EU debates voting rights in local polls

The European Union has been flirting with the idea of giving immigrants the right to vote and to run for office in local elections, according to a statement adopted in a text of principles during the foreign ministers’ meeting at Groningen, in the Netherlands. The text comprises 11 points, including the participation of immigrants in local elections as part of an effort to assimilate them into the community. The text was adopted by Greek Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who supported the idea of each member state being able to decide on its own policies for assimilating immigrants, based on European Union directives. According to European Union principles, the right to vote in municipal, prefectural and regional elections can be given to immigrants who are legally resident in EU member states, following legislative amendments by each state individually. Already, many EU members have passed such legislation, beginning with Sweden, which did so as early as 1975. Belgium followed suit this year. Similar legislation has been passed in the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Austria and Portugal, which also allows immigrants to vote in national elections. In its latest report on immigration in Greece, the Council of Europe suggests that the Greek authorities take steps to allow foreigners who have settled long-term in their country to participate in public life, for example, by giving them the right to vote and to stand for office in local government.