Doc. 8916

22 December 2000

Participation of immigrants and foreign residents in political life in the Council of Europe member states

Report

Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography

Rapporteur: Mr Carlos Luís, Portugal, Socialist Group

Summary

Lawful residence of non-citizens on national territory is now a permanent feature of European societies. Several tens of millions of immigrants and foreign residents live in Council of Europe member states. For many years now, immigrants have increasingly participated in various spheres of public life but the political participation has always given rise to controversy.

The report presents a general overview of the situation in Council of Europe member states and gives concrete examples of immigrants’ participation in the political process in some countries.

The Rapporteur recommends that all Council of Europe member states should grant the right to vote and stand in local and regional elections to legally established migrants and foreign residents without making any difference between the citizens of the European Union and the others.

I.       Draft recommendation

1. The Assembly acknowledges that lawful residence of non-citizens on national territory is now a permanent feature of European societies. The number of long term immigrants and foreigners legally settled in Council of Europe member states is rising.

2. The Assembly underlines that the enjoyment of human rights in Europe is independent of citizenship and country of origin. Principles of non-discrimination have been laid down in numerous international instruments binding for Council of Europe member states.

3. The Assembly also stresses that democratic legitimacy requires equal participation by all groups of society in the political process, and that the contribution of legally resident non-citizens to a country’s prosperity further justifies their right to influence political decisions in the country concerned.

4. The Assembly notes that many rights in Council of Europe member states, and most political rights in particular, may be enjoyed only by their own citizens. Moreover, non-European Union citizens living as foreigners in a European Union country are granted fewer rights than European Union citizens in the same situation.

5. Restrictive criteria may prevent long-term foreign residents from acquiring the citizenship of the host country, depriving them of full participation in the life of the community and, in the worst case, pushing them to the margins of society.

6. Although the integration of immigrants and foreign residents has considerably increased in economic, social, cultural, and educational terms, political participation has always given rise to controversy. Yet their participation in the political decision-making process promotes their integration in general, and facilitates the harmonious co-existence which is in the interest of both citizens and non-citizens in the host society. The lack of integration can be a source of social tension and conflict.

7. The Assembly is particularly concerned by the situation in some countries of central and eastern Europe, where the percentage of non-citizens in the population is high, and where no adequate structures or opportunities exist for their political participation.

8. The Assembly recalls and reaffirms its Recommendation 769 (1975) on the legal status of migrants, Recommendation 712 (1973) on the integration of migrant workers with the societies of their host countries, and Recommendation 799 (1977) on the political rights and position of aliens.

9. The Assembly welcomes the action of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe (CLRAE) in this field, and in particular its Resolutions 243(1993), 236(1992), 183(1987), and 134 (1982).

10. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i.        reappraise the desirable minimum standards for the treatment of non-citizens residing in a country, in particular concerning their political participation at all levels, with a view to granting the right to vote and stand in local elections to all legally established migrants irrespective of their origin, and invite member governments to take all appropriate action to ensure their implementation;

ii.        organise exchanges of experience and information between the member states on this subject with the participation of representatives of immigrant communities;

iii.       give greater priority to programmes aiming at the integration of foreign communities into the host society, notably in the countries of central and eastern Europe, with a particular view to preparing them for political participation and to promoting such participation by showing its positive effects for society as a whole;

iv.       urge the governments of member states:

a.        to grant the right to vote and stand in local elections to all legally established migrants irrespective of their origin;

b.        to review their national legislation with a view to making it more flexible and adequate to the needs of immigrants and foreign residents, giving particular attention to:

i. the criteria for granting citizenship;

c.        to promote the action of migrants' organisations and associations and encourage the networking of their activities;

d.        to develop programmes aiming at the promotion of the political participation of migrants;

e.        to ratify, if they have not yet done so, the European Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level.

11. The Assembly calls on the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) to continue its action to promote the participation of immigrants in public life.

