European Citizens' Initiative that aims at strengthening the existing rights of voting in European and local elections as well as giving every European citizen the choice on whether to vote in the country of residence or in the country of origins for all elections.
Problems and Purpose
Existing rights to vote and stand as candidates in local and European elections are arguably not working and the organizers of this initiative believe they will not do so until EU citizens on the move have full political rights. The number of EU citizens living and working in other Member States of the EU has doubled in the last ten years, reaching 17 million people.
Of this 17 million, less than 10% on average register in their country of residence and an unknown number (the European Parliament does not aggregate this data and many states do not even make it public), go back to their country of origin to vote. All the signs are that with 73% of people recognising, according to Eurobarometer surveys, that they feel -to different extents- European, the number of mobile citizens will increase in the future. Freedom of movement is seen as the most outstanding of the EU’s achievements.
The problem is that democratic participation is still seen through national eyes and has not caught up with increasing transnational mobility. People living in another Member State than their own often feel unrepresented in politics. Firstly, there are still many barriers and obstacles in the exercise of voting rights of EU citizens residing in a different Member State, coupled with the recent worrying developments of electoral irregularities in some Member States.
Secondly, the low turnout of mobile EU citizens in local and European elections is not surprising, since they are still only given the right to vote in municipal and European elections in their country of residence but are excluded from the elections and democratic choices which really count. They are therefore still made to feel more like foreigners than full members of the community. As long as only national citizens can vote for national parties, parties are inclined to respond only to the interests of this national electorate, and this often pays off with political parties highlighting national populists’ messages and threats from “the external others”.
But responsible policies mean keeping up with the increasing transnational flow and interdependencies, by ensuring that all European citizens can be equally represented in the decision-making process. European citizens are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to be better represented and make their voice heard in a more divided and politically unpredictable Europe.
For this, they need to be recognized as equal and have full political rights.
This European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) thus demands that the Commission should reform legislation on existing rights, extend them to regional, national elections and referenda, whilst researching the wider impact of full political rights for EU citizens without potentially discriminating against third-country nationals.
This ECI is value-driven and aims:
I. TO MAKE EUROPEAN CITIZENSHIP A REAL CITIZENSHIP Political rights are the defining feature of any citizenship and the means by which other rights can be represented and extended. Leaving an increasing number of people with only partial political rights is inconsistent not only with the popularity of this transnational citizenship, but also with the substance it has developed as a result of the case-law of the Court of Justice of the EU, and the fact European citizenship is being strengthened by the recognition of professional qualifications and access to social security entitlements in one’s country of residence. EU citizenship has developed beyond its economic origins and free movement of labour to cover all categories of the population so that EU citizens should no longer be considered just as guest workers but as full and equal members of society.
II. TO TAKE A STEP TOWARDS UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE EU citizens like other migrants are, for the most part, contributing with their taxes, sending their children to the same schools and using the same services, as their national neighbours. Giving them full political rights would be consistent with the ban under EU Law of any discrimination on the grounds of nationality and the principles of "No Taxation Without Representation", and "One Person, One Vote". It is illogical that European citizens can vote and stand in local elections but not in the regional ones which concern many of the same public services which impact on everyday life. They can elect members of the European Parliament from the city where they live but not the government that participates in the Council of Ministers, where many would argue the real power lies.
III. TO ENCOURAGE BETTER INTEGRATION Granting people full political rights where they live can help favour their integration in society. The political differentiation between EU and national citizens gives the wrong signal to policies of integration and does nothing either to help tackle the integration of migrants and refugees from outside the EU in European society. The wider aim of scaling up and equalising political rights for all legally resident migrant communities goes beyond what is legally possible for this initiative. This ECI should nevertheless be seen as a step towards that aim, in order to avoid discrimination between EU citizens and third-country nationals.
IV. TO HELP BUILD A TRANSNATIONAL EUROPEAN DEMOCRACY
Background History and Context
This initiative addresses the fundamental issue of how to ensure that effective electoral rights are made compatible with freedom of movement.
Building on the record turnout in the 2019 European elections, the Commission does recognise the need to give European citizens a stronger role in decision-making and is asking them to take on a role as a third party alongside civil society and the EU institutions in the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The conference will consider the system of lead candidates and how to introduce transnational lists for elections to the European Parliament is recognised. Such reforms should arguably go hand in hand with concerns that everyone always has the chance to vote in the first place.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
ECIT Foundation is the main sponsor. A consortium of partners support the initiative and the campaign.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
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Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
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Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
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Europa - Voters Without Borders, the European Citizens' Initiative Demanding Full Political Rights for EU Citizens in their Country of Residence