Political and Electoral Rights of Non-citizen Residents in Latvia and Estonia: Current Situation and Perspectives (briefing excerpt), 2018


Persons with undetermined citizenship of Estonia and non-citizens of Latvia (‘respective non-citizen populations’) do not have the right to take part in the elections to the European Parliament.

The position of Estonia and Latvia is that their respective non-citizen populations have certain legal links with respective States but that these populations are not their nationals. There are certain differences between persons with undetermined citizenship of Estonia and non-citizens of Latvia, both regarding the formal title of the status and the content of the rights (for example, Estonian non-citizen population can vote in municipal elections).

The background to the status of respective non-citizen populations is set by public international law rules on the statehood of Baltic States. The mainstream position is that Baltic States were unlawfully controlled by the Soviet Union until the early 1990s, therefore Soviet-era settlers and their descendants did not have an automatic right to their nationality.

There are three ways of conceptualising the legal status of the respective non-citizen populations. The Estonian and Latvian position that they have a special status has been accepted by some States and, by necessary implication, by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. Some UN human rights institutions characterise these peoples as stateless. The third reading, suggested by certain legal writers, is that respective non-citizen populations are nationals with limited political rights.

There is support for both the first and the second reading, which need not be resolved conclusively for the purposes of this opinion. Both readings, while differing on other issues, would agree that Estonia and Latvia have not denied right to vote in European elections via denying nationality to their respective non-citizen populations (unless one follows the minority position that Soviet Union’s control of Baltic States was lawful under international law).

Commission is correct to conclude that the decision by the Latvian and Estonian authorities not to extend the right to vote in European elections to their respective non-citizen populations does not discriminate on grounds of nationality within the meaning of EU law. The decision whether or not to extend the right to vote in European elections is one of policy of Member States.

Document data: April 2018. ISBN 978-92-846-2844-5 The briefing does not necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament Link: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2018/604953/IPOL_BRI(2018)604953_EN.pdf

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