II.       Explanatory memorandum by Mr Luís

1.       Introduction

1.       Several tens of millions of immigrants and foreign residents live in Council of Europe member states. Although it is difficult to ascertain the exact figures, it was estimated that there were some 20 million foreign nationals residing lawfully or unlawfully in Europe (not including the countries of the former Soviet Union) in 1990. Approximately 16 million came from countries outside the European Union. In addition to this, there are some ten million foreign nationals scattered through the states resulting from the collapse of the USSR. All of these figures are steadily rising1.

2.       When discussing immigrants' political participation, a distinction must be made between the different categories of foreigners concerned, determined by their status (legal or illegal resident), the number of years they have lived in the country of residence (permanent or temporary residence) and their country of origin (EU citizens or citizens of third countries). This report concerns only legal immigrants - foreign nationals living in the host country on a permanent or long-term basis - irrespective of their country of origin.

3.       For many years now, immigrants have increasingly participated, particularly at local level, in various spheres of public life - economic, social, cultural, educational and, more recently, political. Participating in the political sphere best qualifies immigrants to become full members of the host community. At the same time, however, it is the political aspect of participation which causes the largest number of problems and gives rise to controversy.

4.       It is not always easy to distinguish between political participation and the other types of participation which may form part of the integration process. For example participation in the labour market, trade unions or works councils may not be of a strictly political nature but may result in political action. This report deals mainly with types of participation in public life which entail involvement in decision-making at a political level.

5.       The Council of Europe has on several occasions acknowledged the importance of immigrants' participation in European societies from the point of view of democratic legitimacy as well as its impact on integration. Since the 1980s, the European Committee on Migration (CDMG) has run several projects on the subject of "Community and Ethnic Relations in Europe", whose main aim is to promote the integration of immigrants, including their political participation in host communities.

6.       Furthermore, the Sixth Conference of European Ministers responsible for Migration, held in Warsaw in 1996, recommended that the subject of political participation and other types of participation in decision-making by immigrants should receive immediate attention from Council of Europe member states.

7.       Following this recommendation, a seminar on "the political participation of immigrants through consultative bodies" was organised by the CDMG in Strasbourg in November 1997 and a conference entitled "What Participation by Foreign Residents in Public Life at Local Level?" was held by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) in Strasbourg in November 1999. The conclusions of these events are reflected in this report.

8.       On 5 February 1992 the Council of Europe opened for signature the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level. The main aim of this convention is to improve the integration in the local community of foreign nationals lawfully residing in Council of Europe member states by, inter alia, granting them the right to vote.

9.       The Parliamentary Assembly has on several occasions shown its concern with the subject by adopting Recommendation 799 (1977) on the political rights and position of aliens, Recommendation 712 (1973) on the integration of migrant workers with the society of their host countries, and Recommendation 769 (1975) on the legal status of aliens.

2.       Factors determining political participation

10.       Discussion on the political participation of immigrants generally focuses on the following points:

-       civil rights: the body of rights relating to individual freedoms and equality before the law. Civil rights are secured to all legal residents, irrespective of their nationality, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Civil rights constitute the required basis for political participation;

-       trade union rights now exist in almost all Council of Europe member states, although they were granted to immigrants later than civil rights and at different times in the different countries. Some of these rights are still secured to nationals only: for example, in France immigrants have the right to sit on industrial tribunals but cannot be elected to them;

-       immigrant associations constitute an important step in immigrants' integration in the political process. They provide the opportunity to inform immigrants of their civic and political rights, are a useful tool for presenting immigrants' demands and constitute the basis for dialogue between the different groups in society and the authorities;

-       the consultative bodies (consultative assemblies, councils and associations at various political levels) set up by several states enable immigrants to voice their opinions on issues which concern them as residents. They may be the main type of participation or exist in addition to local voting rights. Their common objective – differences in structure, composition and resources aside – is to promote discussion and dialogue between the representatives of immigrants and state officials and launch initiatives relating to the problem of migration. They offer two advantages: firstly they involve immigrants in political decision-making processes and secondly they accustom the national population to the idea of foreigners' participation;

-       voting rights (the right to vote and the right to stand for election) are, on the one hand, an essential component of the integration of foreign population groups and, on the other, a sign of progress towards democracy and the recognition of the legitimacy of those groups;

-       naturalisation is the possibility given to foreign residents to become nationals of the country of residence if they do not meet the general conditions (ius sanguinis and ius soli) provided for in the nationality code of the country concerned. Access to the nationality of the country concerned also secures the right to exercise the political rights deriving from nationality. The problem is dual citizenship.

