised a lot of interesting events, all under the slogan "who made my clothes?". A valid question, but not sufficient.
Almost always when it comes to sustainable fashion, the talk about pricing follows, cause someone pays a price, either is you the buyer, or the manufacturer. That is why fast fashion is on a trend right now, because clothes have become a commodity, something you buy cheap and it is supposed to last you just one season. We live in the age when we follow trends more than our common sense and that, unfortunately, doesn't refer only to fashion. That is why we live with influencers, people capable of disseminating the information for you and giving you the results. We only consume what we see others consuming and long is gone the era in which everyone wanted to be unique, when women would innovate in the way they dressed, wanted to be different from their neighbour even wearing the same dress.

In this era when the abundance of clothes is on our threshold, talking about sustainability seems pointless, but still there is a conversation we should have. Here is what you can do to be a little more sustainable.

1. The most sustainable clothes are the ones you already have. Go to your wardrobe and instead of thinking "I have nothing to wear" or "what sparks joy", think "what I could do to the clothes I already have, so I could be unique". There are a lot of possibilities of revamping your wardrobe. Try patches, try dying your clothes, try customising what you already have.

2. Mend your clothes. When was the last time you stitched a button or patched your jeans or even shorten your jeans? Even in Luxembourg there are stores from where you could buy buttons if you haven't kept the extra ones that came with your clothes. You don't have to be a perfectionist, be an artist! Craft your clothes.

3. Learn to love your clothes. You know the wardrobe essentials, the white shirt, the little black dress, a decent skirt, some casual pants, there are even people who preach living with just 5 items of clothing, I'm not that drastic, but learn to love your wardrobe essentials. Mine are, the red blouse I bought in Dublin and I love it to bits, the pants that fit in that certain way I like, the blouse with blue stripes, the not so little black dress, which I love wearing. They are pieces that make me feel good wearing them, pieces attached to a certain memory.

4. Learn to smart shop. Go shopping for clothes when you really need something, or when some piece has become unwearable. The stores are strategically placed for you to go inside and never leave empty-handed. They all call your name, don't they? Well they don't, because you don't need them. This year yellow is trendy and the clothing stores are full of mustard yellow items. I can almost bet that you have at least one item of clothing that is mustard yellow. Find it and wear it. Shop inside your wardrobe if you want, discover forgotten, but loved items.

5. Invest in clothes. Another part of smart shopping is investing in clothes. Spend a little more on a piece of clothing, but buy something that would last at least two seasons. Create those essentials you can go to and you know you look good in them and feel comfortable. Instead of buying three t-shirts at a small price, buy one of a good quality. Buy good quality accessories, they should transition from one season to the next. Invest in that bag you always wanted.

6. Read the labels. Try buying natural fabrics, plastic is no longer fantastic, plus it makes you sweat. Most if not all the fast fashion stores have organic cotton, linen, wool or even hemp lines. Buy those! Even though they are a little more expensive, they are sustainable on the long run. You know my collection of Romanian blouses? Most of them are more then 50 years old and they lasted so long because they are made from natural fabrics.

7. Be unique, be you! Fashion is there for you to choose and adapt it to your style, to your needs, to your figure AND not the other way around. We talked about mustard yellow, but maybe you are white as snow, you will loose yourself in that yellow. Buy red, buy whatever makes you happy. You like flowers, but they are not trendy? Wear flowers. You will start your own trend and most definitely you will not be lost in the crowd of mustard yellow.

And that ladies are my two cents about sustainable fashion. As always I'll wait for you on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu