Monday, May 23, 2005

Date set for Spanish challenge to Gibraltar EU Vote

Dominique Searle reports

Spain’s challenge to UK legislation that allows Gibraltar to vote in the European elections is set down for hearing by the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg for July 5.

Electoral rights in elections to the European Parliament were extended to Gibraltar, when the United Kingdom adopted national legislation enabling the Gibraltar electorate to take part in these elections in May 2003, following the 'Matthews v United Kingdom’ case.

Spain filed a complaint with the Commission against the United Kingdom under Article 227 of the EC Treaty in July 2003.

According to Spain, the new UK legislation violates Articles 17, 19, 189 and 190 of the EC Treaty and Annex II to the 1976 Act.

In October 2003, the Commission invited the parties to find an amicable solution but nonetheless Spain brought an action against the United Kingdom before the Court of Justice in March 2004.

Spain claims that the Court should:

    Declare that, by enacting the ‘European Parliament (Representation) Act 2003’, the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil its obligations under the EC Treaty, as well as the 1976 Act concerning the Election of the representatives of the European Parliament by Direct Universal Suffrage.

    Order the United Kingdom to pay the costs of these proceedings.

    Spain’s argument is that the European Parliament (Representation) Act 2003 recognises the right to vote in the elections to the European Parliament to persons who are not nationals of a Member State (i.e. the qualifying Commonwealth citizens residing in Gibraltar) and, therefore, says Spain, do not have the status of citizens of the Union.

In Spain’s view this is not acceptable and it asserts that there is a clear link between the citizenship of the Union and the right to vote and stand in European parliamentary elections.

It argues that the only persons who may exercise this right are the citizens of the Union and that granting the right to vote and stand in the elections to the European Parliament to persons who are not Union citizens implies a breach of the Union citizenship, as certain persons would enjoy the right to vote and stand for the European Parliament, but would not possess the other rights of Union citizenship.

In addition it argues that accepting 'Member States’ unilateral competence in conferring the right to vote and stand in European parliamentary elections would open the door to similar claims in other Member States.

Spain also objects to the fact that the UK legislation includes the territory of Gibraltar (not its electorate) in an existing electoral region in the United Kingdom.

Related Links:

Judgement in the case of Matthews v. The United Kingdom

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