In that context, democracy is acknowledged in EU primary law as one of the founding values of the EU (TEU, Article 2). EU primary law expressly provides that the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament and in municipal elections is one of the core rights associated with European citizenship (TFEU, Article 20.2(b)). Electoral rights for the European Parliament and for local elections are also enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Articles 39 and 40).
Voting is a basic aspect of political participation and democracy. By voting, people choose their representatives for governing bodies and decide on issues related to the exercise of power within their various political communities. Children are traditionally excluded from the right to vote, based on the argument that they are not mature enough to make reasoned and autonomous decisions that affect the life of the community. However, this approach has been questioned in recent years, and some Member States recognise the right to vote for persons below the age of 18.
- In the vast majority of Member States, children do not have the right to vote in any kind of elections, since the minimum age for voting is set at 18 years. Austria allows children to vote in all types of elections from the age of 16 years, while Greece accords this right to children from the age of 17 years.
- In Estonia and Malta, children are entitled to vote in local elections from the age of 16 years. The same minimum age also applies for local and regional elections in certain regions of Germany (Länder) and the United Kingdom (Scotland). In Belgium, children can vote in public consultations organised at the local or regional level from the age of 16 years. On the other hand, Italy has set the age of 25 years as a requirement to vote for the senate.
- EU citizens residing in a Member State other than their home state have the right to vote for the European Parliament and in local elections pursuant to the same age requirements that apply for nationals. Age requirements for European Parliament elections are the same as for national general elections.