More than 14 million citizens of the European Union live in another EU country. They could be regarded as a 28th Member state, and thus the 8th largest population in the EU. Whether to study or work, these citizens often feel at home in the place where they live and contribute to our society in many ways.
Despite what one might expect, these “mobile” EU citizens do not enjoy full voting rights in their host country. They have the right to vote in local and European elections, but the same is not true for regional and national elections – which do, however, greatly affect our daily lives. What is more, citizens of some EU nationalities must even give up these rights in their country of origin, thus becoming “politically homeless”.
The right to vote is not negotiable! Not in the 21st century! However, this outdated system still excludes people from their #RightToVote
— Voters Without Borders (@VoterWOBorders) March 26, 2021
As progressive cities and regions, we believe that all European citizens, regardless of their nationality, must be placed on an equal footing and enjoy full political rights, regardless of borders. This is why our Group supports the European Citizens’ Initiative “Voters Without Borders”. Launched in 2020, it calls for a swift reform of the right to vote and stand as a candidate in local and European elections, and the extension of these rights to regional and national elections and referendums. Mobile EU citizens would thus have the choice to vote in all democratic elections either in their country of residence or in their country of origin.
Making everybody's voice heard
The initiative calls for a truly European citizenship, in which citizens no longer have to choose between their right to free movement, as established by the Maastricht Treaty, and their civic rights. It also proposes universal suffrage for all European citizens, giving these citizens the same opportunity as national citizens to participate in elections at all levels. As EU ‘mobile’ citizens contribute socially, pay the same taxes, send their children to the same schools and use the same services as nationals of their country of residence, giving them access to the same political rights would be normal. Last but not least, the initiative encourages better integration. Giving European citizens access to all political rights where they live can help foster their integration into the host society.
Towards a truly European participatory democracy?
Looking ahead, the Conference on the Future of Europe, which will officially kick off on Europe Day on 9 May, will provide a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the European Union and its citizens. When it comes to voting rights, it will among other things, discuss the possibility of establishing transnational lists for the European Parliament elections, which would greatly reinforce the democratic foundations of the EU as well as the sense of identity and ownership of the European project for all its citizens. In other words, it would be a major step towards a truly political Union. But these envisaged reforms must go hand in hand with the desire to enable everyone to vote.
Progressive cities and regions across Europe are ready to promote the “Voters without Borders” initiative and, at the same time, are committed to actively strengthening the link between the Union, its citizens and the one million elected regional and local politicians across Europe in the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Together, let’s make our Union a truly participatory project to which everybody can contribute!
Do you also believe that citizens should be granted full political rights to vote in the EU country where they live, work and pay taxes?
— PES Group Committee of the Regions (@PES_CoR) September 12, 2020
The European Citizens’ Initiative, put in place by the Lisbon Treaty, is an instrument that permits citizens to ask the European Commission to propose legislation in areas that fall within its competence, by collecting one million signatures in at least a quarter of the EU Member States. The instrument in itself allows for citizens to have a say in European legislation.