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Voting rights for 16-year-olds get closer as Belgian government approves bill

Illustration picture shows voting ballots at a polling station in Koekelberg, Brussels, Sunday 26 May 2019, during the regional, federal and European elections (BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT)
06:24 05/05/2022

The Belgian government’s Constitution Committee of the Chamber approved a bill on Wednesday granting the right of people from the age of 16 to vote in European elections, Bruzz reports. The bill, proposed by the Ecolo-Groen group and co-signed by the majority parties, will be effective from the next election in 2024 and accessible to some 270,000 young people.

The agreed text states that "the young person who wishes to vote in this context must register in the register of voters with their municipality, and once registered, will be subject to the obligation to vote”. The proposal has been in the government’s files since 2021, while the Greens had already tabled a similar proposal to this effect back in 2015.

The bill was approved by the majority, joined by the Workers' Party. The New Flemish Alliance and Vlaams Belang voted against. The text can now be considered by the plenary for final approval.

For MP Kristof Calvo of the Ecolo-Groen group, one of the authors of the proposal, this is an important step, and is “a resolutely positive choice for more democracy, for more Europe and for the younger generations,” he said in a statement.

"We want to involve young people, who wish to do so, in political discussions about their future and launch a broad information and awareness campaign to encourage them to register and participate," added Ecolo member of parliament Guillaume Defossé.

Currently, Austria (16 years old), Malta (16 years old) and Greece (17 years old) are the countries that allow young people to vote in the European Parliament election.

At the end of 2021, the Constitution Commission had also given the green light to lowering the minimum age to stand as candidates in the European elections to 18 (previously 21).

Written by Nick Amies