Political Participation

Most immigrants have few opportunities to inform and improve the policies that affect them daily. 11 countries, mostly in Central Europe, still have laws denying immigrants basic political liberties. In Europe, non-EU nationals can stand as municipal candidates in 13 of the countries surveyed, vote locally in 19, regionally in 7, and nationally in 2 (PT, UK). Consultative bodies exist at local level in 15 countries and at national level in 11. They only provide halfway meaningful opportunities for immigrants to improve policies. About half of the countries fund immigrants’ political activities, while a third inform them of political rights. 

Opening political and civil rights is the sign of a confident country of immigration. Established and new countries of immigration diverge significantly. Immigrants enjoy nearly none of these rights in Central Europe, the Baltics, CY and MT. Only IE and PT have opened as many political opportunities as leading countries in the Nordics and Northwest Europe. Established countries of immigration with less favourable frameworks, especially on voting rights, need either constitutional changes (AT, DE, IT, ES) or greater political will (CA, FR, UK, US).

Best Case Add to MyPdf 

This is a composite of national policies found in May 2010 in at least one of the 31 countries.

When states open political opportunities, all residents can participate in democratic life. Newcomers enjoy the same civil liberties as nationals. An immigrant can vote and stand in local elections, and enjoy basic political liberties, just like nationals, after a limited number of years of legal residence. She can also vote in regional elections. She can be elected and even lead a strong and independent immigrant consultative body in her community, region, or for the whole country. The state informs her of her political rights and supports the emergence of immigrant civil society.

Worst Case Add to MyPdf 

This is a composite of national policies found in May2010 in at least one of the 31 countries.

An immigrant cannot contribute to the political decisions that most affect him in the city, region, and country where he lives. The state restricts his basic civil rights. He cannot found a political association, join a party, or work as a journalist. Only nationals (and, in EU Member States, EU nationals) have the chance to vote. He lives in a city where government does not even consult with immigrants. The state does not implement any policies to encourage him to participate in democratic life.  Associations representing his interests cannot count on state funding.

Changes & Trends Add to MyPdf 

Immigrants’ political opportunities are not getting much better. The only country to make significant progress was GR (+15) which reformed nationality law and opened many local political opportunities. This example illustrates the MIPEX finding that consultative bodies are not a substitute for voting rights. Countries extending voting rights are more likely to create strong consultative bodies.

Political participation is becoming part of integration strategies. Consultative bodies and voting rights first emerged in the 1970s and are regularly debated across Europe and increasingly North America. The major reason that MIPEX scores improve is not directly because of EU law or Council of Europe Convention n.144. National and European courts help secure basic civil rights (AT, ES). New countries of immigration have renewed interest in both consultative bodies (FR, IE, IT, ES, PT) and some voting rights (CZ, EE, LT, SI, LU, SK, BE, GR). MIPEX results suggest that consultative bodies come (LU, PT, CH) and go (BE, DK) usually when governments are willing to listen. Voting rights are here to stay: hard to obtain, but even harder to revoke.