European Commission Meeting – Voting Rights

Delegation meets with European Commission Vice-president

Brux-delegation0913On 5th September, at the invitation of Harry Shindler, I attended a meeting in Brussels at the European Commission representing Labour International. The meeting was with the vice-president of the Commission, Mme Viviane Reding, and her officials to discuss the problem of the disenfranchisement of citizens of some EU member states – principally the UK, but a total of 8 countries that deny their citizens the right to vote in national elections once they live outside their home country. There were also representatives of other political parties and interest groups present, including Brian Cave of Pensioners Debout, and at Harry’s invitation our delegation was fronted by Roger Gale MP (Con).

Mme Reding was very encouraging in her support and her team are investigating what action the EC might take to rectify the situation. She did, however, warn that the EC could not issue a Directive or take legal action unless given the competence by member states – usually in the form of a Treaty. She didn’t rule out the possibility of action through the European Court of Justice if there is a case to be brought on the grounds of restriction to the free movement Article. After she left the meeting we continued in discussion with her officials and legal team for a further hour, making points for them to investigate and answering technical questions posed by us.

She listened carefully to the arguments we put forward but said that we could not leave the matter totally in the hands of the Commission. As national elections currently remain in the competence of member states, it is up to the citizens of those states to bring pressure on their home governments. Our campaign must continue to persuade all parliamentary groups and political parties to change their attitude to expat voters in the hope of getting the 15-year cut-off removed from legislation and ultimately to get proper parliamentary representation.

The meeting concluded with lunch in the Commission restaurant where we discussed what further steps might be taken by the various groups to both assist the Commission and to increase pressure on the UK government. There was total unanimity amongst all present to change the Representation of the People Act amended as soon as possible.

Dick Smith
LICC member