Credit: Freepik.

Ban On Foreigners Joining Czech Political Parties “Breach of EU Election Law”, Says ECJ Official

The Czech Republic is in violation of EU election law, as nationals of other EU countries are legally blocked from joining Czech political parties, the Advocate-General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Jean Richard de La Tour, concluded today.

This prevents people from other EU member states who reside in the Czech Republic from running in local or European elections. According to the European Commission, which turned to the ECJ in June 2021, this is discrimination on grounds of nationality.

The Czech Republic and Poland are the only two EU countries where such restrictions apply, the EU executive claims. Poland was also covered by the Advocate-General’s opinion.

The European Commission launched proceedings against Prague in 2012 and against Warsaw a year later. Both countries argued at the time that their rules were in line with European law.

The EU executive last sent a letter to Prague on this issue in 2020, giving the Czech government two months to respond. After no legislative changes were announced to address the matter, the Commission turned to the ECJ.

La Tour today backed the European Commission’s position, but his view may not ultimately be followed by the court, which will rule later.

Although rules over membership of a political party falls within the competence of member states, they must comply with their obligations under European law when implementing them, and thus every “mobile” citizen of the EU must be able to exercise their right to run as a candidate in local or European elections on the same terms as citizens of the country concerned, La Tour wrote.

He also noted the crucial and fundamental role that political parties play in the electoral systems of EU member states. If citizens of another EU country are not able to join a party they are placed in a situation that restricts their chances of being elected, the Advocate-General said.

Citizens of a given country can choose to run in elections as independents or as members of a political entity, but people from other EU countries do not have the latter option in the Czech Republic and Poland.

La Tour also rejected the idea that extending the right to party membership to people from other EU countries could undermine Czech or Polish national identity.

The Advocate-General’s opinion is not binding on the ECJ. Its judges will now open the hearing of the case and a verdict will be issued later.

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