Our Right to Vote in European Elections

Last Updated November 2006

Gibraltar is a member of the European Union under the British Treaty of Accession (1973).

Although Gibraltar is bound by EU laws and has implemented EU legislation more fully and promptly than some other members, Gibraltarians and other EU nationals resident in Gibraltar had been denied the vote in elections for the European Assembly. The reason given is that the British Government had failed to make the necessary legal arangements.

Lord Bethell moved an amendment to the 1998 European Parliamentary Elections Bill in the House of Lords to make a provision for the right to vote, however it was defeated by the Labour Government, who were supported by the Liberal Democrats.

The Gibraltar Self-Determination Group (SDGG) took the case to the European Court of Justice with Matthews -v- The UK Government in 1994.

The Struggle Continues . . .

18 February 1999
Gibraltar has won the Euro Vote case before the full European Court of Human Rights by 15 votes to 2. The Court has found that the United Kingdom is in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights as a result of its failure to make arrangements to enable the people of Gibraltar to vote at elections for the European Parliament. The Court has found that legislation made by the European Community affects the people of Gibraltar and that the very essence of the Gibraltarians right to vote to choose that legislature as guaranteed under Article 3 of Protocol I of the European Convention of Human Rights had been denied and that this is a violation of that Convention and contrary to effective political democracy.

Full text of the ECHR judgement

28th November 2001 Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said 'I am delighted to announce the Government's intention that, for the first time ever, the Gibraltar electorate should be able to vote in European Parliamentary elections. The Government fully supports Gibraltar's aspiration and right to be represented in the European Parliament. We are committed to achieving this in time for the next elections in 2004. 'This will require domestic legislation in the UK, so we will be seeking the legislative time in order to bring in the necessary domestic legislation. We will of course proceed in close consultation with the Gibraltar authorities.'

FCO Press release


Click here
for what some
British Euro MP's
have to say
about the ongoing
shameful delay
7th July 2002 So whats happening ? Having been taken to court fighting and screaming, HMG have accepted the principle that the Gibraltarians have the right to participate in EU elections. Various British Euro MP's are keen to have us added onto their constituencies.

HOWEVER it remains to be seen whether HMG will put the necessary legislation through in time for the next round of elections. There is also the issue of wheter they intend to enfrancise Gibraltar or specific individuals. As well as British Citizens in Gibraltar there are also Irish, Danish, French, Portugese etc nationals who are equally disenfranchised, by the UK as the responsible member dragging its heels. Nor is it a matter for consultation with our neigbour Spain, it is something that needs to be done on a bi-lateral basis between Britain and Gibraltar.

27th November 2002 The UK Government seem to be doing something about it and is hoping to have the European Parliament (Representation) Bill on the statute book in time for the 2004 European elections.

This will involve Gibraltar forming part of an existing UK constituency and having the right to propose candidates. Click here for a news story about the proposals. One disturbing aspect is the lack of consultation with the Government of Gibraltar who state in their press release 224/2002

"Whilst the Government welcomes the initiation of the parliamentary process for legislation to enfranchise Gibraltar for the next European Parliament Elections, some of the Bill's contents do not reflect the views of the Gibraltar Government, nor the discussions that are taking place between HMG and GOG on these issues."

14th January 2003  No welcome in the valley for Gibraltar.

Who are these guys anyway ?
   Not Gibraltar

PLAID CYMRU president Ieuan Wyn Jones last night demanded an assurance from the Lord Chancellor that Gibraltar would not be added to the all-Wales European constituency. Mr Jones decided to seek a firm statement from Lord Irvine amid growing speculation that Gibraltar will be tacked on to Wales in time for the European Parliament election next year. [Published in The Western Mail ]

There again do we want anything to do with a region with Peter Hain as secretary for state? Suddenly the West Midlands begin to sound attractive.

Gibraltar Chief Minister Peter Caruana said, "I would rather not comment on this matter."

  The Goldern Hind Association in Plymouth 8th March 2003 Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has declared that legislation to enfranchise the Gibraltar electorate in time for the European Parliamentary elections in 2004 will be passed “later in the parliamentary session.”

In reply to the Plymouth “Keep Gibraltar British” lobby group, an FCO spokesman said the legislation gives the Electoral Commission the responsibility for deciding “in which multi-member constituency Gibraltar should be placed.”

