• Germany's news in English

'Give disenfranchised expats the vote' - EU

The Local · 29 Jan 2014, 16:02

Published: 29 Jan 2014 16:02 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner, said citizens of the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Cyprus and Malta were effectively being “punished” and rendered “second-class citizens” for moving to other European countries – something they have the right to do under EU treaties.

Under current rules, British citizens lose the vote in the UK if they have lived abroad for 15 years. The other four countries restrict voting rights in other ways.

“The right to vote is one of the fundamental political rights of citizenship. It is part of the very fabric of democracy,” Reding said.

Citizens of EU member states living elsewhere in the 28-member bloc automatically have the right to vote in local and European Parliament elections, but rules for voting in national elections and referendums are decided by individual states.

Admitting she could not force countries to change their rules, Reding said countries should allow citizens to participate in national votes if they could demonstrate a continuing interest in the political life of their country. One suggestion is that they could demonstrate this interest by applying to remain on the electoral roll.

In a recent Eurobarometer poll on electoral rights, two thirds of respondents said it was unfair that people lost their vote when they moved abroad within the EU.

The issue has been the subject of a campaign by British expats in various parts of the EU. Harry Shindler, who lives in Italy, last year lost his fight to have the restrictions overturned in the European Court of Human Rights. He likened his struggle to that of the Suffragettes.

Brian Cave, who lives in France, recently explained his position in an article for The Local France.

“Culturally I am British. I am very interested in how Britain acts in the world and who it decides to go to war with. I am tied up with Britain in every way and therefore should have the right to vote.

“The British government acts in my name but I don’t have a say in who it is."

Citizens of other European countries keep their vote under certain conditions. Germany requires citizens to be familiar with and affected by national politics. Austria requires voters to periodically renew their registration on the electoral roll.

Giles Goodall, Chair of Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats, said: "This is a lifeline for the million plus Brits living in other EU countries who have either already lost their vote, or face losing it in the future. It's especially welcome news with an EU referendum looming, which could potentially result in British citizens losing their rights as EU citizens to live and work in other EU countries.

"The 15-year rule is simply no longer justifiable in this day and age, when British EU migrants in France, Spain or Poland can stay in touch with politics in the UK just as easily as someone at home. They should not be denied the option of registering to vote just because they've made use of their right to free movement as EU citizens."

British ministers have expressed qualified support for an extension of the franchise – Constitutional Reform Minister Mark Harper said in 2011 that the government was “considering” calls for change.

Story continues below…

As yet, though, no concrete moves have been made.

While the most vocal campaigners want people to keep the vote in their home countries, others such as the Let Me Vote campaign say European citizens should be able to vote in the country in which they live instead.

Jean-Christophe Lagarde, secretary general of the French centre-right party the UDI told The Local France: “It makes much more sense to vote in the country where you live, than where you are from. If I lived in Germany I would want to have the vote for the Bundestag elections.”  

READ MORE: UK and Germany locked in same immigration debate

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd