Doc. 8940

22 January 2001

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

Opinion1

Political Affairs Committee

Rapporteur: Ms Jelena Hoffmann, Germany, Socialist Group

I.       Conclusions of the committee

The Political Affairs Committee proposes the following amendments to the draft recommendation contained in the report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography:

After paragraph 2, add a new paragraph, as follows:

“ The Assembly is of the opinion that the presence of immigrants and foreign residents is an enriching and positive factor in our societies and every-day life.”

In paragraph 10 i, replace the words “at all levels” by the following words:

“at the local level”

In paragraph 10 i, after the words “irrespective of their origin,”, add the following words:

“who have lived in that country for at least the last five years and who have a permanent residency permit,”

At the beginning of paragraph 10 ii add the following words:

“pursue and”

In paragraph 10 iv d, add in the beginning of the sentence the following words:

“drawing from the positive experiences”

In paragraph 10 iv e, after the words “European Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life and Local Level” add the following words:

“and the European Convention on Nationality”

II.       Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur

1.       I wish to start this explanatory memorandum by underlining the enriching aspects that the presence of immigrants and foreign residents bring to our societies and every-day life. While it is of utmost importance to tackle any problems or unsolved questions that there may be as a result of their presence, such exercise should not throw a shadow on the positive sides and the cultural diversity that immigrants and foreign residents bring to our society.

2.       In this respect, I find the report by Mr Luís a good one as it puts the accent on the positive experiences of countries that have encouraged the immigrants’ participation in political process. No doubt, despite different situations in each country, ways can be found to reach a good balance of participation by foreigners. Participation is the key to a successful integration and social cohesion. The report by Mr Luís gives new impetus for those countries that are at present considering the possibility to sign and ratify the European Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level. Furthermore, it stimulates the discussion on the subject in the member states. At this moment, this is exactly what the Parliamentary Assembly should do.

3.       That Convention is an excellent tool at the disposal of the Council of Europe in preparing the ground for the increased political participation of immigrants and foreign residents. However, I regret to note that since the Convention was opened for signature in 1992, only six countries have ratified it (Denmark, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden). Cyprus, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom have signed, but not ratified it (Chart of signatures and ratifications appears in Appendix I).

4.       The Convention aims at improving integration of foreign residents into the life of the community by guaranteeing them the “classical” rights which are also important for the maintenance and expression of their cultural identity, such as the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the right to form local associations with others or to join any association, as well as the right to form trade unions. Furthermore, it encourages efforts to involve foreign residents in consultation on local matters. The Convention provides to grant to every foreign resident the right to vote and to stand for election in local authority elections, provided that he has been a lawful and habitual resident in the State concerned for the five years preceding the elections. Moreover, the parties to the Convention are to inform foreign residents about their rights and obligations in relation to local public life. This is important, as a part of foreign residents may have never had the possibility to exercise their political rights in their country of origin. The host country should thus have the responsibility of educating them in this respect.

5.       Of course, the legislative situations in the Council of Europe member states are very different. Also Germany has not yet signed that Convention for the reason that the Bundeslaender organise the local elections themselves and, therefore, are responsible. So the federal government has to negotiate with all 16 Bundeslaender. This process takes time. But, despite difficulties, each member state should find ways of improving the situation of immigrants and foreign residents, more specifically undertake all steps necessary towards a signature of that Convention, so that the participation of immigrants and foreign residents in the political life at the local level can soon be realised.

6.       I would like to underline once more that the political rights that should be granted to immigrants and foreign residents should remain limited to participation at the local level, i.e. to cities and communities. At this stage, I do not yet support the participation at regional level.

7.       I would like to make the draft recommendation more specific as regards the definition of immigrants and foreign residents to whom the rights should be extended. Only those who have resided in the country concerned at least for the last five years and who have a permanent residency permit should be give the right to vote and stand in the local elections.

8.       I should like to draw attention to the excellent work carried out by the Directorate General on Social Cohesion of the Council of Europe in the field of integration of immigrants and foreign residents. It has recently published a report on “Diversity and Cohesion: new challenges for the integration of immigrants and minorities”. This report enhances the positive effects for society as a whole of integration and participation of immigrants. This Directorate is already organising as an ongoing activity exchanges of experiences and information between the member states on the matter with the participation of representatives of immigrant communities. They should be strongly encouraged to pursue this activity.

9.       The questions of acquisition of nationality is at the very heart of the question we are dealing with. Therefore, I welcome the entry into force of the European Convention on Nationality in March 2000. This Convention is designed inter alia to make acquisition of a new nationality and recovery of a former one easier and to guarantee that the procedures governing applications for nationality are just, fair and open to appeal. The Convention entails the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of national or ethnic origin. At present, only Austria, Moldova, and Slovakia have ratified it. In order to make this instrument efficient, other Council of Europe member States should ratify if without delay. I am also pleased to note the important work done by the Committee of Experts on Nationality on multiple nationality as well as its recent initiative aimed at developing further the conditions for acquisition and loss of nationality in the Council of Europe member states. The Assembly Committees concerned should be informed of the results this work brings.

APPENDIX

CouncilEurope

CONVENTION ON THE PARTICIPATION OF FOREIGNERS IN PUBLIC LIFE AT LOCAL LEVEL
ETS n° : 144

Treaty open for signature by the member States and for accession by non-member States

Status as of 17/01/01

OPENING FOR SIGNATURE :
Place : Strasbourg
Date : 05/02/92

ENTRY INTO FORCE :
Conditions : 4 Ratifications.
Date : 01/05/97

Member States of the Council of Europe:

States

Date of
signature

Date of
ratification

Date of entry
into force

Notes

R.

D.

A.

T.

C.

O.

Albania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andorra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Croatia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cyprus

15/11/96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Czech Republic

07/06/00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denmark

05/02/92

06/04/00

01/08/00

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

Estonia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finland

26/08/97

12/01/01

01/05/01

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Germany

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hungary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iceland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italy

05/02/92

26/05/94

01/05/97

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

Latvia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liechtenstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lithuania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luxembourg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moldova

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Netherlands

30/11/94

28/01/97

01/05/97

 

 

X

 

X

 

 

Norway

09/08/93

09/08/93

01/05/97

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

Poland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portugal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Marino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slovakia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slovenia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweden

05/02/92

12/02/93

01/05/97

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ukraine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

United Kingdom

05/02/92

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Non-member States of the Council of Europe:

States

Date of
signature

Date of
ratification

Date of entry
into force

Notes

R.

D.

A.

T.

C.

O.

 

Total number of signatures not followed by ratifications :

3

Total number of ratifications/accessions :

6

Notes :

(a) Accession - (s) Signature without reservation as to ratification - (su) Succession - (r) Signature "ad referendum".
R.: Reservations - D.: Declarations - A.: Authorities - T.: Territorial Application - C.: Communication - O.: Objection.

Source: Treaty Office on http://conventions.coe.int

Reporting Committee : Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography

Committee for opinion : Political Affairs Committee

Reference to committee :Doc. 7525 modifying Ref 2068, Ref 2151, 27.1.97

Opinion approved by the Committee on 20 January 2001

Secretaries of the Committee: Mr Perin, Mrs Ruotanen, Mr Sich, Mrs Hügel-Maffucci


1 See Doc 8916 of the Committee on Migration, Refugees, and Demography