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21.04.2016   Petition to the European Parliament on rights for non-citizens

As residents of Estonia and Latvia, we would like to draw your attention to the discrepancies within electoral rights systems of these Member States. Latvia and Estonia host a large number of de facto stateless persons who are former citizens of the Soviet Union, and consequently their descendants, who do not possess the citizenship of the state that they live and do not possess citizenship of any other state. These persons are considered of "undetermined citizenship" in Estonia and "non-citizens" in Latvia. According to data provided by these countries, the number of such persons was 252,017 in Latvia and 82,341 in Estonia at the beginning of 2016. This is a tremendous portion as the total population of these countries is approximately 2 million in Latvia and 1.3 million in Estonia. These persons are not allowed to participate in the European elections. However, they are included in the calculation for the allocation of electoral seats in the European Parliament. Additionally, rights on political participation are very limited for these persons, especially in comparison to EU citizens.

 We ask the European Parliament to investigate the matter and to correct the underrepresentation of non-citizens in the European Parliament and the allocation of seats at their expense. We also request the European Parliament to put an end to unequal treatment of Estonian and Latvian de facto stateless persons as regards to rights to political participation.

 Article 14 (2) TEU clearly states that "the European Parliament shall be composed of representatives of the Union's citizens" and that the "representation of citizens shall be degressively proportional". However, Article 1 of the European Council Decision of 28 June 2013 establishing the composition of the European Parliament that regulated the allocation of seats in the 2014 elections states that "the ratio between the population and the number of seats of each Member State" shall be applied in such a way that Member States with a higher population will be entitled to more seats.

In practice, this means that in Estonia and Latvia the seats are allocated in accordance with the entire population, while the actual elected Members of the European Parliament do not represent the permanently resident de facto stateless people, as these persons are not allowed to vote in the elections. As a result, not only are "non-citizens" and persons with "undetermined citizenship" not represented in the European Parliament, the seats allocated to these countries are disproportionately high at the expense of persons without voting rights. 

In addition to the denial of voting rights during the European elections, "non-citizens" in Latvia also do not have any voting rights in the local legislative elections. In Estonia, people with "undetermined citizenship" do have a right to vote but do not have the right to stand as a candidate in any elections, but are allowed to be a member of a political party. These practices should be seen in contrast to, for example, the Netherlands where resident Third Country Nationals can vote and stand as candidates in the local elections, as well as join and create political parties.

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