29th March 2003 The SDGG Meet with the Electoral Commission after a 10-year struggle for the Eurovote Read the Press Release


      Guess who is not flying the flag ...
    Spain differs
10th June 2003 Spain has lodged a formal notice of action at the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg challenging the legislation recently introduced in Britain to enfranchise Gibraltarians for European elections as part of a British constituency.
The Foreign Office last night told the Gibraltar Chronicle that Spain had raised concerns over the 2003 Representation Act but said that Britain “is in no doubt” over its legal position and “will defend it vigorously” if an Article 227 proceeding is pursued.


    The Electoral Commission 28th August 2003 After a two month consultation period in both the UK and Gibraltar, the UK's independent Electoral Commission has today recommended that Gibraltar be combined with the South West region for future elections to the European Parliament. This has been very popular with all involved. more details


      Guess who is not flying the flag ...
    No to Spain
29th October 2003 The EU commission has finally thrown out the Spanish complaint. In a declaration adopted today, The Commission considers, following an in depth analysis of the Spanish complaint and an oral hearing held on the 1st of October, that the UK has organised the extension of voting rights to residents in Gibraltar within the margin of discretion presently given to Member States by the EU law.

Read their press release


The Man in Mardid, he say no ... 18th February 2004 Spain is to take Britain to court over a new law which allows Gibraltarians and some members of the Commonwealth to vote in European elections, according to reports yesterday.

According to the newspaper El Mundo, José María Aznar's conservative People's party government is so fed up with Britain's refusal to listen to complaints about the new law that it intends to take the case to the European Court of Justice.

Read the full story in The Guardian

   Spain attacks democracy ... 26th March 2004 In a last act of spite against the Gibraltarians the departing Partido Popular Government in Spain has decided to go ahead with proceedings in the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg seeking a ruling that British legislation enfranchising Gibraltarians is illegally extending the vote to Commonwealth citizens on the Rock.

Read the story in: The Gibraltar Chronicle


10th June 2004 Gibraltar goes to the polls as part of the South West region. 58% of the electorate finally exercise their democratic right. Meantime speaking on TVE Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said "Spain is against Gibraltarians voting as Gibraltarians, we would like them to vote as Spaniards, when we recover Gibraltar, obviously"

We have had a long wait for the Eurovote, but it was morally wrong that the Gibraltarians were denied this right. The Spanish claim to Gibraltar is now over 300 years old, and so far the Rock has not moved towards Spain.

When the electoral register was published it contained some 95 Commonwealth Citizens - their participation was the basis of the Spanish "Complaint" - it would seem that the majority have exercised their right to full British Citizenship.

Having voted, the story of the acquisition the Eurovote is now at a successful conclusion, or so one might reasonably think.

But wait - theres more . . .

Spain keeps on complaining
6th April 2006 The complaint from the Spanish Government has been partially supported by the European Court of Justice. Although rejecting the main complaint about Gibraltarians voting, the court has upheld the complaint in respect of commonwealth citizens. Although we assume that Spain mistakenly thought that ALL Gibraltarians were British Overseas Territitory Citizens, in practice this only affects a small number of mainly Indians, resident in Gibraltar. However, if applied to the UK a larger number of people, estimated at over a million, are being denied the right to vote, despite their residence and paying taxes.

Now read this: Judge Tizzano upholds part of the Spanish Complaint

Its Over
12th September 2006 Finally The European Union’s high court has rejected Spanish complaints that electoral laws in Gibraltar, which allow some non-EU citizens to vote in European elections, violated EU law.

The European Court of Justice in its Luxembourg ruling said it was up to Britain to decide for itself whether to allow non-EU citizens to vote in European elections, saying there was no specific definition in EU treaties on who was entitled to vote.

In its judgement on Case C-145/04, The Court:

  • Dismisses the action;

  • Orders the Kingdom of Spain to pay the costs;

  • Orders the Commission of the European Communities to bear its own costs.
So having wasted its time and energy in a fruitless attempt to deprive the Gibraltarians of their European rights, its really over. Despite the 'best efforts' of Spain and at times the UK Labour Government, We campaigned and we won the right to vote.

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