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OWN-INITIATIVE OPINION OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE on the Proposal for a Council Directive laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate to municipal elections by citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals



Official Journal C 393 , 31/12/1994 P. 0186



Opinion on the proposal for a Council Directive laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate to municipal elections by citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals () (94/C 393/29)

Procedure

On 22 February 1994, the Economic and Social Committee decided, under Article 23, paragraph 3, of its Rules of Procedure, to draw up an Opinion on the abovementioned proposal.

Proposal for a Council Directive laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate to municipal elections by citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals (COM(94) 38 final).

The Section for Social, Family, Educational and Cultural Affairs, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its Opinion on 9 September 1994. The Rapporteur was Mr Silva.

At its 318th Plenary Session (meeting of 14 September 1994), the Economic and Social Committee adopted the following Opinion by a majority vote with one abstention.

1. Introduction

1.1. This Directive substitutes a 1989 directive on the same subject discussed until recently in the Council, which was in the end not adopted, and on which the Committee had issued an Opinion ().

1.2. Since this subject is of particular interest to citizens, the Committee deplores the fact that this new version was not referred to it for an opinion: it has therefore decided to issue an Opinion on its own initiative.

1.3. The Committee endorses the proposed directive subject to the following comments being taken into account.

2. General comments

2.1. This Directive proposed by the Commission is designed to put into practice the mechanism set out in the Treaty of Maastricht under which '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' [Art. 8b (1)].

2.2. The Committee welcomes this step forward introduced by the Maastricht Treaty, which aims to reinforce the feeling of involvement among the people of the European Union and strengthen the idea of European citizenship.

2.3. Moreover, the Committee feels that European Union citizens' participation in local elections in all the Member States might in fact help to familiarize them with other countries' systems, to encourage integration of nationals from other Member States in the life of their local communities and to make the public authorities and even political groups more aware of the overall picture.

2.4. The Committee welcomes the flexibility introduced by this proposal and the fact that it does not aim to align the right to vote and to stand for elections, electoral systems or disqualification rules in Member States, thus respecting the diversity of cultures, political practices and traditions.

2.5. The Committee nevertheless considers that this is only a preliminary step towards the aim of extending universal suffrage relating to local powers, a practice already applied in some Member States, even for non-Community nationals.

2.6. Given the specific context in which local authorities operate, and their closeness to citizens, the Committee hopes that the practical exercise of the rights derived from the Directive will enable those aspects of the proposal, which give rise to reservations - such as European Union citizens, under certain circumstances, not being accorded equal treatment - to be resolved.

2.7. It is not acceptable that any restrictions based on nationality should be placed on the full exercise of the political rights of any citizens of the European Union legally registered on an electoral list and as such seeking the confidence of the electorate and entitled to stand as a candidate by virtue of universal suffrage. Candidates should strive to take account of the traditions, practices and cultures of the communities they have chosen to live in.

2.8. Without underestimating the nature and specific features of the problems in any one Member State which underlie certain adjustments and derogations provided for in this proposal, the ESC feels that it is especially important to safeguard the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of nationality between Community citizens, as enshrined in the Treaty and confirmed by current jurisprudence ().

2.9. To this end, the ESC feels that the derogations provided for in this Directive should be temporary and not continue beyond the year 2000. This question could be re-examined by the Council if the situation justifying a derogation should persist.

2.10. Once adopted, Member States should transpose the Directive into national law quickly so that it can be applied in the first local elections after its entry into force.

2.11. In this new phase of the European venture and in the face of a certain scepticism, it is necessary to continue the work begun and press ahead determinedly towards the objective set out in the Treaties.

2.12. Nowadays more than ever, the European Union must ensure its mission is completed, namely by paving the way for improvements in the standard and quality of living of its inhabitants, providing its citizens with a means of political expression, so that they can genuinely and democratically participate in the European venture.

3. Specific comments

3.1.

Whereas No 10

To read as follows:

'Whereas, since the duties of the head and members of the executive of basic local government units involve taking part in the exercise of official authority and in the safeguarding of the general interest, Member States may, by way of derogation from this directive, reserve these offices for their nationals.'

3.2.

Article 2(1) and (2)

Delete the word 'direct'.

3.3.

Article 5(3)

The derogations provided in Chapter III should be incorporated into this paragraph.

3.4.

Article 12

The period of derogations and transitional provisions should be fixed. During this period, Member States may ask for these to be applied if they provide suitable reasons to do so.

3.5.

Article 12(1b)

For the right to stand for election, the minimum period of residence should be reduced to the length of one term of office.

3.6.

Article 12(3)

The wording of this paragraph should be modified in line with the above changes.

Done at Brussels, 14 September 1994.

The President

of the Economic and Social Committee

Susanne TIEMANN

() OJ No C 105, 13. 4. 1994, p. 8.

() OJ No C 71, 21. 3. 1989.

() Judgments of the Court of Justice C-92/92 and C-362/92.