11.       It is, however, necessary to distinguish between immigrants' political rights and their political participation. In most cases, the former are a condition for the latter but in some cases immigrants do not feel the need for full political rights because they have the support of organisations or pressure groups who can influence the political process on their behalf.

12.       Another key factor with regard to immigrants' political participation is the degree of internal organisation of their community, their experience, determination and ability to take action. There are clear differences between the various groups of foreigners in a host country, even where the same arrangements have been made to facilitate their participation.

3.       General overview of the situation in Council of Europe member states

13.       For some time now, the authorities of host countries and immigrants' organisations have realised the importance of political participation, and this has spurred progress in the matter.

14.       Most countries have set up consultative bodies both at national (for example in ministries) and local level. The role, functioning, perception and effectiveness of these bodies vary from one country to the next.

15.       It is possible to distinguish between two types of consultative body, according to the manner in which members are designated, ie whether they are elected or appointed. Members may be elected either directly by the population (as is the case of foreign elected representatives in France (see section 4), Italy and Germany) or within federations or associations, or they may be appointed by the body they represent or directly by the authorities.

16.       The aim of such bodies is to make representations to the municipality on behalf of immigrant communities. They are, however, only consultative and their powers are generally limited to matters directly concerning foreign populations.

17.       Initially, in the 1960s, foreigners' consultative participation was considered a prerequisite to obtaining the right to vote in municipal elections. It was in this spirit that the first councils were set up in Belgium in 1968. In the 1970s immigrant consultative bodies mushroomed in Western Europe: they numbered between 600 and 700 in Germany, almost 30 in Belgium and each municipality in Luxembourg had its own consultative council2.

18.       Very rapidly, however, disputes arose as to what was to be expected of these bodies. Several currents of opinion held that they should replace the right to vote and, as a result, the defenders of consultative councils became more reticent. Furthermore, initial assessments showed that the consultative councils' success was limited as immigrant communities attached relatively little importance to them. As a result several councils were disbanded in the following years.

19.       There now exists what might be referred to as "second generation" councils. Some municipalities have altered or redefined the nature of these bodies. Not all towns – in particular large towns/cities such as Paris or Frankfurt – have set up such bodies.

20.       A new trend has been noted in the Netherlands where immigrants have for the past 10 years been granted the right to vote in municipal elections: consultative councils have either been re-established or maintained to advise foreign residents on making use of their voting rights.

21.       Voting rights are an essential aspect of the political participation of foreigners.

22.       Some countries have granted the right to vote in municipal elections to foreign residents, including nationals of non European Union member countries, eg the Swiss Canton of Neuchâtel (1849), Ireland (1963), Sweden (1975), the Swiss canton of Jura (1978), Denmark (1981), Norway (1982) and the Netherlands (1985). In all of these countries, there is a minimum residence requirement, ranging from three to ten years.

23.       Other countries such as Spain, Portugal, Finland and the United Kingdom also set conditions of reciprocity or give preference to certain nationalities.

24.       Since the status of nationals of European Union member countries was made official under the title of "citizenship of the Union" granted by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, the nationals of these countries have had the right to vote and stand for election in local and European Parliament elections, provided they reside in a EU member country. Each country has a certain degree of freedom in the regulations it introduces with regard to voting rights.

25.       Accordingly, although states which signed the treaty have amended their constitutions to give EU nationals voting rights in municipal and European elections, each state has been able to add derogations to this rule. France, for example, has set limits on access to some public posts such as mayor or deputy mayor, as it believes that these posts are part of the attributions of national sovereignty and therefore that only nationals can stand for election to them.

26.       Likewise, the European Union gives each member country the freedom to maintain its own definition of residence, especially for the purpose of enabling European nationals to vote or stand for election in European and municipal elections.

27.       Citizens of the Union are granted these rights in addition to the rights already granted by the country of residence. They are granted to European nationals irrespective of their degree of integration (for example knowledge of the language).

