Should EU citizens living in other member states vote there in national elections? - Second country EU citizens voting in national elections is an important step, but other steps should be taken first
- Should EU citizens living in other member states vote there in national elections?
- Rainer Bauböck: EU citizens should have voting rights in national elections, but in which country?
- Alain Brun: A European or a national solution to the democratic deficit?
- Andrew Duff: EU accession to the ECHR requires ensuring the franchise for EU citizens in national elections
- David Owen: How to enfranchise second country nationals? Test the options for best fit, easiest adoption and lowest costs
- Dimitry Kochenov: What’s in a People? Social Facts, Individual Choice, and the European Union
- Jo Shaw: Testing the bonds of solidarity in Europe’s common citizenship area
- Richard Bellamy: 'An ever closer union among the peoples of Europe': Union citizenship, democracy, rights and the enfranchisement of Second Country Nationals
- Kees Groenendijk: Five pragmatic reasons for a dialogue with and between member states on free movement and voting rights
- Hannes Swoboda: Don’t start with Europeans first. An initiative for extending voting rights should also promote access to citizenship for third country nationals
- Martin Wilhelm: Voting rights and beyond...
- Dora Kostakopoulou: One cannot promote free movement of EU citizens and restrict their political participation
- Ángel Rodríguez: Second country EU citizens voting in national elections is an important step, but other steps should be taken first
- Sue Collard: A more comprehensive reform is needed to ensure that mobile citizens can vote
- Tony Venables: Incremental changes are not enough - voting rights are a matter of democratic principle
- Roxana Barbulescu: Mobile Union citizens should have portable voting rights within the EU
- Concluding remarks by Philippe Cayla and Catriona Seth: Righting democratic wrongs
- All Pages
Second country EU citizens voting in national elections is an important step, but other steps should be taken first
By Ángel Rodríguez (University of Málaga)
Similar processes can be observed with regard to the type of election in which non-nationals have been entitled to participate. From this perspective, granting the right to vote in national elections for second country EU citizens is certainly a test on the bonds of solidarity among EU citizens, as Jo Shaw put it. But it also poses the question of whether, after twenty years of recognition in the EU of the right to vote and be elected for a selected group of non-nationals (European citizens) in selected elections (local and European ones), time has come to include also the right to vote at the national level. In my opinion, we could be still missing some steps that should not be skipped before trying to reach that objective; steps that are of a practical as well as a legal nature.
First of all, if we think that voting in local and EP elections are not the only participation rights we would like to see associated with European citizenship, and if, therefore, the idea is to go further, then the next step should be regional elections, rather than moving on directly to national ones. Certainly, regional elections do not play the same role in all Member States, and there are some in which they do not even exist. But they are, nevertheless, quite relevant in those states with a federal or quasi federal territorial organisation. In some of them domestic law actually permits, in one way or another, the participation of foreign residents, so a future EU legislation transforming this into a European fundamental right for EU residents would not have to fill a complete vacuum. After all, EU citizens can already vote in elections for regional assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In addition, this right would probably not conflict with domestic constitutional law as much as the participation in general elections would, since general elections, either legislative or presidential, are intimately linked with the core idea of “national sovereignty” (or whatever is left of it). Both political and legal arguments would therefore suggest putting regional elections as the next goal for European citizenship all over the Union.
However, even before embarking on any extension of voting rights for EU citizens, much could be done in order to ensure that existing rights, that is, participation in local and EP elections, can be fully exercised without practical obstacles. The low percentage of second nationals EU citizens who vote in those elections in the state where they reside may have different reasons, but surely the lack of accurate information and, in some cases, the intricacies of the procedure play an important role. Take, for instance, the case of Spain: EU residents must enroll in the electoral census in order to vote, inscription in the municipal registry being insufficient. This is not only is a crucial difference with national voters (who are automatically included in the electoral census once they are registered in a municipality) but implies a number of practical problems, from linguistic ones to the incorrect, but common, belief that an EU citizen can only vote in local elections in Spain after a declaration that he or she will not to do so in a municipality of his country of origin. That declaration is neither an exigency of Directive 94/80/EC nor of Spanish law, but it exists nevertheless in the form that EU citizens have to fill in to be included in the Spanish electoral census. The reason is that, according to Directive 93/109/EC, a declaration by a second country national that he or she will refrain from voting in the state of origin is a requirement for voting in EP elections in the state of residence. Since in Spain the procedure for EU citizens to vote is the same for EP and local elections, potential EU voters – and, what is worse, the Spanish electoral board as well – think that the declaration to refrain from double voting applies to both. There is a significant number of EU ‘gerontoinmigrants’ who reside in Spain on a permanent basis but generally spend the summer months in their countries of origin and may be legitimately interested in voting both in host and origin countries’ local elections).
As the last Report from the Commission on the application of the Directive 94/80/EC shows, practical problems like this one may be found in a number of member states, revealing that much can still be done in order to increase the percentage of second country nationals who actually exercise their right to participate in local elections. A similar conclusion may be drawn from the Commission Report on the application of the Directive 93/109/EC regulating EP elections, the modification of which is currently under discussion although unfortunately the debate in the EU institutions has not yet reached the consensus necessary to make it possible.