Paris, Amsterdam on the hunt for European voters

A bus will tour Paris neighborhoods to inform EU nationals living in the French capital about their voting rights. It’s one of the actions the city will take by the end of the year to involve EU residents in its civic live, and to join the electoral register ahead of the European elections of 2019 and the mayoral election of 2020.

Other elements of the plan, which is called INCLUDE (Initiatives Nouvelles pour la Citoyenneté Locale et Urbaine des Européens, or New Initiatives for Local and Urban Citizenship of Europeans), involve the creation of an advisory committee of European citizens, the organisation of workshops and the invitation of young EU nationals to intervene at events such as Europe’s Day.

The right to vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections derives from EU citizenship. Every citizen of an EU country who resides in another member state of the European Union can vote and stand for office in local and European elections. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is herself a dual Spanish-French citizen.

But many people are not aware of this right, so last year the European Commission launched a call for projects to promote more participation. ‘INCLUDE’ is one of these projects. Political parties have also started to target EU nationals in areas where they are a large portion of the population.

Dutch political groups, for example, have organised drinks and events for EU residents ahead of the local vote of March 21. Seven Dutch parties have created sections of their websites in English, according to Some 89,000 foreign citizens can vote for the Amsterdam City Council and EU nationals could determine the fate of some seats, says newspaper De Volkskrandt. In Utrecht and The Hague the international vote could also be crucial, according to the paper.

In Brussels, it’s a group of foreign residents that has taken the initiative. They have launched a petition asking the Prime Minister and the Belgian parliamentary assemblies to grant all residents of the Brussels-Capital Region the right to vote in the May 2019 regional elections. They argue that one in 3 Brussels residents (that is 220.000 citizens from EU countries and 90.000 from elsewhere) can vote for the 19 Brussels “communes”, but it is at the level of the Capital Region (one of the three federal entities in Belgium) that the most significant decisions are made for city dwellers.

In Austria, the Social Democrats have adopted a motion calling for the right to vote for all residents, a decision that would require to change the constitution, reports the Heute.

This could offer a solution to Britons who live in the country, as they are bound to lose EU citizenship rights after the UK leaves the European Union. At present, the European Court of Justice has to determine whether EU citizenship can be taken away from people, and negotiations about the UK withdrawal are still ongoing. However, EU countries can also decide individually to maintain voting rights for their British residents.

In Spain, the EU state with the largest number of Brits, the conservative People’s Party wants to preserve their voting rights in local consultations, reports El Pais. The over 240,000 British residents on the Mediterranean coast would be an important part of the electorate in the 2019 Andalusia election. In certain towns, says El Pais, British voters can be 20% of the total. The People’s Party is studying whether this can be negotiated as part of the Brexit deal or within bilateral arrangements.

As regard the United Kingdom, EU residents will cast the ballot for the first time since the EU referendum of 2016 in the local elections of May 3. But 50% of EU citizens are not registered to vote, says Nicolas Hatton, co-chair of campaigning group the3million. At the conference “Should I stay or should I go” on March 19, the3million launched a registration campaign. In her keynote speech at the event, Gina Miller, the businesswoman and activist who won a court case against the British government over its authority to triger Brexit without approval from parliament, also encouraged EU citizens to cast their vote. The deadline for registration is April 17.

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved. This article was originally published on March 18 and updated on March 20. Photo via Pixabay.

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