The EEC Treaty, signed in 1957, did not provide for political rights for nationals of Member States.
In 1975 the EEC Court of Justice in one of its first judgments on the free movement of workers decided that the French authorities could not restrict the residence right of an Italian worker just because he had been politically active during the parliamentary elections and had taken part in a demonstration in 1968.
After 1980, the remit of the exclusion of nationals of other Member States in the public service was considerably reduced due to persistent action of the Commission and a gradual development of the case-law of the Court, eventually restricting the exclusion of nationals of other EU Member States solely to posts involving the direct or indirect participation in the exercise of public law powers and duties designed to safeguard the general interest of the State and other public authorities, demanding a special relationship of allegiance to the State.
Municipal Voting Rights
In the mid-1970s, several European institutions began considering granting local voting rights to nationals of other Member States who made use of their free movement rights and were resident in another Member State. The two main ideas driving these discussions were the wish to introduce a European citizenship and Italy's desire to reinforce the position of its nationals working and living in other Member States. The first report on European citizenship of the European Parliament was written in 1977 by an Italian member.
Detailed arrangements for the exercise of these voting rights are laid down in the EC Directive 94/80 adopted in 1994.
The Lisbon Treaty that entered into force in 2009 confirmed the voting rights in Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in the catalogue of rights of EU citizens. Article 20(2) provides that citizens of the Union shall enjoy “the right to vote and to stand as candidates in elections to the European Parliament and in municipal elections in their Member State of residence, under the same conditions as nationals of that State.” An almost identical guarantee is provided in Article 40 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Equal voting rights implies full equality not only on the day of the election but also in the preparation of the lists of candidates by the parties and other political activities relating to the elections such as the right to be member of or found a political party. The German rule in the Law on Political Parties that non-citizens may not constitute the majority of the membership of a political party or its board
Do EU Nationals Actually Use Their Right to Vote?
Few hard data are available on the actual use of voting rights by EU nationals living in another EU member state. Elections are secret. The nationality of those who actually vote is not registered. Exit polls, the level of registration on the electoral rolls and the number of non-nationals elected as councilors may provide an indication. Reports commissioned by the European Commission on the exercise of local voting rights by EU nationals in the late 1990s and early 2000s came to the conclusion that little use was made of the voting rights in municipal elections in other Member States.
This text is part of the policy brief "Interner Link: Voting rights and political participation of non-national immigrants".