28.       Consequently, some foreigners are granted more rights than others. If this system does not change, parts of the foreign population, particularly non-Europeans, risk being excluded.

29.       The institutions of the European Union and the Council of Europe have, for some years now, been considering how to harmonise immigrants' political rights. In September 1996 the European Parliament adopted a recommendation which advocates that voting rights at the local level be granted to all foreign residents, including those from third countries. It also calls on member states to make it easier for legal residents to obtain dual nationality.

30.       The question of political participation is particularly timely in central and eastern European countries. Some of them have relatively large migrant populations. With few exceptions, there exist no adequate structures and opportunities for the political participation of non-citizens.

31.       Countries that have emerged from the former Soviet Union constitute a particularly complex case due to specific historical circumstances. Minorities make up to 50% of the population, and the citizenship issue has been raising a lot of controversies in some of them. The Rapporteur examines this problem more closely on the examples of Latvia and Estonia (see below).

32.       The example of consultative councils for non-citizens established recently in a few municipalities in Latvia as a part of city councils is encouraging. The councils constitute a way of channelling interests and position of non-citizens at the local level given that they have no right to vote and stand for the local elections.

33.       As indicated in paragraph 8, the Council of Europe's Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local level was opened for signature in 1992. The main objective of this convention is to improve the integration into the local community of foreign nationals lawfully residing on the national territory by, among other things, granting them voting rights.

34.       To date only four countries, ie Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden, have ratified the convention. It came into force on 1 May 1997.

35.       However, some countries which have not signed the convention nevertheless encourage the participation of foreign residents in local public life.

36.       The purpose of the Council of Europe Convention on Nationality, adopted on 15 May 1997, is to limit the possibility of losing nationality as a result of the voluntary acquisition of another nationality, which should make it easier for a large number of immigrants to have access to the full range of political rights granted to nationals.

4.       Examples of participation in some Council of Europe member states

37.       The following examples of immigrants' participation in the political process have been chosen either to show the original nature of the solution (which may be either positive or negative) or to illustrate a trend and the points which some groups of countries have in common.

Sweden

38.       Sweden is a pioneer as far as granting foreigners the right to vote and stand for election is concerned. It granted these political rights as early as 1975. All foreigners who have held a residence permit for at least 3 years (without any restrictions or reciprocity requirements) have the right to vote and stand for election in municipal, regional and religious elections.

39.       Immigrants' turnout at elections continues, however, to be lower than that of nationals.

40.       As regards other types of participation, Sweden has many years' experience in consulting immigrants on public matters. At national level, the following types of experiments have been carried out:

-       the Immigrant Council, set up in the 1980s, was made up of representatives of immigrant and refugee organisations and chaired by the minister responsible for immigrant policy;

-       regular meetings between the ministry and the leaders of various religions;

-       a body made up of Swedish agencies dealing with asylum and refugees.

41.       In 1995 these were replaced by the Government's Council on Immigrants and Refugee Policy, which comprised 50 representatives of immigrant and refugee organisations. It was chaired by the minister responsible for immigration policy and met in plenary sessions twice a year.

42.       In 1996 it was replaced by the Government's Council on Ethnic Equality and Integration.

43.       This Council comprises not only immigrant associations but also the National Tenants' Association, the Swedish Employers' Confederation, various trade unions, etc. Its members include 62 representatives of 35 associations, trade unions and other movements.

44.       The representatives are nominated by the associations and appointed by the government.

45.       The Council has only an advisory role. It forms a link between immigrants and the authorities, encourages debate and stimulates dialogue.

46.       One criticism is that it is not very representative since there is a tendency to nominate the same candidates each time, which leads to stagnation and repetition.

47.       At municipal level, there is also an Immigrant Board in Göteborg, which was set up by the municipality in 1996 for a three-year period. Its objective is to help foreign residents make better use of their voting rights.

Portugal

48.       In Portugal immigrants' political rights differ considerably, depending on their country of origin. On the basis of reciprocity, residents from Portuguese-speaking countries have the right to vote in national and local elections, for example Brazilians (since 1971), and Cape Verdians, and citizens of countries such as Argentina, Israel, Norway, Peru and Uruguay, who, since 1997, have been entitled to local voting rights after 3 years' residence.

