E.g., 09/30/2023
E.g., 09/30/2023
Local Voting Rights for Non-Nationals in Europe: What We Know and What We Need to Learn
April 2008

Local Voting Rights for Non-Nationals in Europe: What We Know and What We Need to Learn

Since the 1970s, the issue of granting voting rights in municipal elections to resident non-nationals, both European Union nationals and third-country nationals, has been on the European political agenda. Four different but related reasons have prompted the political debate.

First, many immigrants from outside the European Union have lived there for a long period but without acquiring the nationality of the host country (so-called third-country nationals). Second, the governments of EU Member States believe that granting the right to vote to European nationals living in another Member State contributes to more positive attitudes towards the European Union. These reasons have prompted debates on voting rights in all EU Member States at one time or another. Third, the governments of EU Member States wish to involve noncitizen ethnic minorities, either third-country nationals or stateless persons, in local-level decision making. This argument has been relevant to recent debates in Slovenia and Estonia. Finally, the governments of some EU Member States, such as the United Kingdom and Portugal, want to provide a privileged status to immigrants from their former colonies.

This report answers four questions crucial to the local voting rights debate: (1) Which European countries have extended local voting rights to resident third-country nationals and under which conditions? (2) What are the key issues in the political debate? (3) What international instruments will influence future developments? (4) What do we know about the effects of granting voting rights to non-nationals?

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Local Voting Rights across Europe

III. Key Issues in the Political Debate

IV. The Influence of International Instruments on Future Developments

V. The Effects of Granting Voting Rights to Non-Nationals

VI. Policy Recommendations