Brussels, 30 July 1999
EU Citizenship: Commission decides to send reasoned opinions to Germany and Greece concerning voting rights
The European Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions (second stage of formal infringement proceedings under Article 226 of the EC Treaty) to Germany and Greece for incorrect implementation of Directives on the rights for citizens of the European Union (EU) residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals, to vote and to stand as candidates for European Parliament and municipal elections. These rights, laid down in Article 19 of the EC Treaty, are an integral part of the benefits of EU citizenship (see IP/97/452) introduced by the Maastricht Treaty and confirmed by the Amsterdam Treaty. Germany is due to receive two reasoned opinions concerning incorrect implementation of, on the one hand, the Directive on elections to the Parliament (93/109/EC) and on the other, in the Länder of Saxony and Bavaria, the Directive on municipal elections (94/80/EC). The Commission considers that Greece has implemented the municipal elections Directive (94/80/EC) incorrectly because nationals of other Member States suffer several forms of discrimination. The Commission may decide to refer these cases to the European Court of Justice if it does not receive a satisfactory response from the Member States concerned within two months of receipt of the reasoned opinions.
Germany - elections to the European Parliament
Directive 93/109/EC stipulates that all EU citizens residing in a Member State of which he/she is not a national has the right to vote and to stand as a candidate for elections to the Parliament in the State where he/she resides, under the same conditions as nationals of the State of residence. In order to guarantee citizens the freedom to choose whether they vote in the Member State of which they are a national or in the Member State where they reside, the Directive stipulates that the citizen has to ask to be registered on the electoral roll of the Member State of residence. However, the Directive also stipulates that once EU citizens are registered on the electoral roll in their country of residence, they must remain registered under the same conditions as nationals of that State. A problem arises in Germany, which does not keep any permanent electoral roll, because it requires non-German EU citizens to lodge a request for registration on the electoral roll before each election, while German nationals are re-registered on the electoral roll automatically, without having to make a specific request. EU nationals from other Member States therefore suffer discriminatory treatment.
Germany - municipal elections
A similar problem concerning implementation of the municipal elections Directive (94/80/EC) exists in the German Länder of Saxony and Bavaria. In other words nationals of other Member States resident in these two Länder are required to make a specific request to be registered on the electoral roll before each municipal election, whereas once German nationals are on the electoral roll they are automatically re-registered for each subsequent election.
Greece - municipal elections
The Commission considers that Greek legislation implementing the municipal elections Directive (94/80/EC) discriminates against nationals of other Member States in a number of ways which are incompatible with the Directive. These discriminatory provisions include a requirement for nationals of other Member States to have been a permanent resident of the municipality where they wish to register to vote for at least two years, whereas there is no similar requirement for Greek nationals.
The Commission also has reservations concerning provisions in the Greek legislation prohibiting citizens of other Member States who wish to vote or stand as candidates in municipal elections in Greece from exercising their right to take part in municipal elections in their Member State of origin. The Commission considers that it is the sovereign right of each Member State to decide whether or not to allow its nationals residing abroad to exercise their electoral rights in municipal elections in the Member State of origin and that the host Member State has no right to intervene in this choice. Neither Article 19 of the EC Treaty nor Directive 94/80/EC imply that EU nationals have to choose between exercising their rights to vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections in their country of origin or their country of residence.