22.5.2014 | Von:
Kees Groenendijk

Recent Developments in Some EU Member States

In 15 EU Member States non-EU nationals have been granted municipal voting rights. In Member States that exclude non-EU nationals from voting ideological arguments are used to oppose the granting of voting rights for non-nationals. They are, however, without empirical basis. In Germany as well as in other EU states there is an ongoing discussion about the question whether local voting rights should be granted to non-EU nationals.

Kommunalwahl in Italien: In Italien ist eine Bestimmung zur Einführung des Kommunalwahlrechts für Drittstaatsangehörige mit einer dauerhaften Aufenthaltsberechtigung im Einwanderungsgesetz von 1998 verankert worden; die dafür notwendige Verfassungsänderung ist aber nie verabschiedet worden.Municipal elections in Italy: in Italy a provision granting municipal voting rights to third-country nationals with a permanent residence permit was included in the 1998 Immigration Act, but the required amendment of the Italian Constitution was never adopted. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

All EU countries that granted municipal voting rights to non-EU citizens did so more than a decade ago. In Greece a law granting ethnic Greek returnees, long-term resident third-country nationals, refugees, stateless persons and parents of Greek citizens after five years of lawful residence voting rights in municipal elections was adopted under a social-democratic government in 2010. However, the Greek State Council struck down that law as unconstitutional in 2013 and in 2014 the law was removed from the books. In the 1980s the French President Mitterand repeatedly promised to introduce local voting rights, but he never put forward a proposal for the required constitutional amendment. In 2011 the left-wing majority in the French Senate voted for a bill granting municipal voting rights to non-EU residents. But the centre-rights government, who had a majority in the National Assembly blocked this proposal.[1] President Hollande promised to extend municipal voting rights to non-EU residents during his election campaign. In 2013 he announced that the relevant bill would be introduced after the municipal elections in 2014. But the ruling coalition lacks thirty votes for the three fifth majority to get the required constitutional amendment adopted in the Senate.[2]

Since the German Constitutional Court struck down the initiative of the Länder Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg to grant municipal voting rights to third country nationals in 1990, there have been numerous attempts by cities, Länder, political parties and civil society organizations to push for constitutional arrangements that would allow the introduction of such rights. So far all of these attempts have been without success. Prior to the Bundestag elections in 2013, with the exception of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and her sister party the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), all political parties that are currently represented in the national parliament in their electoral platforms had promised to support municipal voting rights for non-EU nationals. The coalition agreement of the currently ruling grand coalition of CDU/CSU and Social Democrats (SPD) does not mention this issue and thus does not place it on the political agenda for the legislative period (2013-2017).

In Italy a provision granting municipal voting rights to third-country nationals with a permanent residence permit was included in the 1998 Immigration Act, but the required amendment of the Italian Constitution was never adopted. The issue returns to the political agenda in Italy from time to time. In the 2012 coalition agreement of the current Dutch government it was agreed that the residence requirement for the municipal voting rights of non-EU residents would be extended from five to seven years. No bill to realize this plan had been introduced by March 2014. The Netherlands would have to renounce the 1992 Council of Europe Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level in order to realize this intention.

This text is part of the policy brief "Voting rights and political participation of non-national immigrants".


Migration News Sheet (January 2012), p.27 and (April 2012), p. 28.
Migration News Sheet (June 2013), p. 23.
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