MEPs call for urgent action on voting rights for disenfranchised EU citizens

03 October 2018

Last night the European Parliament called for urgent action on the disenfranchisement of citizens who live in other member states from the Commission and national governments represented in the Council. MEPs urged the two EU bodies to act to ensure no citizen is left without a vote, regardless of where they choose to live within the Union.

Five EU Member States, including the UK, disenfranchise from national elections and referenda those citizens who have left their country of origin - in the UK this happens after more than 15 years abroad. 

But Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling argues that this rule is at odds with the founding premise of EU citizenship and unfairly affects those who have exercised their right to move freely around the EU under Freedom of Movement.

“Political rights as basic as the right to vote sit at the very heart of our shared European values. While I have sympathy for those who argue that citizens living in another Member State may not be affected by domestic laws or taxes made in their own country, I believe the complete lack of voting rights is incompatible with our European values.”

“A perfect example of why we need them past the 15-year mark is Brexit. Such referendum votes can have serious consequences on the disenfranchised who had no say but are now directly and acutely affected by the outcome. There are no provisions in the draft Withdrawal Agreement on voting rights, no guarantee of existing rights, and no provision on future rights. This is a moral dereliction of duty and an intentional disenfranchisement and it strengthens the case for a People’s Vote and a final say for all.”

In response, the European Commission and Council expressed concerns about overstepping EU competence, as determining the makeup of the franchise in national elections is the right of member states. MEPs understand this concern and ask that all EU institutions, along with member states, work together to find a solution.    

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