The European elections are almost upon us. We’re always hearing from the loud left and the rowdy right, but what about the majority of people somewhere in between?
Our reporter Stuart Oates has been sofa surfing across the continent, staying with the locals to find out what's important to you. Filming the adventure on his phone, you’ve been sharing your stories of what’s working, and what’s not in the EU.
Our final European sleepover took Stuart to Lithuania. Meeting Dalia Šmitienė, in her rural home on the western edge of the country, she explained how she had raised her family here, but it was no longer her permanent home. Emigration has become a huge problem in the area, as many people have moved away for work. Often families are split up, where one parent has moved away and the other is left behind with the rest of the family. After Dalia's husband moved to Norway for work and many of her friends were also gone, she made the decision to move to the nearby city of Klaipeda, which is where she now spends most of her time. With work the next day, Dalia and her daughter travelled back to the city that evening.
The next day Stuart travelled to the centre of the city where Dalia teaches English. The general feeling was quite positive towards the European Union, which is perhaps unsurprising as you drive along the new roads and walk along the redeveloped waterfront, which features large signs signalling the EU funding. But the niggling issue of emigration comes up again, as one of Dalia's students told Stuart that she has to learn English, as her daughter has moved to Germany and has a German boyfriend, so it's the only way that she can communicate with him.
A quick break for lunch allowed Dalia and Stuart to take a short ferry ride across from Klaipeda to the Curonian spit on the Baltic Sea. The 98km long slither of sand is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is shared between Russia to the south and Lithuania to the North. The pristine pine forests and stunning white sand made a perfect end to the sleepover where Dalia explained her ideal EU policy. She believes that all EU citizens should be made to travel. That way they could experience and appreciate the different countries and cultures, so that they could live together in a more understanding and productive way.
Stuart's time in Lithuania showed him both the positive and negative impact which free movement can have on rural EU communities.
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