Free love or a Union of like-minded souls?

With a low turn-out predicted for this June's European elections, Dutch and Romanian political parties are going for the electorate's funny bone – with gadgets, gags and innuendo.

Published on 24 May 2009 at 13:35

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“I fancy having intimate European relations”. So goes the slogan on condoms the Green Party has been distributing in The Netherlands - a pun on the Dutch word for sexual intercourse, gemeenschap, which also means “community” depending on the context…. “Humour or despair?” wonders columnist Willem de Bruin in the Volkskrant. That pleasure can help promote the European project, which right now doesn’t really “arouse” many young people, is a matter of course in a country known for its laissez-faire mores – and low turn-out in European elections.

At the other end of the political spectrum, free market liberals the VVD have resorted to a battery-operated pocket fan bearing the punning inscription “Fan of Europe” to convince the young to come out and vote. But as de Bruin fears, “Neither the Greens’ condoms nor the fans will be able to mobilise the electorate.”

While the Dutch Greens are urging the nation’s youth to move closer, other countries champion the joys of wedlock. Romania's Liberal Democrats, for instance, are saying yes to the European marriage and everything that entails. “In sickness and in health” runs the slogan they have chosen for their campaign.

Is Europe a marriage? A necessary and ineluctable love-hate relationship, like all earthly matrimony? If voters turn out en masse for free-market candidates, the answer might be yes. “Otherwise they'll only have their slogan to blame,” quips journalist Dan Andronic in his blog 100% politics 1% manipulation. The prospect of the rigours of wedded bliss might well be one campaign gimmick too far.

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