EU citizens’ electoral rights: Commission decides to refer CZECHIA and POLAND to the Court of Justice

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


The European Commission has decided today to refer Czechia and Poland to the Court of Justice, because in these two Member States EU citizens are restricted from joining a domestic political party. As a result of this restriction, citizens from other EU Member States residing in Czechia or Poland cannot fully exercise their right to stand as candidates in local elections and in elections to the European Parliament under the same conditions as nationals of those States. Czechia and Poland are the only two Member States where such a ban remains in place.

The Commission launched the infringement procedure against Czechia in 2012 and Poland in 2013 and followed up with reasoned opinions for both countries in April 2014. Both Czechia and Poland replied stating that their respective laws are in line with EU law. Most recently, on 2 December 2020, the Commission sent political letters to both Czechia and Poland asking for an update, within two months, on any legislative changes. In the follow up, there has been no notification of any legislative developments addressing the issue. The Commission maintains that the restrictions hindering non-Czech and non-Polish EU citizens in Czechia and Poland respectively to join a political party are contrary to EU law as they breach Articles 20(2)(b) and 22 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality.

Background

One of the key priorities in President von der Leyen’s political guidelines is a new push for European democracy. The Commission’s Work Programme 2021 specifically aims to improve the electoral rights of EU citizens.

European citizens who wish to exercise their political rights in other EU Member States should be able to do so without limitations. In particular, they should be able to stand as candidates in local and European elections in the Member State of residence under the same conditions as the Member State’s nationals. The Commission encourages active participation of all EU citizens in the democratic process and this includes ensuring that citizens from another EU Member States can join a political party in the Member State they reside, in compliance with their Treaty rights.

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