49.       Moreover, some 10 000 nationals of European Union member countries living in Portugal have the right to vote in local and European Parliament elections.

50.       However, the level of participation is not very high.

51.       The institution of High Commissioner for Immigrants and Ethnic Minorities was set up in 1995. Its task is to consult immigrant organisations before government proposals concerning migration are submitted to Parliament and before laws that have a direct impact on immigrants are implemented. It is also responsible for establishing dialogue between the majority population and the minorities. It deals with immigrant organisations, trade unions and the Churches.

52.       There is also dialogue on specific issues between political parties and members of parliament on the one hand and immigrant organisations on the other. The Department of Foreigners and Borders holds regular meetings with the representatives of associations.

53.       At municipal level, only Lisbon has set up a Municipal Council of Immigrant Communities and Ethnic Minorities, comprising 10 associations. This Council was established in 1993 and meets four times a year. It does not have an official consultative status with the local authorities but the latter do take account of its views in matters concerning migration.

France

54.       There is currently a wide-ranging political debate on foreigners' rights.

55.       Only French nationals have the right to vote and stand for election at national level, while nationals of European Union member countries have the right to vote in local and European Parliament elections. On the other hand, foreign residents can stand for election and vote for a very wide range of other bodies and institutions such as school boards, trade unions, social security boards, public-housing committees, etc. Foreigners can also vote for industrial tribunals but cannot be elected to these bodies.

56.       There are a number of consultative bodies in France which deal with questions of prime importance for the immigrant population. The most important is the National Council for the Integration of Immigrant Populations (CNIPI) which, in 1993, replaced the National Council of Immigrant Populations, in operation since 1984. The CNIPI reports to the Minister of Employment and Solidarity, who also chairs its meetings. The minister may consult the Council on questions concerning the reception and integration of immigrants, their living conditions, etc. The CNIPI intercedes at the minister's request but may also put forward its own proposals. It has 60 members, 14 of whom are immigrants representing associations, 14 represent trade unions, 7 are involved in local integration projects and 7 are independent experts. It also includes 13 representatives of different ministries and 5 presidents of associations working in this sector.

57.       The number of local immigrant associations in France is estimated at 6 000. Unfortunately these associations have not yet succeeded in obtaining seats on consultative bodies which are allocated to individuals of immigrant origin appointed by the authorities.

58.       Between 1970 and 1990 France introduced a rather unusual method of taking account of the expectations and opinions of foreign residents at local level: associate elected representatives with a special status. The number of foreign municipal councillors was calculated in proportion to the number of foreigners residing in the town concerned. Their status was special in that they could not, for example, intervene in sessions of the municipal council. The main aim was to prepare the French for foreign residents' participation in municipal bodies but the experiment was not very successful and only two towns gave these councillors a fresh mandate.

59.       There are also a number of bodies (councils, boards and committees) which have consultative status with the municipalities. They promote contact and exchanges between immigrant communities and the local authorities.

The Netherlands

60.       Since 1985, foreigners who have been lawfully resident in the Netherlands for 5 years or more have the right to vote and stand for election at local (but not provincial) level; they may also take part in local referenda. EU nationals may also participate in European Parliament elections. Foreigners are also entitled to join organisations such as trade unions.

61.       The National Advisory and Consultation Structure (LAO) was set up as an experiment in 1958. It was recently replaced by the National Consultation Structure for Minorities (LOM) and has become mainly a forum for consultation and dialogue. One of its objectives is to help immigrants to make full use of their voting rights.

62.       There are also consultative councils at local level, composed of members designated by associations.

Poland

63.       The situation in Poland reflects the way the issue of political participation of migrants is treated in most of the post-communist countries.

64.       Under the communist regime there was no question of granting officially any political influence to non-citizens residing in the country, who, anyway, were very few, as residence permits were granted under very restrictive conditions. Since the democratic transformation, the number of long-term migrants has considerably increased, and it is on the rise.

65.       Currently there are no structures enabling migrants to influence political decisions at any level. There are no consultative bodies, nor immigrants' associations.

