EESC opinion: Disenfranchisement

Key points

  • The rules concerning voting rights in national elections are clearly a national – and not European – competence. The EU does not and must not put this important principle into question. Seen from the citizens’ point of view, however, progress is needed on the matter. Citizens should still be entitled to exercise those fundamental rights which all Member States have acceded to in the EU Treaties, without being disenfranchised by national legislation for doing so.
  • The Committee strongly supports the Commission recommendation. However, the Committee would have appreciated the inclusion of a general request to all Member States to ensure that voting is as straight-forward for citizens living abroad as for citizens living in the home country.
  • The Committee underlines the importance of providing expats with clear information about their rights and how these rights can be exercised and urges the competent national authorities to make the procedures for registration and voting as simple and transparent as possible.
  • The Committee stresses that disenfranchisement in national elections is only one example of the encroachment on citizenship rights that citizens experience when living abroad in the EU. The Committee urges the Commission to map all such encroachments in order to provide a full overview of the current state of play in Europe, whilst paying special attention to opportunities for active citizenship and participation in "day-to-day" decision making.