By Anna Comacchio and Juliette Gille-Vignale
“Next year, we will propose clearer rules on the financing of the European political parties and take action to ensure greater transparency in paid political advertising, improve the electoral rights of mobile Europeans and take action to protect journalists and civil society against strategic lawsuits against public participation.” – European Commission 2021 Work Programme
The original Commission decision which accepted the ‘Voters Without Borders’ European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) as valid back in March 2020 was encouraging. It suggested that the concerns about the need for reform of European electoral rights were shared.
This was confirmed by the Commission in its 2019 report on European elections and further by today’s decision to earmark, in its transparency and democracy package, the two directives on voting and standing in European and local elections (93/109/EC; 94/80/EC).
By now, not only has the ‘Voters Without Borders’ youth-led task force launched its signature campaign, it also submitted a 35-page report to the Commission consultation on the citizenship report. This report was based on evidence and testimonies of the need for reform from individual voters all across the EU.
We can claim a victory but must keep the pressure on because the will to reform is one thing, however, changing the law and making it work in practice is something else. Nevertheless, this first step does pave the way.
We need your support not just for reforming the existing rights to vote and stand in municipal and European elections but also for extending them to regional, national elections and referendums, for all EU citizens living in another member state and contributing to the culture and economic wealth of the country.
Our ECI addresses the fundamental issue of how to ensure that effective electoral rights are made compatible with freedom of movement and establishes the principle of universal suffrage while wiping away a stain on European democracy.
Finally, it represents a fundamental step towards the creation of a European public sphere and the downplay of overly nationalistic politics.
This first victory shows – despite what the sceptics say – that signing a European Citizens’ Initiative carries weight and can lead to results. How far we have come despite only being at the start of the process… now, we need more support and more signatures!
The campaign can be signed on the official Commission’s site.