Today, the European Commission decided to register a European Citizens' Initiative entitled ‘Voters Without Borders, Full Political Rights for EU Citizens'. The organisers call for ‘reforms to strengthen the existing rights of EU citizens to vote and stand in European and municipal elections in their country of residence and new legislation to extend them to regional, national elections and referenda'.
The organisers argue that there is an increasing number of EU citizens living and working in Member States other than that of their nationality. The initiative points at barriers and obstacles faced by citizens in exercising voting rights when residing in a different Member State.
The aim of the Initiative is to:
-“Remove barriers to registration of EU citizens to vote and stand in European and local elections either in their country of residence or origin;
-Reaffirm Universal Suffrage as a fundamental right and value. EU citizens should have the right to choose whether to vote in their country of residence or origin for all elections and referenda;
-Research the impact of such genuine Europeanisation of voting rights, the necessary safeguards, and how they could include third-country nationals.”
The Commission considers the initiative legally admissible, as it met the necessary conditions, and therefore decided to register it. The Commission has not analysed the substance of the initiative at this stage.
Following today's registration of the initiative the organizers can start, within the next 6 months, a one-year process of collection of signatures of support. Should the initiative receive 1 million statements of support within 1 year, from at least 7 different Member States, the Commission will have to react within 6 months. The Commission can decide either to follow the request or not, and in both instances would be required to explain its reasoning.
The European Citizens' Initiative was introduced with the Lisbon Treaty as an agenda-setting tool in the hands of citizens and officially launched in April 2012. In 2017, the European Commission proposed to reform the European Citizens' Initiative and the new rules started applying as of 1 January 2020, making the process more accessible and easier.
Once formally registered, a European Citizens' Initiative allows one million citizens from at least one quarter of EU Member States to invite the European Commission to propose a legal act in areas where the Commission has the power to do so.
The conditions for admissibility are that (1) the proposed action does not manifestly fall outside the framework of the Commission's powers to submit a proposal for a legal act, (2) it is not manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious and (3) it is not manifestly contrary to the values of the Union.
Since the beginning of the ECI, the Commission has registered in total 72 Citizens' Initiatives and refused 26.
For More Information
European Citizens' Initiative - website
Voters Without Borders - https://voterswithoutborders.eu/