23 January 2001
Participation of immigrants and foreign residents in political life in the Council of Europe member states
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Rapporteur: Mr Cevdet Akçali, Turkey, EDG
I. The committee's conclusions
The Committee supports the draft recommendation submitted by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography. It proposes, however, the following amendment, which is intended to facilitate the granting by member States of the right to vote and to stand for elections to foreigners who are already integrated.
In paragraph 10.iv.a of the draft recommendation, replace the words “all legally established migrants” by the words “all migrants legally established since at least three years”.
II. Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Akçali
1. The Committee on Legal affairs and Human Rights is called upon to give an opinion on the report submitted by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography.
2. The Committee welcomes the recommendations to the Committee of Ministers contained in this report, in particular the one urging governments to grant the right to vote and stand in local elections to all legally established migrants irrespective of their origin, subject of course to some conditions, which should be specified, regarding the length of establishment in the country.
3. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has asked several times in the past that the right to vote and stand for election at local elections be granted to foreigners having the right to permanent residence. The Committee refers in particular to Recommendation 1082 (1988) and the report by Mr Altug.
4. Since the adoption of that recommendation some important changes have taken place. First the Maastricht Treaty adopted in 1992 has established a European citizenship for all citizens of the Union.
5. Article 8 of the Treaty reads as follows:
“1. Citizenship of the Union is hereby established.
Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union.
2. Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights conferred by the Treaty and shall be subject to the duties imposed thereby.”
6. And Article 8.b stipulates the following:
“1. Every citizen of the Union residing in a Member State of which he is not a national shall have the right to vote and to stand as a candidate at municipal elections in the Member State in which he resides, under the same conditions as nationals of that State. This right shall be exercised subject to detailed arrangements to be adopted before December 1994 by the Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament; these arrangements may provide for derogations where warranted by problems specific to a Member State.”
7. A second paragraph deals with the participation in elections to the European Parliament.
8. Accordingly, since 1994 all citizens of the Union are entitled to vote and to stand for election for the European Parliament and in local elections in any of the 15 member States. This is a great achievement as it recognises citizenship as a most important factor of integration.
9. This should be taken into consideration for all citizens of Council of Europe member States residing on a permanent basis on the territory of another member State of the Council of Europe. However this right should be reciprocal, as is indeed the case among member States of the European Union. Although the recognition of such a right will not solve all the problems related to the difficulties of integration, at least it would contribute to doing so. How could people consider themselves as part of a community when they are excluded from any decision concerning them?
10. Of course some experiences of participation of representatives of immigrant communities have been conducted in several countries. And the draft recommendation submitted by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography rightly recommends that the Committee of Ministers pursue these experiences. But they remain very limited and in any case they do not prevent the establishment of second class citizens. As was proclaimed by the Americans in the eighteenth century: “No taxation without representation”.
11. The second important development which occurred since the adoption of Recommendation 1082 (1988) is the entry into force in 1997 of the European Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level.
12. This Convention is both rather modest in its content and flexible in its application as it allows member States to adopt only one out of the two chapters which are establishing new commitments. Either they can opt for the establishment of consultative bodies to represent foreign residents at local level or they can opt for the most far-reaching provision, that is to say the right to vote in local authority elections.
13. The first chapter, which is the only binding one, in fact only reaffirms freedoms of expression, assembly and association, all of which are already enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights in force in all member States of the Council of Europe.
14. In spite of that only five countries have ratified it so far. These are: Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
15. At a time when freedom of movement is so widely exercised and when some member States are even asking to people from other continents to come and work they should consider offering them the possibility to take part in the local elections. One should perhaps consider asking member States what is the reason which prevents them from ratifying the Convention, and if need be the Convention should perhaps be revised.
Reporting committee: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demographie
Committee for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Reference to committee: Doc. 7525 and Reference No 2151 of 27 January 1997
Opinion approved by the committee on 23 January 2001
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Plate, Ms Coin and Ms Kleinsorge
1 See Doc 8916.