European Commission intervenes in expat vote battle

Published:  24 May at 6 PM
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The recent ruling refusing to allow British expats to vote in UK elections once they’ve lived overseas for 15 years has been called a punishment by the European Commission.

The EC has thrown a lifeline to those fighting for the restoration of the right to vote, with commissioner Viviane Reding pushing to change the ruling. At a recent press conference, Reding told journalists that the EC will work to ensure all EU citizens keep their right to vote in their country of origin’s national elections.

High court cases recently have highlighted the issue, with 92-year old WWII veteran Harry Shindler losing his European Court battle but insisting he will keep up his fight. Shindler has been living in Italy since the end of WWI when he married his Italian fiancé.

According to Reding, the deprivation of the right to vote once citizens move to another EU state is tantamount to a punishment for those who exercise their right to free movement within the European community. Although the EC cannot force a change in the UK rules, political pressure can be brought to bear on member states which disenfranchise their expat nationals.

Around 1.7 million British expats live in other EU states, and it’s hoped that those living outside Europe may be included in any U-turn by the British government. Giles Goodall, chair of the Liberal Democrat party in Brussels and Europe, argues that the concept of expats losing touch with their home country over time is invalid due to the internet and modern communications technology.
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