Best wishes for 2024
Elections 2024: being a candidate or campaigning?
2024 will be a big election year in the European Union and around the world. Several media outlets have reported that more than half the world will go to the polls this year.
In Brussels alone, elections will be held this year at European, federal, regional (on 9 June) and local (on 13 October) level.
In addition to the European elections in June, Finland recently elected its president, while Portugal, Malta, Slovakia, Lithuania, Croatia, Austria, Romania and Hungary (indirectly in this case) will elect either their president or their parliament.
In Ireland, a referendum will also be held on 8 March to remove from the Constitution references to the “role of women in the home” and the fact that the family must be “based on marriage”.
Needless to say, there is a lot at stake in these elections. It is therefore to be hoped that a large number of citizens, including EU staff, will become actively and consciously involved in defending not only the various electoral programmes but also the fundamental values of the European Union: ”The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between men and women.” (Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union)
But what are the rules if you decide to stand for election or simply to campaign for your favourite candidate?
First of all, if you decide to stand for election, whatever the post you are seeking (even if it is to be placed at the bottom of an electoral list in a small municipality), you should note that, under Article 15 of the Staff Regulations, you are obliged to inform the Appointing Authority (AIPN) of your intention to stand for election (this is not a request for authorisation, but a simple but nonetheless essential obligation to inform).
On the basis of this information, the Appointing Authority will inform you of its decision as to whether you may continue to perform your duties. Under the Staff Regulations, the Appointing Authority may decide either to ask you to apply for leave on personal grounds (CCP), or to ask you to take annual leave, or to authorise you to continue your duties on a part-time basis, or to authorise you to continue them on a full-time basis.
The Appointing Authority’s decision will depend on a number of factors, including the interests of the service, the importance of the post for which you are applying, the amount of work involved and the remuneration that would be involved.
It goes without saying that similar obligations will apply to you for the duration of your mandate if you are elected or if you subsequently accept an indirectly appointed or elected position (e.g. member of an executive or, in some Member States, a social council).
In addition to the declaration obligation mentioned above, it is also important to remember that you must always make a clear distinction between your capacity as a candidate and your duties in the institution. While it goes without saying that your position as a “European official” may appear on electoral lists in the same way as any other, it would not be acceptable for you to take advantage of it or to use it during an election campaign. You are, of course, still bound by your duty of discretion and are therefore not authorised to disclose facts or information which are not in the public domain, and which have come to your knowledge in the course of your duties.
Without standing for election yourself, you may decide to campaign on behalf of one or other party or candidate. This may take various forms: poster campaigns, door-to-door canvassing, participation in public meetings, sending individual letters to your network of friends and acquaintances, posting or reposting messages or video documents on social networking sites, etc.
Again, the rule of freedom of expression prevails. You have the right to take part in the debate and to defend your beliefs. However, there are a number of rules that limit this freedom. Firstly, as is the case for candidates, you may not use your position as a European Union official in your campaign: you must not compromise the public’s perception of the impartiality of the European civil service. Nor may you divulge or use information that has come to your knowledge in the course of your duties.
Finally, even in your private life, or even in your life as a committed citizen, you must refrain from behaviour incompatible with the dignity of your office: in an election campaign, where tempers can flare, the use of insults, threats or other similar behaviour is obviously unacceptable.
To all our colleagues involved in election campaigns for democratic parties that respect the values enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, we wish you a successful campaign.
Reminder: This article gives us the opportunity to remind you that membership of U4U is incompatible, in particular, with membership of a political movement or association whose express object or activity is the negation of the values and rights listed in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (see Article 8 of the AISBL “Union 4 Unity” Statutes: Obligations of members).
Activate your rights as a citizen!
In the previous issue, we informed you of the launch of a project to raise awareness of our rights as citizens
Here’s a progress report. First of all, we have established contacts with several citizens’ associations with a view to cooperating and establishing synergies. Each association has its own angle of interest and target audience, but the message is the same: get on the electoral roll and vote! We’re going to broaden and deepen these contacts.
At the same time, we produced a trilingual poster on the European elections, which was also sent to the European Schools and Parents’ Associations.
We also sent all the staff of the Institutions a newsletter on the two 2024 elections: European and local. We are preparing an information conference for the staff of the institutions. Soon, at least two information websites will be up and running. We are continuing to work on this project.
Activate your civic rights!
In 2024, the European elections will be held on 9 June and the Belgian municipal elections on 13 October. The law grants the right to vote to foreigners residing in Belgium for the latter and to EU citizens for the former.
Unfortunately, too few of those eligible to vote have chosen to exercise their right as citizens.
This is why U4U is launching an information campaign on the subject.
It is important to participate in local political life as a voter. When U4U lobbies local authorities, for example for European schools, it is not uncommon to be told: “You know, I represent my constituents; and Europeans don’t vote”. And yet, if we were to exercise our rights, together with our spouses and young adults, we would represent a considerable mass, more than a hundred thousand voters. Then our vote must count.
U4U will keep you informed of its actions in this field.