66.       The question of voting rights at local level for non-citizens is not on the political agenda of any party. There is not even any public debate on the subject.

Latvia

67.       The Latvian situation, due to historical circumstances, is specific because of the high number of non-citizens. The number of non-citizen lawfull residents, mainly ethnic Russians, amounted to 26,5 % in 1998 (48 % in 1989).

68.       There is currently a wide-ranging political debate on non-citizens and minorities in the context of the political participation.

69.       Political rights (voting and standing for national and local elections, participating in referendum and legislative initiative) are directly connected with citizenship.

70.       There have been initiatives in the Parliament to abolish the requirement of citizenship for the local elections but it has not gained the support of majority of MPs.The opponents argued that in the case of abolishing this restriction non-citizens would not apply for citizenship. The policy of Latvia aims at decreasing the number of non-citizens by giving in the Law on Citizenship a possibility for any non-citizen to obtain a citizenship of Latvia.

71.       Moreover, there are some mechanisms for channelling the interests of non-citizens like the Chancery of the Head of the Naturalisation Board (elaborating the guiding principles of the state policy in the sphere of national and ethnic relations), or the Counsultative Council on Nationalities of the State President set up in 1996 supposed to channel the minority interests to the highest political level and be a forum for dialogue between national minorities and state institutions. Regrettably, it has not been convened for the last two years. The Counsultative Council has 28 appointed members.

72.       A number of NGOs and associations pursue political goals or lobby non-citizens’ interests but the feedback is usually insignificant.

73.       An interesting initiative has been implemented in a few municipalities where counsultative councils for non-citizens have been established as a part of a city council. It has a status of a municipal committee and at least 2/3 of the total number of its members are either non-citizens or naturalised citizens.

Estonia

74.       The historical background of Estonia in respect to the population structure resembles to a large extent the historical circumstances of Latvia. The number of non-citizens lawfully residing in the country, mainly ethnic Russians, amounted to 35% (600 000) in 1991. Of this figure, approximately 110 000 have been naturalized since then. In 1998, the Parliament amended the Citizenship Law to allow stateless children born in Estonia after 1992 to legally resident stateless parents to acquire Estonian citizenship.

75.       The Estonian citizenship law has been criticised for discriminating many non-Estonians who arrived in Estonia during the Soviet times and are regarded as immigrants who must apply for citizenship and accomplish a number of conditions, for example, pass a language test.

76.       Lawful resident non-citizens cannot participate in national elections. However, they can vote in local elections though only Estonian citizens can stand as candidates. The right to vote in local elections is granted to all lawful residents irrespective of their country of origin provided that they have lived on the territory of the local community for at least 5 years.

77.       Only citizens may be members of political parties.

78.       In 1993, the President established a Roundtable of National Minorities composed of appointed representatives of ethnic minorities, stateless persons and political parties. Standing guests of the Roundtable include Representative of the Minister of Ethnic Affairs, OSCE mission, UNDP, and diplomatic missions accredited to Estonia. The Roundtable has been consulted and used as a forum for dialogue on the national minorities’ policy of the state.

79.       In 1997, a new post of Minister without portfolio, responsible for issues concerning population and integration, was established.

80.       In 1998, the Government established the Integration Foundation to support actions and projects relating to integration.

81.       Non-citizens have more than seventy societies and associations.

82.       Full integration including the acquisition of the Estonian citizenship is one of state’s priorities. It aims at creating a balanced multicultural society.

5.       Recent trends in immigrants' participation in political life

83.       The globalisation of public life has had a certain impact on the different types of immigrant participation. Immigrant organisational strategies are emerging and acquiring an increasingly transnational and subnational character. They extend beyond the limits of local and even national political arenas and now cover many localities, linking communities in different countries. There are, for instance, community organisations or mosque organisations which operate not only at local level but also as transnational organisations forging links between the country of origin and the host country.

84.       Now that some of the responsibility for EU immigration matters has been transferred to supranational level, immigrant organisations have adopted the more rational strategy of directly addressing and lobbying these bodies to influence decision-making. Consequently, more and more immigrant associations are operating at European level, setting up forums to co-ordinate their activities and pursue a Europe-wide agenda.

