Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report


APPLICATION OF DIRECTIVE 93/109/EC TO THE JUNE 1999 EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS

(22018)
5034/01
COM(00) 843
Commission Communication on the application of Directive 93/109/EC to the June 1999 elections to the European Parliament.
Legal base:
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 14 March 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-vii (2000-01), paragraph 10 (28 February 2001)
To be discussed in Council: Not applicable
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested

Background

  6.1  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. The Communication reports on how well it was implemented in the 1999 EP elections and draws attention to two areas where improvements are needed (the implementation of Articles 12 and 13).

  6.2  When we considered the Communication three weeks ago, we did not clear it. We asked to know the outcome of the meeting of experts which the Commission convened in early March to discuss the application of Articles 12 and 13. We also asked the Minister for a fuller explanation of 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.

The Minister's letter

  6.3  The Minister has now written to inform us of the outcome of the March meeting. In relation to Article 12 (the provision of electoral information to non-national EU citizens), she tells us that, although the Commission representatives favour personal letters being sent to non-nationals to inform them about registration and voting rights, they appeared to accept that targeted information in publicity campaigns, leaflets and websites would also comply with the Article.

  6.4  In relation to Article 13 (the exchange of information to avoid double voting), the March meeting confirmed that, in 1999, all Member States had difficulties in handling data about EU citizens registered abroad. As a result, the Commission undertook to explore the possible use of secure data transmission systems. A further meeting is likely to be called to consider specific options.

  6.5  The Minister tells us that developments in the UK should mesh well with the Commission's plans. She explains:

"First, we are exploring means of setting up a national system to access electronically the electoral registers that are maintained locally. Secondly, there is already scope for Electoral Registration Officers to delete from their registers the details of electors no longer resident in their area. Powers to remove names from the registers are derived from section 4 of the Representation of the People Act 2000 which introduced amendments to the 1983 Act (by sections 10A, 10(5) and 10(6)). Notification of registration in another Member State could be viewed as justification for removal of an elector, subject perhaps to further checks (such as letters to last known address). Checks may be necessary in order not to disenfranchise someone who has, since notification, moved back to the area.

"The main point to emerge from the 2 March meeting is that the Commission recognises that any response to Article 13 needs to be proportionate. The extent of any double voting is not known but it seems unlikely that widescale fraud took place in 1999 or can be expected in the 2004 elections. Therefore, investment in technological or other solutions should be sufficient to meet the requirements of Article 13 but not out of proportion to the likely scale of any problem. The Commission's intentions of exploring the use of existing or developing electronic means of exchanging information between Member States seem sensible and proportionate. The Data Protection aspects have been recognised."

  6.6  The Minister also tells us that although the meeting touched on dual nationality, the issue was considered to be outside the scope of the Directive. She reports that the Commission plans to send Member States a questionnaire in due course about the involvement of non-national EU citizens in local government elections.

Conclusion

  6.7  We thank the Minister for reporting so promptly on the meeting of 2 March, which appears to have resolved the United Kingdom's concerns regarding the application of Article 12, and found a way forward in relation to Article 13.

  6.8  The Minister has not, however, given us the further explanation we sought. We recognise that no one may vote in more than one Member State in the same election. The tenor of the Minister's letter suggests that, in addition, no one may be registered to vote in European Parliament elections in more than one Member State. We ask her if this is, in fact, the case. If so, what is the position of those legally resident in two different Member States?

  6.9  Even if dual registration is forbidden, we have concerns about Electoral Registration Officers having the power to remove an elector from the register solely on the basis of (apparent) registration in another Member State. The possibilities for error seem considerable (including, for example, the confusion of one voter with another with an identical name) and we are not reassured by the reference in the Minister's letter to the possibility of "further checks". Does she share our concern?

  6.10  We will continue to keep the document under scrutiny until we have the Minister's response.


 
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Prepared 6 April 2001