EU citizens living in another European country should be able to obtain registration as voters as soon as they register for residence, MEPs voted on Thursday (1 December). 

By law, EU nationals living abroad are entitled to vote and run in European and local elections in the member state where they are living. However, a sizeable minority do not vote because they are unaware of their voting rights or how to register. An estimated 1 million EU nationals are believed to have been denied their right to vote in the 2019 elections in the UK alone. 

The proposal on the electoral rights of mobile EU citizens is one of a suite of plans to revise the laws governing the next European elections in 2024. 

Earlier this year, MEPs backed a proposal that would establish a transnational list to elect 28 MEPs on top of the current 705 seats on which negotiations are still ongoing with member states. 

The law also urges EU countries to introduce postal voting, advance physical voting, proxy voting, mobile polling stations, and electronic and online voting in European elections. 

The Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs committee also backed provisions to require countries to inform mobile citizens in an official EU language understandable to them of rights to vote and stand and upcoming deadlines. 

“One beauty of the EU lies in the freedom to move and live anywhere in the Union. But often, people moving are stopped from exercising their right to participate in European elections,” said Damian Boeselager, the German Green MEP who drafted Parliament’s report. 

MEPs also agreed to remove the so-called “derogation” provisions which allow a member state to restrict the right to vote and stand in European elections for mobile EU citizens when their population grows to over 20% of all voters in the country. 

The proposals will be voted on during the Parliament plenary in December and will then require unanimous support among EU governments.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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