Steun ons en help Nederland vooruit

Introduction to Enfranchising EU Citizens Conference

While the Euro crisis exposed the vulnerability of the European monetary union, Brexit forewarned us of the imminent risks that challenge the integrity of the European Union.

The European Union was intended as a political, social and economic integration project. Borders were eliminated to allow free movement of goods, capital, workers and residence. It gave EU Citizens the right to live in different countries, while European political power was enhanced and the financial system strengthened through the monetary union. The Euro crisis and Brexit have however exposed the fragility of the project. Euro scepticism and mistrust among citizens of the member states continues to be nurtured and exploited by populists. There is a sense that European decision-making is taking place far away from home and delegated to a supranational institution run by technocratic officials, no longer perceived to be under the control of nation states, and seemingly threatening democratic self-determination and sovereignty. Democracy in this context is perceived to be under threat as political parties, the legislative branch and people appear to be side-lined in the processes of European decision-making.

Considering that further growth of European, as well as other forms of multilateral and intergovernmental rule-making are necessary for international collaboration in tackling the environmental crisis and societal issues, from climate change to migration, this conference will consider how steps for further European integration and representative democracy can work together rather than against each other. It is pertinent that this can take place without undermining the agency and trustworthiness of political parties in the member states while motivating people as well as nations to participate in the process toward further European integration and international collaboration.

At the same time we see continuous, and in some countries increasing unease amongst people with regard to the European Union and international collaboration whereas the European project is successful in other respects, as shown by the growing amount of people who chose to study or work abroad. In many European cities we encounter growing numbers of expats who have chosen to build their lives there and have become integral to our societies, raising their children in local schools and taking part in cultural and social events and activities. Whereas they might learn and speak the local language and follow the local news and developments, they are not considered full citizens as they cannot participate in the political discourse and can vote at best in municipal and European elections, but not in the National elections where the most important decisions are taken that effect them as much as their local neighbours; they are disenfranchised and often end up being doubly disenfranchised once they live long enough away from home, losing the right to vote in their home country.

This conference proposes to explore how the extension of full voting rights to EU Citizens could help address these issues and make national democracies in Europe more international and inclusive by enfranchising EU citizens and internalising their perspectives and interests in domestic processes of will-formation. While integrating the interests of foreign EU nationals in the political debate of national democracies is explored as a way to enhance chances of finding joint and mutually beneficial solutions for European issues, it aims to address the deficits of the current system by stimulating political parties to assume a more central position in the European discourse, bringing international politics closer to the people.

Enfranchising EU Citizens and involving them in the political discourse in the Netherlands is important for D66 as an inclusive party that acknowledges the presence and contribution of all people living and working in the Netherlands. D66 has established an International Working Group to actively engage with non Dutch people who live in the Netherlands, so as to learn from their experiences and insights, as well as garnering best practices from their home countries. D66 believe that people who have chosen the Netherlands to be their home, should be entitled to engage in the political discourse and take part in decision making on how the society they live in is organised, as well as on how their tax contributions are spent.

Though D66 might be the first National political party in Europe to include the extension of full voting rights to EU Citizens in their election programme, there are other organisations in Europe who are advocating these measures as an important step towards further EU democratisation and integration. It is together with representatives of ECIT Foundation, the European Citizens Initiative Voters Without Border and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Peace that we will discuss these topics. As the conference takes place on International Human Rights day it will lead us to consider the broader context of such reforms and universal suffrage for resident non-citizens as a core European Value.

Back to the conference page

Laatst gewijzigd op 28 november 2021