Petition to the European Parliament „Participation of de facto stateless persons in Latvia and Estonia in European elections“


As residents of Estonia and Latvia we would like to draw your attention to the discrepancies within electoral rights system of these Member States. Latvia and Estonia host a large number of de facto stateless persons who are former citizens of the Soviet Union, and consequently their descendants, who do not possess the citizenship of the state that they live and do not possess citizenship of any other state. These persons are considered of "undetermined citizenship" in Estonia and "non-citizens" in Latvia. According data provided by these countries, the amount of these persons is 252,017 in Latvia and 82,341 in Estonia at the beginning of 2016. This is a tremendous portion as the total population of these countries are approximately 2 million in Latvia and 1.3 million in Estonia. These persons are not allowed to participate in the European elections. However, they are included in the calculation for the allocation of electoral seats in the European Parliament. Additionally, rights on political participation are very limited for these persons, especially in comparison to EU citizens.

We ask the European Parliament to investigate the matter and to correct the underrepresentation of non-citizens in the European Parliament and the allocation of seats on their expense. We also request the European Parliament to end unequal treatment between EU citizens and Estonian and Latvian de facto stateless persons as regards to rights to political participation.

Article 14 (2) TEU clearly states that "the European Parliament shall be composed of representatives of the Union's citizens" and that the "representation of citizens shall be degressively proportional". However, in Article 1 of the European Council Decision of 28 June 2013 establishing the composition of the European Parliament which regulated the allocation of seats of the 2014 elections it is stated that "the ratio between the population and the number of seats of each Member State" shall be applied in such a way that Member States with a higher population will be entitled to more seats.

In practice, this meant that in Estonia and Latvia the seats are allocated in accordance with the entire population, while the actual elected Members of the European Parliament do not represent the permanently resident de facto stateless people as these persons are not allowed to vote in the elections. As a result, not only are "non-citizens" and persons with "undetermined citizenship" not represented in the European Parliament, the seats allocated to these countries are disproportionately high on the expense of persons without voting rights.

In addition to the denial of voting rights during the European elections, "non-citizens" in Latvia also do not have any voting rights in the local legislative elections. In Estonia, people with "undetermined citizenship" do have a right to vote but do not have the right to stand as a candidate. EU citizens, on the other hand, have both the right to vote and to stand as a candidate even if they have been resident for a short period of time. The "non-citizens" of Latvia and persons with "undetermined citizenship" in Estonia were born on the territory of these states and have lived there for generations. The denial of electoral rights on any level is unfair treatment as these persons are treated as Third Country Nationals for the purposes of EU law, even though they do not possess any citizenship as they are de facto stateless.

Furthermore, the Constitution of Estonia even prohibits non-citizens from being members of a political party. Therefore, there is a great asymmetry of political rights: non-citizens, including persons with "undetermined citizenship", are allowed to vote in local elections, but are not allowed to stand as a candidate or even be a member of a political party. In Latvia, on the other hand, "non-citizens" are not allowed to vote or stand as a candidate in any elections, but are allowed to be a member of a political party. These practices should be seen in contrast to, for example, the Netherlands where in local elections permanently resident Third Country Nationals can vote and stand as candidate, and join and create political parties.