France clears road for non-nationals to run in EU polls

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The French Interior Ministry has drafted a law that will allow non-national EU citizens to stand in the next European Parliament elections, in line with the requirements of the Lisbon Treaty. EURACTIV France reports.

The government unveiled a draft law on 11 September transposing an EU directive that regulates eligibility conditions for non-national residents at the European elections, a novelty of the Lisbon Treaty allowing all EU citizens resident in another EU member state to run for a seat in the European Parliament.

Non-nationals running for the European election are still rare across the continent. Notable exceptions include Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a German national who was elected in France on the Greens’ list, and Anna-Maria Corraza Bildt, an Italian MEP elected in Sweden.

In France, the eligibility conditions are not the strictest – having resided in the country for six months is enough. But the requirements can be higher in other European countries. Luxemburg requires ten years residence, while Ireland, Greece, Netherlands, UK and Slovakia demand a bank deposit. France’s legal framework therefore doesn’t seem to be the worst.

After an in-depth study of the question, the European Commission concluded that submitting an application outside one’s own country was an administrative minefield. Candidates have to obtain a certificate from their home country stating they are not deprived of their eligibility rights, so raising two problems – identifying the competent authority and obtaining the certificate on time.

Under the new law, candidates will not have to obtain a certificate anymore. After candidates have submitted their applications, it will be up to the member state to verify their judicial records, and possibly annul the election after the poll has taken place if necessary.

The French government has adjusted the schedule ahead of the elections based on new rules: applications must be submitted not three, but four weeks before the election. In this case, it is the fourth Friday preceding May 25 – or May 2 – which is six weeks after the end of the municipal elections in France, leaving little time for the EU campaign.

Bruno Cautrès, a political scientist from the Cevipof, a research institute on French politics, said that this could “transform European elections into a consolation prize for the losers of the local elections”. 

Indeed, a number of small municipalities of 50,000 to 100,000 inhabitants, which are currently run by the Socialists, could swing to the right next year.

The affected former mayors could stand at the European elections, shaking up already established election slates. Indeed, Cautrès says EU election lists have already been finalised in most political parties.

With the entry into force in 2009 of the Lisbon Treaty, the European political parties have pledged to name their candidate for the European Commission presidency.

The chosen politician will then seek backing in their own country in a similar way to national elections. Political leaders will run the show, casting their shadow over single candidates.

The European elections on 22-25 May will flesh out the debate between a side of Europe that wants to maintain rigorous austerity measures - the centre-right - and another side which favours spreading the fiscal belt-tightening over a longer period of time to boost spending, confidence, growth and reduce unemployment  - the centre-left.

  • 22-25 May: European elections
  • 1 November: New European Commission takes office

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