Here’s veteran British voting rights campaigner Harry Shindler being received in Brussels on 5th September, 2013 by Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.
Margaret Hales who attended today’s meeting has provided the first summary report below on behalf of the representative group:
A representative group from across Europe gathered together today at the European Commission in Brussels and was led by Harry Shindler, who is about to take his case to appeal before the Grand Chamber of the EHRC. The group came to press the Commission to take further action to enable EU citizens living in another EU country to ensure the right to vote in national elections of their country of origin. Currently British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years have their vote taken away by the British government.
Mr Shindler 93 who came from Italy especially to meet Vice President Viviane Reding said after the meeting :
“This is the first time ever that expats have come together in an organised way to make their case to the Commission. I welcome support given by the Commission and with support- and our own activity- we will win the democratic right owed to us to vote in the UK. I hope that this whole matter can be concluded by May 2014 so we can celebrate VE day for British expats”.
Mrs Reding insisted that the practice in some Member States of depriving their citizens of their right to vote once they moved to another EU country- disenfranchisement- is effectively tantamount to punishing citizens for having exercised their right to free movement.
The meeting, chaired by Sir Roger Gale, was forthright about the difficulties. Sir Roger said he was delighted that the Commissioner was able to meet the group:
” There is no doubt in my mind that the Commissioner and her officials are completely supportive of the principle that lies behind an individual’s right to vote in their own country in perpetuity”.
Sir Roger concluded that:
“It is vitally important for every expat citizen from the UK who has the right to vote, registers and uses that right [see the Electoral Commission website www.aboutmyvote.co.uk]. It’s no good complaining about UK government decisions that affect the livelihoods of the expat communities if those who CAN don’t use that opportunity to vote.”
Margaret Hales (on behalf of the group).