EESC Opinion on Voting Rights
The Commission’s Recommendations of January 29, 2014 about the right for expats to vote in national elections in their country of birth:
Preparations for the supportive OPINION of the European Economic and Social Committee (draft to be finalized by 13 March – section meeting 7 April – plenary session 29-30 April 2014):
1. The Opinion has to take the citizens – the voters – as point of departure. The problems seen from their point of view. That when they use of of their fundamental rights in the EU, the freedom of movement, then they are punished by having important parts of their fundamental democratic rights, the right to vote in national elections in their home country, taken away from them. They are made into secondary citizens. They can not take fully part in democratic life. Also because they are not allowed to vote in national elections in their country of residence either. They have as citizens to be treated properly – whether it is with national or European legislation. Anything else is against the whole spirit of EU citizenship.
2. The opinion has to have a better name than the recommendation. The word Disenfrachisement is known by nobody among ordinary citizens. Keep my right to vote! could be a possibility, which is easy and fast to understand
3. The Opinion should max be 4 pages altogether. If necessary in bullet points in some chapters
4. It has to bring the matter further than the Commission’s recommendation.
5. It also has to have concrete and up-to-date facts about each of the 5 countries (as we are getting in at the moment)
6. It has to say somewhere that we are talking about 2,1 million European citizens (2010 figures). I have today asked EUROSTAT, if they have newer figures. And it will certainly in this globalised world be more people in the future.
7. I am waiting for input on the legal aspects of the recommendation and of the opinion (national versus European competences, etc.) I expect to have that at the latest on Monday.
8. I have also asked my contacts among researchers dealing with expat voting (in Liege, Madrid and Florence), if they have information and arguments we can use.
9. The Opinion should in my view also address the question of much more and more targeted information to voters abroad. Some are doing it very actively among the 23 member states, others less. We could learn from best practices. I could get 2-3 examples before next week, if you want to.
10. And finally, I believe that all this will only function really well and with a large participation when we have on-line registration and on-line voting. Whether you want to include that in the Opinion at this stage or keep it for later is for Andris and you to decide, of course. I can get hard facts about it from Estonia, if we need it.
So much for now.
Niels Jørgen Thøgersen