APPLICATION OF DIRECTIVE 93/109/EC TO
THE JUNE 1999 EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS
Commission Communication on the application of Directive 93/109/EC to the June 1999 elections to the European Parliament.
||18 December 2000|
|Forwarded to the Council:
||19 December 2000|
|Deposited in Parliament:
||19 January 2001|
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 6 February 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
|To be discussed in Council:
||Not cleared; further information requested
10.1 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. Although there is no requirement in the Directive for
any report to be made on its application, the Commission has decided
that a review is needed.
10.2 The Communication is intended to assess
the application of the Directive to the June 1999 elections, highlight
the main problems which arose, and promote examples of good practice
in order to increase participation by EU citizens in the political
life of the Member State in which they live. It focuses on two
problems: the provision of information to Community nationals
(addressed in Article 12 of the Directive) and the information
exchange system (addressed in Article 13), emphasising that, although
improvements are necessary, the Directive itself does not need
to be amended.
The application of Article 12 and the
10.3 In relation to Article 12 (the duty
to inform Union citizens of their rights), the report states:
"The Commission considers
that Member States must specifically inform the Union citizens
residing on their territory of the detailed arrangements and conditions
for exercising their electoral rights..... The Commission considers
that the Member States where the registration rate is lower than
the EU average... should implement specific information measures
which might include sending personalised information by post or
providing EU citizens with appropriate information whenever they
have contact with the local or national authorities."
10.4 In her Explanatory Memorandum, the
Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) says:
"The report contains
a conclusion by the Commission that in order better to meet the
requirements of Article 12, all Member States should send direct
personal letters to all Community electors residing in their territory.
Such a system would be impractical in the UK as there is no requirement
that citizens of other Member States must register their presence
here with a central authority or register to participate in European
Parliamentary elections. The nature of the publicity campaign
to be run for the 2004 elections has yet to be decided, but the
Government will bear in mind the need to ensure that citizens
of other Member States are informed of their rights."
The application of Article 13 and the
10.5 Article 13 provides for an information
exchange system among Member States to prevent electors voting
twice. Difficulties in implementing this Article were encountered
at the 1994 elections, and, although the system seems to have
worked better in 1999, the Commission concludes that practical
improvements are still needed. The Minister explains:
"In fact, only Austria,
Belgium, Denmark and Finland were able to delete from their electoral
registers citizens registered in another Member State. The United
Kingdom (in common with the Republic of Ireland and several other
Member States) does not have a centralised voter registration
system and so was unable to match the names provided by other
Member States with entries on any of the databases held by the
414 Electoral Registration Officers (EROs). Even if this had been
possible, there was no provision in UK legislation for the name
of any registered elector to be removed from the register (on
the grounds that he had registered in another Member State). No
candidate was disqualified from standing as a result of Article
13 but it cannot definitely be stated that no double voting took
"The Representation of the People Act 2000 has
given EROs the power to remove the name of any elector who is
no longer resident in the area covered by his register, or who
he feels is otherwise not eligible to be registered. Registration
in another Member State could be viewed by an ERO as justification
for the removal of the name of an elector from his register. In
addition ... consideration is being given to setting up a system
of access to electoral registers on a national basis. This could
enable names provided by other Member States to be matched more
easily with names on registers in the UK, though other detailed
information and the likely registration area would also be needed
to ensure that the matched names were the same individuals."
10.6 The Minister tells us that there would
be a significant burden on central and local government.
10.7 She informs us of a meeting of experts
which the Commission is convening in early March to discuss the
application of Articles 12 and 13 and to seek a way forward. The
Home Office will be represented.
10.8 In relation to the implementation
of Article 12, we note that the Commission's report is not as
prescriptive as the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum suggests.
A way forward may not, therefore, be too difficult to find.
10.9 The implementation of Article 13
appears more problematic. We ask the Minister to explain further
the basis for 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. (In this context,
we note from the Communication that, in 1999, some people were
deprived of their right to vote through complications arising
from such removals.) The Communication also notes the possibility
of a person being considered as legally resident in two different
countries, and, although dual nationality falls outside the scope
of the Directive, it must pose similar problems.
10.10 We recognise that the report is
a Communication, not a proposal for legislation. Nevertheless,
we are concerned that we may miss the opportunity for further
comment on these issues, as the Directive is not to be amended.
We will therefore keep the document under scrutiny until we have
the Minister's answer to our question and are informed of the
outcome of the March meeting of experts.