EU Commission sues Czechia, Poland over EU citizens' voting rights
The European Commission has sued the Czechia and Poland before the Court of Justice of the European Union for refusing to allow foreigners from the European Union to join political parties. According to the EU executive, both countries restrict their right to run in local and European elections under the same conditions as Czech and Polish citizens. The Commission informed about it on its website. ČTK is trying to obtain a statement from the Czech Ministry of the Interior.
According to Brussels, the Czechia and Poland are the only twenty-seven countries whose legislation prohibits citizens of other states of the Union from becoming members of political parties. The Commission has come to the conclusion that they are in breach of a provision of the EU Treaty which prohibits discrimination on grounds of nationality.
“European citizens wishing to exercise their political rights in other EU Member States should be able to do so without restriction. In particular, they should be able to stand as a candidate in local and European elections in their Member State of residence, under the same conditions as nationals. “said the Commission today, adding that it” promotes the active participation of all EU citizens in the democratic process “.
The Commission has been dealing with the Czech restriction since 2012, when it formally initiated infringement proceedings. However, according to the EU executive, the Czechia responded to repeated allegations by claiming that its laws were in line with the common regulations of the European bloc. The last time the EC addressed a letter to Prague was to ask about the latest developments last December, but according to the commission it remained without a satisfactory answer. The same is true of Warsaw.
The Union Courts in Luxembourg will now consider the action and will have the opportunity to hear the arguments of all parties. Given the usual deadlines, a verdict can be expected to be issued no earlier than next year. If it finds the lawsuit justified, it may order the Czech Republic and Poland to amend their legislation. If the countries refuse, the commission has the option of asking the court to impose heavy fines on them.
Associations in political parties in the Czech Republic are regulated by Act No. 424/1991, which uses the term citizen, but as the Parliamentary Institute (service organization of the Chamber of Deputies and Senates) points out in its 2015 study, the regulation does not explicitly state that it is a citizen. CR. However, the statutes of some political parties (for example, the CSSD, ANO, the KSCM or TOP09) stipulate Czech citizenship as a condition of membership.
The majority legal opinion states that membership in political parties is tied to the citizenship of the Czech Republic, and in the past this was also dealt with by the Office of the Public Defender of Rights. “… the Act on Associations in Political Parties and Movements grants this right only to citizens of the Czech Republic. Even EU citizens who obtain a permanent residence permit in the Czech Republic cannot become members of a political party. They are thus disadvantaged in elections. The European Parliament, where only political parties can nominate their candidates, foreigners from other EU countries residing in the Czech Republic are directly discriminated against, “the ombudswoman’s opinion from 2014 states.