Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Eighth Report





COM(02) 260

Commission Report on the application of Directive 94/80/EC on the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections.

Legal base:


Document originated:

30 May 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

29 July 2002


Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Basis of consideration:

EM of 20 September 2002

Previous Committee Report:


To be discussed in Council:

Not applicable

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:





    1. Article 19(1) of the EC Treaty provides that every citizen of the European Union has the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections in the Member State in which he or she resides, under the same conditions as nationals of that state. This Article was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, and is one of the rights that citizenship of the European Union confers on citizens of Member States of the Union.
    2. Directive 94/80/EC sets out the detailed arrangements for the exercise of these rights. Article 13 of the Directive stipulates that the Commission shall submit a report to the European Parliament on the application of this Directive. This report from the Commission to the Parliament and the Council has been produced to meet that requirement.
    3. The report

    4. The report addresses both the implementation of the Directive and its practical application. On implementation, it notes that transposition has now been completed in all Member States. The UK was one of the first four to adopt a full set of transposition measures within the deadline (1 January 1996). In the case of the UK the relevant statutory instrument was the Local Government Elections (Changes to the Franchise and Qualification of Members) Regulations 1995. While three cases of infringement proceedings have been commenced, only one, concerning Greece, is still open. Only Luxembourg has availed itself of a derogation allowing Member States to restrict the right to vote and the right to stand to non-national citizens of Member States of the Union who have resided in its territory for a specified amount of time. This derogation is available if the number of non-national voters in a Member State exceeds 20%.
    5. With regard to the practical application of the Directive, the number of new voters receiving the right to vote and to stand in elections in the EU is estimated at four million. All Member States have now held elections under the Directive; the United Kingdom was among the first, in 1996. The report estimates that 41% of non-UK EU nationals registered to vote in the UK. This compares with an average of 26.7% in the other EU countries where registering is not automatic (for example by reason of requirement to declare residency). The report contains little information on the proportion of non-national candidates standing at these elections.
    6. The main concern expressed in the report, arising from the low proportions of non-national citizens entered on electoral rolls, is about the extent to which Member States are complying with their obligation, under Article 11, to inform residents about their rights under the Directive in an appropriate manner. The Commission believes this obligation involves tailoring information to non-nationals, not simply providing them with the information available to nationals. It recommends that citizens of Member States of the EU are provided with personalised information by post or with appropriate information whenever they have contact with authorities.
    7. The report notes that in the UK the Electoral Commission has responsibility for voter awareness. It refers to the launch of a campaign to raise awareness of the right to register and to vote in the elections in 2002, pointing out that there was no planned, specific targeting of citizens of Member States of the EU. In the UK, as in other countries, there is no information on turnout of non-nationals and hence the participation rates are mainly assessed by reference to electoral registration rates.
    8. The Government's view

    9. The Minister for Local Government and the Regions (Mr Nick Raynsford) tells us:
    10. "The Government notes that the Report makes no criticism of the transposition into UK law of the Directive 94/80/EC, nor of its practical application in the UK. The Government further notes that, according to the Report, registration in the UK of non-UK EU nationals for electoral purposes is above the average for those countries without automatic registration.

      "The Government does consider that raising the registration level of non-UK nationals would have benefits. Insofar as increased registration could lead to increased participation in elections, it could give rise to benefits such as further integration between citizens of different backgrounds within the United Kingdom and increased interest and involvement in local democracy generally. This would support the Council of Europe's recommendation on the participation of citizens in local life[57].

      "In the UK the Electoral Commission, which is independent of Government, has central responsibility for voter awareness programmes, and for making decisions about whether these programmes should target particular sectors of the community. Local authorities which run local elections also have responsibility for local awareness campaigns.

      "The Government therefore plans to draw to the Electoral Commission's attention the conclusions of the Commission's report, and invite the [Electoral] Commission to consider whether any particular action should be taken to seek to increase registration of non-UK EU nationals. This might include giving guidance to local authorities about the involvement of non-UK EU nationals in local elections in the UK."


    11. We are pleased to learn that the Government intends to draw the Electoral Commission's attention to the conclusions of this Commission report, and to invite it to consider whether it should take action to increase registration of non-UK EU nationals.
    12. We clear the document.


57  Recommendation Rec(2002)19 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the participation of citizens in local life, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 6 December 2001 at the 776th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies. Back

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