On Wednesday, the European Commission sued Czechia and Poland at the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to allow foreigners from the European Union to join political parties. According to the Commission, both countries restrict foreigners’ right to run in local and European elections under the same conditions as Czech and Polish citizens.
According to Brussels, Czechia and Poland are the only countries in the Union whose legislation bans citizens of other EU states from participating in political parties. The European Commission has concluded that there is a breach of the treaty of the European Union which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality.
The Commission has been reviewing the Czech restriction since 2012, when it formally initiated infringement proceedings. However, according to the EU executive, Czechia repeatedly responded by claiming that its laws were in line with the EU regulations.
The last time the European Commission sent a letter to Prague asking about the latest developments was in December 2020. However, according to the Commission, the letter remained without a satisfactory answer. The same goes for Poland.
Association within political parties is regulated in the Czech Republic by Act No. 424/1991, which uses the term citizen. In its 2015 study, however, the Parliamentary Institute (service organization of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate) pointed out that the regulation does not explicitly state that it should be a citizen of the Czech Republic.
Nonetheless, the statutes of some political parties (for example, ČSSD, ANO, the KSČM, or TOP 09) stipulate citizenship of the Czech Republic as a condition of membership.
The majority of legal opinions states that membership in political parties is tied to the citizenship of the Czech Republic.
“… the Act on association in political parties and movements grants this right only to citizens of the Czech Republic. Even the EU citizens, who obtain a permanent residence permit in the Czech Republic, cannot become political party members. They are thus at a disadvantage in the elections. In the case of elections to the European Parliament, where only political parties can nominate their candidates, foreigners from other EU countries residing in the Czech Republic are being directly discriminated,” stated the ombudswoman in 2014 when she also dealt with this issue.
Title image: In this Oct. 5, 2015 file photo, a man walks by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The European Court of Justice said in a statement issued Tuesday Nov. 12, 2019, that “foodstuffs originating in the territories occupied by the State of Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin.” with special labels indicating that provenance. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, FILE)