Among all the democratic institutions, local democracy is probably the closest level, both for a question of distances and the issues at stake: primary education (kinder garden, primary school...), urban development, security, and the fight against poverty... it does therefore make sense to question how millions of European citizens living in another EU member state can really have access to local democracy.
Rights to vote in local elections is granted (Maastricht Treaty, Title 2 article 8b) to any European citizen living in Europe even not one’s country (i.e. an Irish citizen living in Spain). As a matter of fact, few of them actually exercise this right.
Nevertheless, these citizens pay taxes, benefit from public services, but do not say a word about local political choices.
Getting more Europeans living abroad to vote would be a powerful source of European integration and a sense of belonging to a same community, both for the foreigner resident and the country where he lives.
Our research question we intend to address is: how do European citizens living abroad in another EU member state experience their integration to local politics? How do they experience what they give and receive from the local community?
Hypothesis: despite the existing juridical framework, the reality of a local political citizenship is still limited and varies depending on the host country (or region, when local administration is organised by region, for example in Belgium with Wallonia, Flanders, and Brussels Region).
Further to this analysis, we expect to offer leads on how to empower European citizens’ local political involvements.
This study will focus on investigating this issue in France, as recent local elections offer an ideal case study in a country where 3 million Europeans live. Even extremist parties such as Front National are targeting European foreigners in order to gather candidates and voters. This should be an interesting case study. It could also be used as a methodological reference to further analyse other countries such as Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy.