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Towards an Ever Closer Union Between Residents and Citizens?: On the Possible Extension of Voting Rights to Foreign Residents in Luxembourg

  • Michèle Finck

Alien suffrage in Luxembourg – The traditional concept of the electorate – Link between nationality and voting rights – From the national to the resident worker? – The decoupling of nationality and citizenship – The transformation of the state as a consequence of European integration – Comparison to other EU member states – Consequences for EU law of domestic reform – The intertwinement of constitutional spheres in the EU

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Fellow at the London School of Economics and Lecturer in EU Law at Keble College, University of Oxford. I am grateful to Liz Fisher, Luc Heuschling, Azin Tadjdini, Antoine Vauchez, Steve Weatherill and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and discussions. I gratefully acknowledge funding from the Luxembourg National Research Fund.

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1 Marine Le Pen argued in 2011 that such a right would be dangerous, as ‘providing an additional weapon to fundamentalist Muslims’ that would ‘break the Republic and our laws’. Speech M. le Pen, ‘Contre le droit de vote des étrangers’ (Paris 8 December 2011), text and video available at <>, visited 8 May 2015.

2 The date of the referendum has been set for 7 June 2015.

3 Art. 51(7) Luxembourg Constitution provides that referenda may be held to consult ‘voters’.

4 The draft question, which will be asked in German, French and Luxembourgish, the three official languages, is at present formulated as follows: ‘Approuvez-vous l’idée que les résidents non luxembourgeois aient le droit de s’inscrire de manière facultative sur les listes électorales en vue de participer comme électeurs aux élections à la Chambre des Députés, à la double condition particulière d’avoir résidé pendant au moins dix ans au Luxembourg et d’avoir préalablement participé aux élections communales ou européennes au Luxembourg?’ (Three other questions are asked in the referendum).

5 Gerkrath, J., ‘The Figure of Constitutional Law of the “Integrated State”: The Case of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’, 10 EuConst (2014) p. 109 at p. 116.

6 On this, see also Gerkrath, supra n. 5, generally.

7 Fuller, L.L., ‘The Forms and Limits of Adjudication’, 92 Harvard Law Review (1978) p. 353 at p. 395.

8 If predictions are correct, foreign residents may soon outnumber those of Luxembourg nationality in the Grand Duchy. Should foreign residents be able to vote in legislative elections, Luxembourgers would voluntarily give up control over their State to an extent that cannot at present be observed elsewhere in the EU, or even the world.

9 I am grateful to Antoine Vauchez for drawing my attention towards these paradoxes.

10 Gerkrath, supra n. 5, p. 110: in order to understand the European Union ‘it seems essential to improve the understanding of its implications on the status of the States it comprises’.

11 Rodríguez, C.M., ‘Noncitizen voting and the extraconstitutional construction of the polity’, 8 ICON (2010) p. 30 at 30: ‘Whether a society adopts alien suffrage, however, does reflect that regime’s particular constitutional values and structures, as well as assumptions about the manner and pace at which the body politic ought to incorporate noncitizens.’

12 The current Luxembourg Government is a coalition of three parties: the liberals (DP), the social democrats (LSAP) and the Green Party.

13 Gouvernement du Luxembourg, Programme gouvernemental (2013) p. 6, <>, visited 26 March 2015 (my own translation).

14 See ‘Sondage TNS ILRES, Partie 4: Droit de vote’ (October 2012), <> p. 4, visited 8 May 2015.

15 Gouvernement du Luxembourg, supra n. 13, p. 3 (my own translation).

16 Choudhry, S. and Saunders, C., ‘Symposium on Citizenship: Foreword’, 8 ICON (2010) p. 6.

17 Statec, ‘Communiqué de presse No 11-2015’ (8 April 2015), <>, visited 8 May 2015.

18 Statec, supra n. 17.

19 IndexMundi, ‘Luxembourg Demographics Profile 2014’, <>, visited 8 May 2015; Statec, supra n. 17.

20 In 1910, Luxembourg had about 260,000 inhabitants, most of Luxembourg nationality. See Statec, ‘Population totale, luxembourgeoise et étrangère, de résidence habituelle au Luxembourg selon le sexe 1821-2014’, <> under Population et emploi – Etat de la population, visited 8 May 2015.

21 For an overview of Luxembourg’s history, see Trausch, G., Histoire du Luxembourg (Hatier 1992); Pauly, M., Histoire du Luxembourg (Université de Bruxelles 2013).

22 Gouvernement du Grand Duché de Luxembourg, ‘Population and multiculturality’ (updated 28 April 2015), <>, visited 8 May 2015.

23 There are 10,000 people employed by the EU institutions in Luxembourg; see Gouvernement du Grand Duché de Luxembourg, ‘Luxembourg job market’ (updated 5 May 2015), <>, visited 8 May 2015.

24 It cannot, however, be excluded that similar migratory flows would have occurred had the EU not been created.

25 In particular, Art. 45 TFEU; also Council Regulation 1612/68/EEC, OJ Spec. Ed. I-475, amended by Regulation (EEC) 312/76, OJ L3/2, and Council Regulation 2434/93/EEC, OJ L25/1.

26 Art. 18 TFEU.

27 The meaning of ‘municipal’ has been interpreted differently in various member states. In Germany and Austria, for instance, foreign residents can vote only in local and not in Länder elections. See Austrian Constitutional Court B3113/96, B3760/97 [1997] (holding that disenfranchisement in the election for Vienna of EU citizens is admissible because the right to vote for local elections granted by EU law does not include the right to vote for a municipality which is also a Land). In the UK, however, EU citizens can participate in elections for the devolved legislature of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. See Scotland Act 1998, s. 11(1); Government of Wales Act 2006, s. 12(1); Northern Ireland Act 1998, s. 34(5)(a) and Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections) Order 2001, Art. 4.

28 See Art. 22 TFEU and Council Directive 93/109/EC, OJ 1993 L329/34, and Council Directive 94/80/EC, OJ 1994 L368/38. This right has also been enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, namely Art. 39(1) and Art. 40 of the Charter.

29 European citizenship is established by Art. 20(1) TFEU.

30 See Art. 14 of Directive 93/109/EC.

31 Council Directive 94/80/EC.

32 See Art. 2(4) Loi électorale du 18 février 2003 [Luxembourg Election Law].

33 Lansbergen, A. and Shaw, J., ‘National Membership Models in a Multilevel Europe’, 8 ICON (2010) p. 50 at p. 62.

34 Art. 6(2) of the Loi du 23 octobre 2003 sur la nationalité luxembourgeoise [Luxembourg Nationality Law].

35 Art. 6 Luxembourg Nationality Law (my own translation).

36 As defined by the Loi du 24 février 1984 sur le régime des langues [Luxembourg Language Law].

37 Art. 7(1)(b) Luxembourg Nationality Law. Art. 1 Luxembourg Language Law establishes Luxembourgish as the national language.

38 Ministère de la Justice, ‘Réforme de la loi sur la nationalité luxembourgeoise’ (26 November 2013), <>, visited 8 May 2015.

39 Lei no. 38/81 de 3 Outobre, Lei da Nacionalidade [Portuguese Nationality Act] departed from the previous state of the law in no longer requiring that one person an only have the nationality of one country. Art. 27 and Art. 28 Portuguese Nationality Act provide rules for the resolution of conflict when dual citizenship occurs.

40 Beckman, L., ‘Citizenship and Voting Rights: Should Resident Aliens Vote?’, 10 Citizenship Studies (2006) p. 153 at p. 153.

41 Beckman, , supra n. 40, p. 154.

42 Fabbrini, F., ‘Voting Rights for Non-Citizens: The European Multilevel and the US Federal Constitutional Systems Compared’, 7 EuConst (2011) p. 392 at p. 394.

43 See infra text at n. 55.

44 See Art. 25 ICCPR and Art. 16 ECHR, which expressly allow the political rights of aliens to be restricted, even though Art. 3 of the First Additional Protocol to the ECHR codifies a fundamental right to vote. This provision, however, refers to the right to vote of ‘the people’ rather than the citizens.

45 This reflects Arendt’s view that ‘only nationals could be citizens, only people of the same national origin could enjoy the full protection of legal institutions, [and] persons of different nationality needed some law of exception until or unless they were completely assimilated and divorced from their origin.’ Arendt, H., The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harcourt 1994) p. 275.

46 Friedrich, C.J., Constitutional Government and Democracy: Theory and Practice in Europe and America, 4th edn. (Blaisdell Publishing 1968) p. 197.

47 As a result of these changes, individuals can, in some scenarios, participate in local elections in two different member states. See Art. 1 of Council Directive 94/80/EC.

48 On women’s suffrage, see Ramirez, F.O. et al., ‘The Changing Logic of Political Citizenship: Cross-National Acquisition of Women’s Suffrage Rights, 1890 to 1990’, 62 American Sociological Review (1997) p. 735. Voting rights were extended to African Americans by the Voting Rights Act of 1965  (42 U.S.C. §§ 1973–1973bb-1). On voting rights in the U.S., see Keyssar, A., ‘The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States’ (Basic Books 2009). See also Pitts, M.J., ‘The Voting Rights Act and the Era of Maintenance’, 59 Alabama Law Review (2008) p. 903 - 985.

49 See Refresh Democracy, ‘Press Conference of 10 December 2007’, <>, visited 8 May 2015.

50 Rodríguez, , supra n. 11, p. 30.

51 The current vice-Prime Minister, for instance, stated that ‘all those that live, work, have children, and pay taxes must have the right to decide the politics of a country, to participate in the decision-making process. This appears logical to me.’ In Luxemburger Wort, 16 January 2013, quoted in Heuschling, L., ‘La citoyenneté de résidence, divers logiques et la science juridique’, 32 Forum für Politik Gesellschaft und Kultur in Luxemburg (2013) p. 32 (my own translation).

52 The Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950, <>, visited 6 February 2015: ‘Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.’

53 Art. 14 of the Chilean Constitution.

54 Electoral Act 1993, s. 74.

55 Representation of the People Act 1983, s. 1(1)(c). See Lardy, H., ‘Citizenship and the Right to Vote’, 17 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (1997) p. 75.

56 Earnest, D.C., Old Nations, New Voters: Nationalism, Transnationalism, and Democracy in the Era of Global Migration (State University of New York Press 2008) p. 29.

57 I am not, however suggesting, that it could only be understood as such. Arguably the same evolution could be taking place in the absence of European integration.

58 Choudhry, and Saunders, , supra n. 16, p. 6, arguing that ‘[h]owever citizenship is conceived, there is always an “other”.’

59 Day, S. and Shaw, J., ‘European Union Electoral Rights and the Political Participation of Migrants in Host Polities’, 8 International Journal of Population Geography (2002) p. 183.

60 Koslowski, R., ‘Intra-EU Migration and Political Union’, 32 Journal of Common Market Studies (1994) p. 392 at p. 396.

61 Art. 2 and 3 Luxembourg Election Law.

62 Commission of the European Communities (1988), ‘A People’s Europe: Proposal for a Council Directive on Voting Rights for Community Nationals in Local Elections in their Member State of Residence’, Bulletin of the European Communities, Supplement 2/88, at p. 26.

63 Koslowski, , supra n. 60, p. 370. Art. 2 TEU provides that the EU is founded on a number of values, including democracy.

64 Day, and Shaw, , supra n. 59, p. 184.

65 According to Kochenov, seven member states at present deny expatriate voting (some only after the national has spent a number of years abroad), namely Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. See Kochenov, D., ‘Ius Tractum of Many Faces: European Citizenship and the Difficult Relationship Between Status and Rights’, 15 Columbia Journal of European Law (2009) p. 169 at p. 201.

66 Art. 168 to 182 Luxembourg Election Law, which regulate voting at a distance in legislative elections in Luxembourg.

67 Weiler, J. H.H., ‘To Be a European Citizen – Eros and Civilization’, 4 Journal of European Public Policy (1997) p. 495 at p. 503: ‘Demos provides another way of expressing the link between citizenship and democracy. Democracy does not exist in a vacuum. It is premised on the existence of a polity with members – the demos – by whom and for whom democratic discourse with its many variants takes place. The authority and legitimacy of a majority to compel a minority exists only within political boundaries defined by a demos. Simply put, if there is no demos, there can be no democracy.’

68 Weiler, , supra n. 67, p. 509.

69 Heuschling, , supra n. 51, p. 33 (my own translation).

70 Also in federal States, such as Germany, electoral rights for EU citizens are limited to the local scale, as they do not apply at the level of the Land. See Art. 28(1) (3) Grundgesetz [German Constitution].

71 Gerkrath, , supra n. 5, p. 116.

72 See, for instance, Gouvernement du Luxembourg, supra n. 13, p. 188 (my own translation).

73 This confusion can be located even in EU primary law: Art. 9 TEU, which provides that ‘every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to national citizenship and shall not replace it’.

74 Heuschling, , supra n. 51, p. 32.

75 Kinninmont, J., ‘Qatar’s delicate balancing act’, BBC News (16 January 2013), <>, visited 3 February 2015; N. McGeehan, ‘Dispatches: Qatar’s Labor Reforms Fall Short’,

(11 February 2014), <>, visited 3 February 2015.

76 For an overview of Luxembourg’s history, see Trausch, supra n. 21. See also Gerkrath, , supra n. 5, p. 114, who argued that Luxembourg’s membership since 1815 of the German Confederation, the Zollverein, the Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union and the Benelux ‘have enabled it to acquire the experience indispensable for being prepared for the legal implications of its membership of the European Communities and Union’.

77 Der Internationale Karlspreis zu Aachen, ‘Charlemagne Prize Laureate 1986: The people of Luxembourg’, <>, visited 8 May 2015.

78 The Luxembourg Government’s programme specifies that Europe is a ‘community of destinies’ that constitutes the framework of the future in Luxembourg and also of ‘all of its citizens’. This ‘community of destinies’ also takes place at the level of the member state. The fact that all residents are equally concerned in it provides a ground of justifying that all should enjoy electoral rights. Gouvernement du Luxembourg, supra n. 13, p. 189 (my own translation).

79 In EU law, this distinction is embodied in the differences between EU citizens and third country nationals. In the Luxembourg context, differences would emerge between those foreign nationals who have lived in Luxembourg long enough to be able to vote and those for whom this is not so.

80 The Preamble to the Treaty on European Union provides that the member states are resolved ‘to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity’.

81 Mill, J.S., Considerations on Representative Government (Parker, Son & Bourn 1861) p. 159-160.

82 Carens, J., ‘Membership and Morality: Admission to Citizenship in Liberal Democratic States’, in R.W. Brubaker (ed.), Immigration and the Politics of Citizenship in Europe and North America (University Press of America 1989) p. 31.

83 Beckman, , supra n. 40, p. 154.

84 Beckman, , supra n. 40, p. 154.

85 Beckman, , supra n. 40, p. 155.

86 Brysk, A. and Shafir, G., ‘Introduction’, in A. Brysk and G. Shafir (eds.), People Out of Place: Globalization, Human Rights and the Citizenship Gap (Routledge 2004) p. 6.

87 Beckman, , supra n. 40, p. 155.

88 Beckman, , supra n. 40, p. 158.

89 Lansbergen, and Shaw, , supra n. 33, p. 65.

90 Goodin, R.E., ‘Enfranchising All Affected Interests, and Its Alternatives’, 35 Philosophy & Public Affairs (2007), p. 40 at p. 52.

91 On voting rights of expatriates, see López-Guerra, C., ‘Should expatriates vote?’, 12 Journal of Political Philosophy (2005), p. 216.

92 Gerkrath, , supra n. 5, p. 110.

93La puissance souveraine réside dans la Nation’ (my own translation into English).

94 On this, see Gerkrath, J., ‘Some Remarks on the Pending Constitutional Change in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’, 19 European Public Law (2013), p. 449.

95La souveraineté réside dans la Nation’ (again, my own translation).

96 BVerfG 31 October 1990, BVerfGE 83, 37, Ausländerwahlrecht I. For a comment, see Beaud, O., ‘Le droit de vote des étrangers: L’apport de la jurisprudence constitutionelle Allemande à une théorie du droit de suffrage’, Revue Française de droit administratif (1992) p. 409.

97 This provision reads ‘Alle Staatsgewalt geht vom Volke aus.

98 BVerfGE 83, 37 (50).

99 BVerfGE 83, 37 (50).

100 BVerfG 31 October 1990, BVerfGE 83, 60, Ausländerwahlrecht II.

101 Beaud, supra n. 96, p. 412.

102 Lansbergen and Shaw, supra n. 33, p. 56.

103 BVerfGE 83, 37 (51) (my own translation).

104 Conseil Constitutionnel 9 April 1992, No. 92-308 DC. For a comment, see Beaud, supra n. 96.

105 Art. 88(3) of the French Constitution and Loi constitutionnelle no. 92-554 du 25 juin 1992 ajoutant à la Constitution un titre : ‘Des Communautés européennes et de l'Union européenne’ (1).

106 Art. 5 of Directive 94/80/EC.

107 These transformations would of course occur in addition to those already triggered by European integration.

108 Beckman, supra n. 40, p. 153.

109 Day and Shaw, supra n. 59, p. 185, emphasis in original.

110 Art. 89 Luxembourg Election Law.

111 See Art. 90 Luxembourg Election Law.

112 On compulsory voting, see Jackman, S., ‘Voting: Compulsory’, in N.J. Smelser and P.B. Baltes (eds), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Elsevier 2001) p. 16314.

113 On this, see, by way of example, ECJ 25 July 1991, Case C-76/90, Säger v Dennemeyer & Co Ltd.; ECJ 31 March 1993, Case C-19/92, Kraus v Baden-Württemberg; ECJ 30 November 1995, Case C-55/94, Gebhard v Consiglio dell’Ordine degli Avvocati e Procuratori di Milano.

114 ECJ 25 July 1991, Case C-76/90, Säger v Dennemeyer & Co Ltd., para. 15

115 Council Directive 93/109/EC.

116 The emergence of litigation raising these questions would most probably presuppose that Luxembourg fines someone for not voting, which has not, however, happened lately.

117 Art. 2(5) and 3(5) Luxembourg Election Law.

118 To my knowledge, this question has not been settled as a matter of Luxembourg constitutional law.

119 On this, see ECJ 28 March 1979, Case 175/78, The Queen v Saunders; ECJ 28 June 1984, Case 180/83, Moser v Land Baden-Württemberg; ECJ 8 December 1987, Case 20/87, Ministère public v Gauchard; ECJ 29 May 1997, Case C-299/95, Kremzow v Republik Österreich; cf. also Pickup, D.M.W., ‘Reverse Discrimination and Freedom of Movement for Workers’, 23 CMLRev (1986) p. 135.

120 ECJ 15 January 1986, Case 44/84, Hurd v Jones.

121 In the context of the free movement of workers, the purely internal situation rule was first uttered in Saunders, supra n. 119, para. 11.

122 On the notion of market citizenship, see Everson, M., ‘The Legacy of the Market Citizen’, in J. Shaw and G. Moore (eds), New Legal Dynamics of European Integration (Clarendon 1995) p. 73.

123 Tryfonidou, A., ‘Reverse Discrimination in Purely Internal Situations: An Incongruity in a Citizen’s Europe, 35 Legal Issues of Economic Integration (2008) p. 43 at p. 47.

124 ECJ 2 October 2003, Case C-148/02, Garcia Avello v État belge, para. 26; ECJ 12 July 2005, Case C-403/03, Schempp v Finanzamt München, para. 20; ECJ 26 October 2006, Case C-192/05, Tas-Hagen and Tas v Raadskamer WUBO van de Pensioen- en Uitkeringsraad, para. 23.

125 ECJ 5 June 1997, Joined Cases C-64/96 and C-65/96, Nordrhein-Westfalen v Ücker and Jacquet v Nordrhein-Westfalen, para. 23.

126 Barnard, C., The Substantive Law of the EU: The Four Freedoms, 3rd ed. (Oxford University Press 2010) p. 231. See also ECJ Ücker and Jacquet, supra n. 125, para. 23.

127 Also outside the Luxembourg context, the doctrine of reverse discrimination has been subject to criticism. See, by way of example, the Opinion of AG Tesaura 28 June 1994, Joined Cases C-363/93 and C-407-411/93, Lancry and others v Direction Générale des Douanes and others, para. 28; Opinion of AG Sharpston 28 June 2007, Case C-212/06, Government of the French Community and Walloon Government v Flemish Government, para. 116. Maduro, M. Poiares, ‘The Scope of European Remedies: The Case of Purely Internal Situations and Reverse Discrimination’, in C. Kilpatrick et al. (eds), The Future of European Remedies (Hart Publishing 2000) p. 117; Shuibhne, N. Nic, ‘Free Movement of Persons and the Wholly Internal Rule: Time to Move on?’, 39 CMLRev (2002) p. 731; Tryfonidou, , supra n. 123; Jacobs, F.G., ‘Citizenship of the European Union – A Legal Analysis, 13 European Law Journal (2007) p. 591.

128 In this context, it is noteworthy that Schleswig-Holsteings and Hamburg’s attempt to reform their respective electoral systems occurred after European integration had taken place but was not considered to be a consequence thereof.

129 On this, see Gerkrath, , supra n. 5; Claes, M., ‘The Europeanization of National Constitutions in the Constitutionalisation of Europe: Some Observations against the Background of the Constitutional Experience of the EU-15’, 3 Croatian Yearbook of European Law and Policy (2007) p. 1; Ziller, J. (ed.), L’européanisation des droits constitutionnels à la lumière de la Constitution pour l’Europe (L’Harmattan 2003).

* Fellow at the London School of Economics and Lecturer in EU Law at Keble College, University of Oxford. I am grateful to Liz Fisher, Luc Heuschling, Azin Tadjdini, Antoine Vauchez, Steve Weatherill and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and discussions. I gratefully acknowledge funding from the Luxembourg National Research Fund.

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