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Participating in municipal elections: the right to vote and to stand as a candidate

The Directive establishes the right of European Union citizens residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections.

ACT

Council Directive 94/80/EC of 19 December 1994 laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections by citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals [See amending acts].

SUMMARY

Community nationals residing in a Member State other than their Member State of origin may vote and stand as a candidate in municipal elections. This Directive establishes the arrangements for exercising this right.

Ensuring the same conditions without harmonising electoral systems

The objective of the Directive is not to harmonise Member States' electoral systems, but to ensure that nationals of both the Member State concerned and other Member States can exercise the right to vote and to stand as a candidate under the same conditions. The Directive applies to municipal elections only.

The main purpose of the Directive is to abolish the nationality requirement imposed by a number of Member States in their national electoral law. The Community legislation does not affect the Member States' provisions on the rights of their own nationals or third-country nationals residing in their territory.

Voting and standing as a candidate in municipal elections

Municipal elections are elections by direct universal suffrage at basic local government unit level. These units are listed for each Member State in the Annex to the Directive.

The persons who may vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections in their Member State of residence of which they are not nationals are those who:

  • are European Union citizens, i.e. persons with the nationality of a Member State of the European Union (EU);
  • are resident in the Member State where they would like to vote or stand as a candidate;
  • comply with the conditions imposed by the national legislation of the Member State of residence on its nationals concerning the right to vote and stand in municipal elections. The principle of equality and non-discrimination between national and Community voters and candidates must be observed (European citizens to satisfy the same conditions as nationals of the Member State of residence).

In order to take part in elections, citizens must apply to be entered in the electoral roll of the Member State of residence as an expression of their interest in voting. The Member States must make the necessary arrangements to enable them to be entered on the electoral roll in due time before polling day. Community nationals must provide the same supporting documents as national voters. In Member States where voting is compulsory, Community voters entered on the electoral roll are also covered by this obligation.

There is nothing in the Directive to prevent persons voting or standing as a candidate both in their Member State of residence and in their home Member State. However, Member States may provide that the holding of elected municipal office in the Member State of residence is incompatible with the holding of offices in other Member States which are equivalent to those which give rise to incompatibility in the Member State of residence.

Restrictions on the right to stand as a candidate

Member States may refuse Community citizens the right to stand as a candidate if they:

  • have lost the right to stand as a candidate under the law of their Member State of origin as a result of an individual decision under civil or criminal law;
  • cannot produce a declaration as referred to in Article 9 of the Directive (nationality and residence declaration, declaration of non-deprivation of the right to stand as a candidate and, in certain cases, an attestation from the competent administrative authorities, production of an identity document, etc.).

Member States may also reserve the office of elected head, deputy or member of the governing college of the executive for its own nationals if these persons are elected to hold office for the duration of their mandate, while ensuring that any measures adopted in this area are appropriate, necessary and proportionate. Member States may also provide that citizens of the Union who are elected members of a representative council may not take part in designating delegates who can vote in a parliamentary assembly or in electing the members of that assembly.

The Directive provides for derogations for:

  • any Member State where the proportion of Union citizens of voting age who reside there, but are not its own nationals, exceeds 20 % of the total electorate;
  • Union citizens who already have the right to vote in elections to the national parliament of their Member State of residence.

Amendment to the Directive following enlargement of the European Union

The Annex to the Directive, which lists the basic local government units in each Member State, has been amended on several occasions, following the accession of new Member States to the European Union: Austria, Finland and Sweden on 1 January 1995, the eight countries of central and eastern Europe and Cyprus and Malta on 1 May 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania on 1 January 2007.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 94/80/EC20.1.19951.1.1996OJ L 368 of 31.12.1994
Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 96/30/EC22.5.1996-OJ L 122 of 22.5.1996
Act concerning the conditions of accession of
the Czech Republic,
the Republic of Estonia,
the Republic of Cyprus,
the Republic of Latvia,
the Republic of Lithuania,
the Republic of Hungary,
the Republic of Malta,
the Republic of Poland,
the Republic of Slovenia and
the Slovak Republic
and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the European Union is founded
Annex II: List referred to in Article 20 of the Act of Accession - 2. Free movement for persons - D. Citizens' rights
1.5.2004-OJ L 236 of 23.9.2003
Directive 2006/106/EC01/01/200701/01/2007OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council, of 22 August 2005, on granting a derogation pursuant to Article 19(1) of the EC Treaty, presented under Article 12(4) of Directive 94/80/EC on the right to vote and stand as a candidate in municipal elections [COM (2005) 382 final - not published in the Official Journal].

The Commission concludes in its report that the circumstances warranting the granting to Luxembourg of a derogation pursuant to Article 19(1) of the Treaty and to Article 12(1) of the Directive still apply since the grounds for the derogation are still valid. The report notes that according to data provided by the Luxembourg authorities, the number of non-national citizens of the Union residing in Luxembourg was 133 831. The total number of citizens of the Union of voting age residing in Luxembourg was 356 274. It follows that the proportion of non-national citizens of the Union of voting age residing in Luxembourg was 37.6 % of the total number of citizens of the Union of voting age residing there. This is considerably higher than the threshold laid down in the Directive, i.e. 20 %.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of Directive 94/80/EC on the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections [COM (2002) 260 final - not published in the Official Journal].
Article 13 of Directive 94/80/EC requires the Commission to submit its report within a year of the holding in all the Member States of municipal elections organised on the basis of the Directive in question and, where appropriate, to propose adjustments.
France applied the Directive for the first time to the municipal elections held on 11 and 18 March 2001. In the above report, the Commission evaluates the de jure and de facto application of the Directive from 1996 to 2001.

The Member States notified the national implementing measures to the Commission, which then sent them a questionnaire in order to obtain detailed and uniform information on the application of the Directive in practice. All the Member States except Denmark and France replied to the questionnaire.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council on granting a derogation pursuant to Article 19(1) of the EC Treaty, presented under Article 12(4) of Directive 94/80/EC [COM (1999) 597 final - not published in the Official Journal].

In its report adopted on 22 November 1999 the Commission examined whether the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was still eligible for the derogation under Article 12(1) of the Directive.
That provision enables Member States to grant derogations from the right to vote on condition that the proportion of non-national citizens of the Union of voting age who reside in a given Member State exceeds 20 % of the total number of citizens of the Union of voting age residing there.
Following a check of the corresponding statistical data, the Commission concluded that the reasons which warranted the granting of the derogation to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg still prevailed and that it was therefore not necessary to propose any adjustments.

Last updated: 23.01.2007

See also

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