More than 40.000 Italian young people studying and living abroad are excluded from the national elections.
AEGEE-Europe supports the claim of Italian students and calls for a solution that solves the violation of the democratic rights of thousand of young citizens. We expect the decision of the Italian Council of Ministers to allow all Italians living abroad the possibility to participate in the general elections. We are proud to see that the reaction of Italian Erasmus has been decisive to allow other Italians to exert their democratic rights.
Unless exceptional measures are taken, Italian Erasmus students, and all the young Italians involved in the Lifelong Learning Programme abroad such as the Leonardo interns, are going to be excluded from the elections to the Parliament that will take place on February 24-25th 2013. They cannot vote for correspondence in the Consulate because, according to the current law, in order to exercise their electoral rights abroad, Italian citizens must register at the Registry of the Italians abroad (AIRE) at the Consulate in the country where they have resided or are going to reside for at least 12 months. A period that does not apply for the most popular mobility programmes.
Showing once more how wrong is the common belief that the young generation does not care about anything except themselves, the Italian Erasmus have taken initiative and started claiming for their rights showing their indignation on facebook and social media. They have coordinated themselves even when being scattered all over Europe and they have gotten quite a lot of attention on the media, voicing their discontent and calling for a reasonable decision to be taken. A petition online has been launched, and the Leonardo interns and other Italians living abroad are signing up hoping to be included together with the Erasmus students in case a solution is reached.
All the frustration of these young people has been represented graphically in a very eloquent image: a piece of toilet paper where is written: here you are, this is what my vote is worth! One of the students wrote on facebook: “I am really astonished because democracy and active citizenship are among the specific objectives of Lifelong Learning Programme! So there is some contradiction on this situation”. Limiting the right to vote to those who can afford the money and time of a flight back home seems quite an unfair situation that needs to be solved. Erasmus students are supported in their request by UDU, the Italian Syndicate of Students.
Even the European Commission backs the students’ claim, which makes sense since they designated 2013 as the European Year of Citizens. According to a communication from the cabinet of the Commissioner on Education, Androula Vassiliou, “the EU supports the efforts of Italy for assuring that students within mobility programmes like Erasmus are not discriminated in their right to vote”, even though legislation regarding elections is part of the national competences.
Monti’s government has decided to do all that is in their hands to solve this problem. Today (Jan 22nd) the Italian Consiglio dei Ministri will meet and the topic is high on the agenda, with the Minister of Education pushing for a solution. Time is short, as elections are very close. When at the end of last year the government promulgated a law to allow researchers, military and professors abroad to vote in this elections, nobody thought of the students participating in mobility programmes. Now a special measure will have to be taken, and time is running out as the deadline for confirming the voting abroad expired last Sunday Jan 20th. According to the Italian Constitution, the measure will have to grant the right to vote to other Italians abroad in similar situation. As a back up plan, the possible reimbursement of the travel costs for the voting is not totally discarded yet.
As stated before, AEGEE-Europe supports the claim of Italian students and calls for a solution that solves the violation of the democratic rights of thousand of young citizens. We expect the decision of the Italian Council of Ministers to allow all Italians living abroad the possibility to participate in the elections for the Italian Parliament. We are proud to see that the reaction of Italian Erasmus has been decisive to allow other Italians to exert their democratic rights.