85.       One example is the Turkish Moslem organisations which, in the last decade, have established transnational networks. For example, the Alevite Federation, set up in 1989, now has some 140 members organisations and a membership of 120 000 spread across several European countries. It has connections to the European Parliament and other political bodies. Other examples of national or religious networks in Europe include the Moroccan, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish ones.

86.       There are also many organisations bringing together immigrants of different origins throughout the European Union, whose explicit goal is to define immigrants' identity and status in the European Union and extend their rights, including political rights. Among them is the Migrant Forum, launched in 1991 with a budget from the Commission of the European Union; this Forum brings together over 100 associations from 12 EU member countries.

87.       According to some political observers, the current forms of immigrant associations that are emerging in Europe may undermine the integration of immigrants in host societies.

88.       The increasingly transnational organisation of immigrants substantially raises their profile and helps to make their objectives and programmes known. The political participation of foreign residents is on the agenda of many European countries.

89.       EU member countries have re-launched and stepped up the debate on the right to vote in local elections. Italy plans to amend its constitution and there are clear signs of a change in opinion in France and Spain.

90.       It seems that the European Parliament also wishes to extend political rights to all foreign residents. In a report adopted in September 1996, the Parliament called on member states to facilitate access to dual nationality for legal residents and to grant the right to vote, at least at local, regional and European level, to nationals of third countries who have been living in the European Union for five years and more.

6.       Conclusions

91.       The Council of Europe, whose main aims are to safeguard human rights and pluralist democracy and promote a European cultural identity, is undoubtedly an appropriate forum for discussion and action aimed at encouraging debate on this subject and promoting a global conception of immigrant policies.

92.       All European countries must demonstrate their political commitment to accepting immigrants as an integral part of society and to enabling them to participate fully in public life.

93.       All Council of Europe member states should be encouraged to sign and ratify the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level.

94.       Minimum standards for the treatment of non-citizens residing in a country concerning their political participation should be established in Council of Europe member states. There should be no different policies in the European Union.

95.       All Council of Europe member states should grant the right to vote and stand in local elections to legally established migrants and foreign residents without making any difference between the citizens of the European Union and the others.

*

* *

Reporting committee: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography.

Committees for opinion: Political Affairs Committee, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

Reference to committee: Doc. 7525 and Reference No. 2151 of 27 January 1997.

Draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the committee on 8 December 2000.

Members of the committee: Mr Díaz de Mera (Chairman), Mr Iwiński (1st Vice-Chairman), Mrs Vermot-Mangold (2nd Vice-Chairman), Mr Christodoulides (3rd Vice-Chairman), Mrs Aguiar, MM. Aliev, Amoruso, Mrs Arnold (alternate: Mr Soendergaard), Mrs Björnemalm, MM. Brancati, Branger, Mrs Bušić, MM. Chiliman, Chyzh, Cilevičs, Connor, Debarge, Mrs Dumont, Mr Einarsson, Mrs Err, Mrs Fehr (alternate: Mr Gross), Mrs Frimannsdóttir, MM. Ghiletchi, Hrebenciuc, Ivanov, Jakic, Lord Judd, MM. Koulouris, Kozlowski, Laakso, Lauricella, Liapis, Lippelt, Mrs Lopez-Gonzalez, Mr Luís, Mrs Markovska, MM. Mateju, Melo, Minkov, Moreels, Mularoni, Mutman, Mrs Ninoshvili, MM. Norvoll, Ouzky, Pullicino Orlando, Rakhansky (alternate: Strizhko), Rogozin, von Schmude, Schweitzer, Slutsky, Mrs Stoisits, MM. Szinyei, Tabajdi, Tahir, Telek, Thönnes (alternate: Mrs Lörcher), Tkác, Mrs Van Ardenne-Van der Houven, MM. Vanoost, Wilkinson, Wray (alternate: Hancock), Mrs Zwerver.

N.B. The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretaries of the committee: Mr Dronov (ad interim), Mrs Nachilo, Mr Adelsbach.


1 Source: International Labour Organisation.

2 Only France lagged behind the other West European countries: its first municipal consultative councils were not set up until 1977.