Expatriates from EU states living in Spain are expected to demonstrate later this month in protest of being barred from voting Spain’s referendum on the EU constitution, EuropeanVoice reports (subscription required).
The question of whether EU citizens are to be allowed to vote in the constituional referendum will also become an issue here in Britain.
Back in November, the Sunday Times reported that non-British EU citizens living in the UK may be allowed to vote in Britain’s referendum on the European Consitution. Because the 1.3 million EU expats in Britain are probably sympathetc to greater EU integration, allowing
them us to vote is expected to help the Blair Government’s pro-constitution position. The Conservatives are predictably unhappy about this.
The Tory shadow minister for Europe, Graham Brady told the Times:
It would be completely unacceptable to allow citizens of other EU countries to vote in a referendum which will determine the very future of Britain as a sovereign democratic nation. This must be a vote by the British people, for the British people.
Update: This story is more interesting than I thought. The Telegraph has more on how 500,000 expat Brits were snubbed from the Spanish referendum.
A spokesman for Spain’s Interior Ministry, which is organising the referendum, said: “Non-Spanish residents of EU nations are free to vote in their home countries.”
But this is still undecided as each member state is being allowed to determine its own conditions regarding the referendum vote, including who is and isn’t entitled to take part.
Phillip Bushill-Matthews, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, claims that this was an error by Brussels. “Tony Blair could do the very opposite of the Spanish when he calls the referendum in Britain,” he said. “We could then see pro-constitution, non-British European citizens flood across the Channel just to cast their ‘Yes’ vote.”
Given the determination of the Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodrigues Zapatero, to win a resounding “Si” endorsement, critics believe Madrid has covertly taken a decision to disenfranchise non-Spanish residents — especially more europhobic Britons — for fear their participation will result in a humiliating defeat. …
A major source for the Telegraph story is Edinburgh native Kate Mentink-Duncan, a Partido Popular councillor in Majorca who is Spain’s only British-born politician.
Ms Mentink-Duncan, 60, a founder of the Association of European Citizens, which was established in 1993 to lobby for non-Spanish nationals’ rights, thinks ruling socialist planners are worried there could be a repeat of her party’s surprise success in a local poll in Majorca 18 months ago.
Dubbed Spain’s “dirtiest local election” and tarnished by allegations of town hall corruption and vote rigging, British expatriates were galvanised by helping to oust a Left-wing administration that had ruled for 20 years.
Ms Mentink-Duncan’s centre-Right PP won by the slender margin of just 258 votes, despite thousands of foreign residents complaining their names were missing from the electoral roll when they arrived at polling stations to cast their ballots.
She said last week: “Opinion polls in Spain have been reporting that the referendum result will be close, so the expat vote could have been crucial. And the government knows full well that most foreign non-residents — led by the British — were the most likely to have voted ‘No’.”
In Majorca, where 60,000 Britons are permanent residents, feelings are running high at what they see as an assault on their legitimate EU voting rights.
Many also feel other nation states will copy the Spanish example and disenfranchise the estimated 25 million citizens who reside in EU countries other than their own.