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European Commission - Press release

EU citizens still face obstacles to exercising their local voting rights, Commission report says

Brussels, 9 March 2012 – More and more EU citizens are exercising their right to live and work anywhere in the European Union, with around 8 million people of voting age currently residing in an EU country other than their own. As EU citizens, they have the right to vote or stand as a candidate in local elections in the EU country in which they live. However, only around 10% currently take advantage of this right, according to a new report published today by the European Commission. The report finds that while most countries have implemented the relevant EU rules (Directive 94/80/EC) in a satisfactory way, some obstacles remain. In addition, some citizens may not be aware of their rights and procedures may sometimes prove too cumbersome.

To make sure citizens are able to fully exercise their electoral rights, the Commission will therefore work with national, regional and local authorities to identify and resolve any remaining difficulties in effectively applying this right. The proposal for a European Year for Citizens in 2013 provides a good opportunity to make EU citizens' rights better known.

"Whether it is about planting trees, emergency services or local transport, decisions taken at municipal level affect everyone living in a local area. That is why, under the EU Treaties, EU citizens have the same democratic rights to vote and stand in local elections in all 27 EU Member States, wherever they live in the EU," said Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "We will continue to work with Member States to make sure these rights are effective in practice, so that all EU citizens can have a say on the issues that affect them."

Today's report on the application of EU rules on local voting rights for EU citizens finds that while Member States have satisfactorily transposed the relevant EU Directive, some issues remain. These include requirements for EU citizens that may differ from those applied to national citizens, such as the need to have been resident in the country for a certain period in order to apply for a vote.

But while the numbers of Europeans living elsewhere in the EU has grown, the report finds that an average of only 10% of EU citizens has exercised their right to vote. EU citizens should be informed about their electoral rights and the administrative procedures that are required to exercise them. The Commission will continue to monitor the correct implementation of the Directive and will help Member States adopt all the necessary measures to ensure that citizens benefit from the full exercise of their electoral rights. The Commission will also promote best practices in encouraging non-national EU citizens to take part in institutional and political life at a local level.

Background

Freedom of movement is the most cherished right of EU citizenship (see press release No. 14/2011). Indeed, more and more Europeans benefit from this right and live in another EU Member State: in 2009, an estimated 11.9 million citizens were living in a Member State other than their own; in 2010 this figure grew to 12.3 million (STAT/11/105). Around 8 million of these are of voting age.

Thanks to EU citizenship – which does not replace national citizenship but complements it – all nationals of the 27 EU Member States also have the right to vote and stand in local and European elections in the EU country they live in.

The EU Citizenship Report 2010 (see IP/10/1390 and MEMO/10/525) outlined 25 concrete actions to remove the remaining obstacles to EU citizens exercising their right to free movement in the EU. One of these is to strengthen citizens’ awareness of their EU citizenship status, their rights and meaning in their daily lives by proposing the designation of 2013 as the European Year of Citizens and by organising targeted events on EU citizenship and citizen-related policies during this Year. During the European Year of Citizens in 2013, the Commission will publish a second EU citizenship report, which will serve as an action plan for the removal of the remaining obstacles that hinder citizens from fully enjoying their rights as Union citizens.

For more information

EU Citizenship:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/index_en.htm

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Contacts:

Matthew Newman (+32 2 296 24 06)

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)


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