Select Committee on European Scrutiny Seventh Report


COM(00) 843

Commission Communication on the application of Directive 93/109/EC to the June 1999 elections to the European Parliament.

Legal base:
Document originated: 18 December 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 19 December 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 19 January 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 6 February 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: Not applicable
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


  10.1  Directive 93/109/EC lays down the detailed arrangements for citizens of the EU who reside in a Member State of which they are not nationals for the exercise of their right to vote and to stand as candidates in municipal and European Parliament elections. Although there is no requirement in the Directive for any report to be made on its application, the Commission has decided that a review is needed.

The document

  10.2  The Communication is intended to assess the application of the Directive to the June 1999 elections, highlight the main problems which arose, and promote examples of good practice in order to increase participation by EU citizens in the political life of the Member State in which they live. It focuses on two problems: the provision of information to Community nationals (addressed in Article 12 of the Directive) and the information exchange system (addressed in Article 13), emphasising that, although improvements are necessary, the Directive itself does not need to be amended.

— The application of Article 12 and the Government's view

  10.3  In relation to Article 12 (the duty to inform Union citizens of their rights), the report states:

    "The Commission considers that Member States must specifically inform the Union citizens residing on their territory of the detailed arrangements and conditions for exercising their electoral rights..... The Commission considers that the Member States where the registration rate is lower than the EU average... should implement specific information measures which might include sending personalised information by post or providing EU citizens with appropriate information whenever they have contact with the local or national authorities."

  10.4  In her Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) says:

    "The report contains a conclusion by the Commission that in order better to meet the requirements of Article 12, all Member States should send direct personal letters to all Community electors residing in their territory. Such a system would be impractical in the UK as there is no requirement that citizens of other Member States must register their presence here with a central authority or register to participate in European Parliamentary elections. The nature of the publicity campaign to be run for the 2004 elections has yet to be decided, but the Government will bear in mind the need to ensure that citizens of other Member States are informed of their rights."

— The application of Article 13 and the Government's view

  10.5  Article 13 provides for an information exchange system among Member States to prevent electors voting twice. Difficulties in implementing this Article were encountered at the 1994 elections, and, although the system seems to have worked better in 1999, the Commission concludes that practical improvements are still needed. The Minister explains:

    "In fact, only Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Finland were able to delete from their electoral registers citizens registered in another Member State. The United Kingdom (in common with the Republic of Ireland and several other Member States) does not have a centralised voter registration system and so was unable to match the names provided by other Member States with entries on any of the databases held by the 414 Electoral Registration Officers (EROs). Even if this had been possible, there was no provision in UK legislation for the name of any registered elector to be removed from the register (on the grounds that he had registered in another Member State). No candidate was disqualified from standing as a result of Article 13 but it cannot definitely be stated that no double voting took place.

    "The Representation of the People Act 2000 has given EROs the power to remove the name of any elector who is no longer resident in the area covered by his register, or who he feels is otherwise not eligible to be registered. Registration in another Member State could be viewed by an ERO as justification for the removal of the name of an elector from his register. In addition ... consideration is being given to setting up a system of access to electoral registers on a national basis. This could enable names provided by other Member States to be matched more easily with names on registers in the UK, though other detailed information and the likely registration area would also be needed to ensure that the matched names were the same individuals."

  10.6  The Minister tells us that there would be a significant burden on central and local government.

  10.7  She informs us of a meeting of experts which the Commission is convening in early March to discuss the application of Articles 12 and 13 and to seek a way forward. The Home Office will be represented.


  10.8  In relation to the implementation of Article 12, we note that the Commission's report is not as prescriptive as the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum suggests. A way forward may not, therefore, be too difficult to find.

  10.9  The implementation of Article 13 appears more problematic. We ask the Minister to explain further the basis for the view that an Electoral Registration Officer is empowered to remove an elector from the register solely on the basis of registration in another Member State. (In this context, we note from the Communication that, in 1999, some people were deprived of their right to vote through complications arising from such removals.) The Communication also notes the possibility of a person being considered as legally resident in two different countries, and, although dual nationality falls outside the scope of the Directive, it must pose similar problems.

  10.10  We recognise that the report is a Communication, not a proposal for legislation. Nevertheless, we are concerned that we may miss the opportunity for further comment on these issues, as the Directive is not to be amended. We will therefore keep the document under scrutiny until we have the Minister's answer to our question and are informed of the outcome of the March meeting of experts.

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