Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Luxembourgian blow to pan-EU citizenship voting rights.

http://www.dw.de/luxembourg-says-no-to-giving-the-vote-to-foreigners/a-18501499
On June the 7th, another referendum took place in Europe; this time in the small state of Luxembourg.

Just like the recent Irish referendum on same sex marriage, the Luxembourgian vote could influence the continent's future policies.

Well over 70 percent of the Luxembourgians, voted against granting foreigners the right to vote.

Only around 22 percent of voters supported foreigner voting rights. The result was met with surprise, after final opinion polls carried out earlier this year had seen 42 percent in favor versus 48 percent against, leading many to predict a narrow outcome on the question. (Luxembourger Wort)

The referendum was called by liberal Prime Minister Xavier Bettel as part of his modernizing agenda for the grand duchy.

"There is no other European country where only 40 percent of the population elects its representatives," he stated.

About 46 percent of the country's total population of 565,000 are foreigners, with 16.4 percent being Portuguese, followed by French nationals at seven percent, Italians at 3.5 percent, Belgians at 3.3 percent and Germans at 2.3 percent. Non-European foreigners account for a further seven percent.

A majority for "Yes" would have seen all foreigners who had lived in the country for more than 10 years given full voting rights (Deutsche Welle).

Such outcome would have positively influenced European politics and societies as whole. With the free movement of people being one of our fundamental rights as EU citizens, our nations are increasingly becoming multicultural.

Many of the EU migrants settle for good in their adopted countries, pay taxes, invest or open new businesses, constructively contributing to their economies and societies.

Wouldn't it make sense then, to extend full voting rights to people who are legally and permanently residing in a country for the past 10 years?

"No taxation without representation," was a slogan once used during the 1750's and the American Revolution for independence from the British Crown. Yet somehow it sounds so relevant still, in modern Europe.

Immigrants contribute in every aspect of a country's society. Apart from economic advantages, they could also bring cultural or social and even -most importantly- political ones.

Native voters have often a very conservative point of view, regarding their nation's politics. Many have formed a nepotistic relationship with many local or national politicians, while others vote for a particular party after following "traditional" family political lines. 

Under such practices, change and reforms are frequently hard to achieve. Immigrants that are well integrated in a society can offer a new outlook to the country's political and social issues. 

They could shake up or help reshape the political landscape of a nation, since they have a slight different mentality and point of view than the native population. 

Given the fact that after 10 years residing in a country, they must have a fair amount of knowledge of national or local politics, they can constructively help ending economic monopolies or political stalemates; if only they are given the voice.

And maybe that is why most EU nations avoid giving their immigrants political rights. Europe is still a very conservative continent and the economic crisis has made things even worse.

The past few years we have witnessed a rise of xenophobia, euro-skepticism,  nationalism and Far Right political parties, in most EU states.

But Europeans must realize, that progress will never come if we remain conservative; we are only safeguarding certain national elites' interests, while ours as citizens are being diminished. 

In an increasingly changing and developing world, Europe can not remain conventional. The globe is not what it used to be and our continent is being diversified rapidly; economically, socially, politically and culturally.

We must adapt with the changes, while creating a more equal and fair European society for all its inhabitants, either they are native or not.

Sadly Europeans still prefer to live in societies strictly dominated by an ethnic dominant group, with more rights than for any of the minorities.

Luxembourg is only showcasing the failure of Europe as a whole, to create a truly integrated, equal, modern, open minded and dynamic continent. 

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