European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Voters without Borders” demands a right to vote in national and regional elections, as well as in referenda for EU citizens who live in a different member state.


Written by Sophia Stille // 29.10.2021

The right to vote is a fundamental right.

Universal Suffrage as a fundamental right

What if you are from Slovenia but decided to study in the Netherlands? After several years, you might be more acquainted with the Dutch political situation because you experience it on a daily basis. Nevertheless, you cannot vote in national elections, and therefore, cannot influence the political sphere in the country you live in. According to Eurostat, this is the case for about 13,5 Million EU citizens (2020) who reside in a member state other than their country of origin (see link). 

The right to free movement of persons is one of the biggest achievements of the EU and guarantees the right for EU citizens to move and reside freely in other EU Member States. Its establishment in the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, made it possible for people to move, study or start a job in another EU member state, involving only a relatively low bureaucratic burden. However, this also means that many people who live abroad do not hold the citizenship of the state they live in, which prevents them from being allowed to vote in national and regional elections. The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘Voters without Borders’, addresses this issue.

The initiative

Initiated by the European Citizens’ Rights, Involvement and Trust Foundation (ECIT), the organisers demand reforms in the voting systems of the member states and full political rights for all EU citizens. More specifically, they call for

  • The removal of barriers to registration of EU citizens to vote or stand in European and local elections in their country of residence or country of origin
  • An opening up of the choice where citizens want to vote – either in their country of residence or in their country of origin for all elections and referenda
  • More research on a Europeanisation of voting rights, its effects and a possible inclusion of third-country nationals

The ECI mechanism was created to make it possible for citizens to get involved in EU policy-making. For an initiative to be successful, the organisers need to collect 1 million signatures from citizens of at least 7 different EU countries. If this is the case, the European Commission needs to consider the claims and present an answer.

Representation where you live

The organisers of the initiative advance four arguments that strengthen their demand for full political rights across the EU. They believe that the reforms would strengthen EU citizenship, it would be a step towards universal suffrage, it would encourage integration in the country of residence and it could advance the emergence of a transnational democracy. They also question the aspect that people are taxed in the country they work in without being represented politically. 

Currently, people can vote and stand as candidates in local and European elections in the country they reside in. However, these rights are weak, compared to the power that national politics and referenda carry. Therefore the initiative demands to advance the rights established in the Maastricht Treaty in order to guarantee political representation and full political rights for all EU citizens, no matter if they reside in their country of origin or another member state.

How to support this initiative?

The collection of signatures is still ongoing and since it is a long way to reach the needed amount of 1 Million signatures, the organisers count on you! 

There is several ways to help: 

  • You can sign the initiative here, to speak up for voting rights across the EU!
  • You can share the initiative on your social media.
  • You can make a donation to the organisers to help finance their campaigning costs.

For further information, check the website of the organisers or our website, where we update you on initiatives that try to change the world for the better.

References:

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