CONFERENCE On voting at 16 in Belgium: An Example to Others in the 2024 European Elections?
Press Club Brussels Europe, Rue Froissart, Brussels, Belgium
19 September at 2:00 pm - 7:00 pm
The main focus will be on political rights attached to freedom of movement in the European elections. Belgium is innovating and taking the lead in European democratic reform having lowered the voting age to 16 in the European elections following Austria, Malta and Greece (from 17). This means involving a new cohort of 270,000 voters, who will be able to vote in the European elections on 9 June 2024. They will also be able to vote on 13 October 2024 in the local elections. Extending the franchise to vote in regional and national elections which also take place on 9 June would have required a change in the Constitution but should be kept on the agenda.
How to reach these first-time voters and motivate them? Can first-time EU citizen voters who would be denied this right in their country of origin spread the word? Could this be a spark to ignite extension of the franchise throughout Europe? Germany is also introducing votes at 16 in the next European elections. If the main focus of this conference will be on first-time voters, it will not be exclusively on this group.
The event will be in two parts:
- Messages to Europe. The first part in the afternoon will focus on the preparations for the 2024 European elections and the measures needed to increase turnout especially among young mobile EU citizens living and working in Brussels. Could extending the franchise to 16-year-olds be a trigger? What are their main concerns? Since the EU Institutions are based in Brussels and are also a major employer of EU citizens, they should be involved. In this way, whilst focussing on Brussels the event can also be relevant for the EU more generally.
- Messages from Europe. The second part in the evening will take the form of an open Meeting of the Cross-Party Group of MEPs on European Citizenship. The main purpose of this meeting involving rapporteurs in the European Parliament on electoral rights will be to examine the follow up to votes in the Parliament in May 2022 for a European electoral act and in February 2023 for reform of the directives on the rights to vote and stand in municipal and European elections in one’s country of residence. A key theme in the absence of agreements in the Council in time for the 2024 elections will be on how to keep up the momentum for democratic support and what individual countries such as Belgium can do, which has followed the demand of the European Parliament to lower the voting age.
The main audience will be young EU citizens living in Brussels and studying in school or at university. The ECIT Foundation will advertise the event and seek partnerships with Belgian schools, those of other European countries and also international and European schools. Contacts will be made with the Erasmus departments and students associations of universities in and around Brussels. The event will be an opportunity for first-time voters to put forward their concerns and find out more from representatives of local and national authorities about how the elections will be organised. It will be preceded by the relaunch of Voters Without Borders (VWB) and an interview with Damian Boeslager MEP and rapporteur on the rights of mobile EU citizens to vote and stand in the European elections.Press Club Brussels Europe, Rue Froissart, Brussels, Belgium ECIT Foundation (European Citizens' rights, Involvement and Trust Foundation) email@example.com DD/MM/YYYY 15