Governments must ensure that international students can vote
ROME – “We are firmly convinced that the voting right is a fundamental right in a democracy and we urge that all students studying abroad have the opportunity to participate in general elections in their home countries,” says Karina Ufert, Chairperson of the European Students Union (ESU).
General elections will be held in Italy on 24 and 25 February. Tens of thousands of Italian students that are studying in other countries thanks to student mobility programmes have complained that they will not be able to vote. In other words, their right to vote has not been ensured during their stay for their study period. Therefore, 25 thousand Italian students might not be recognised as voters because they have chosen to broaden their horizon by studying abroad.
Erasmus is a cornernstone of European integration
ESU believes it is of vital importance to ensure basic rights of individuals participating in mobility programmes as more opportunities to acquire an international experience become available. This applies for example to the Erasmus programme that has now been a cornerstone in European integration for 25 years. Such mobility programmes offer students a unique experience and skills that are highly valued in academic and business life.
The National Union of Students in Italy (UdU) sent recently an open letter to the President of the Italian Republic regretting the delay in giving young people the right to vote while they are abroad. It furthermore encourages students to pressure the Italian authorities to make haste to ensure that Italians on exchange programmes have the same rights as other citizens.
The Council of Ministers in Italy met last week where it discussed the situation of Italian students abroad. It came to the conclusion that students would not be able to vote in the election because the time period was too short and that such changes could go against the Italian constitution.
“Each state should promote and install an appropriate system for voting abroad, as in some cases it is made for the citizens that are living in other countries, or at least provide students with an effective guarantee to go back to their home countries to vote without any extra costs,” Ufert recaps.
Malta holds elections in March
This is not the only example where international students have had problems regarding their voting rights. Malta will also hold elections in the beginning of March. Maltese expats have had troubles of their own, as they were not able to get to Malta in order to vote. It has therefore been decided to offer extra flights to Malta before and after the elections. Similar practices are taking place in other countries that some offer their citizens to vote by post or at their embassies.
“It is absolutely crucial that citizens, especially young ones, exercise this right, as is guaranteed in any constitution,” Ufert emphasises.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.