Written by Rafał Mańko.
Under current EU law, EU Member States are free to set their minimum national voting age for European elections. This age is set at 16 in Austria, Germany and Malta, 17 in Greece, and 18 in the remaining Member States. In Belgium, EU citizens can, following a recent change, request to vote in European elections from the age of 16.
The rules applicable to European elections are based on a combination of the common principles established in the European Electoral Act of 1976, as amended by Council Decision 2002/772, and the different national rules implementing those principles. In line with Article 8 of the European Elections Act, Member States can set the minimum voting age in their national legislation.
In May 2022, Parliament tabled a proposal for a Council regulation on the election of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) by direct universal suffrage, which would replace the existing European Electoral Act of 1976 (2022/0902(APP)). The aim of the proposal is to harmonise a number of rules applicable to European elections, including the voting age. According to recital 17 of the proposal, a ‘single harmonised age for voting … should be introduced across the Union in order to ensure equality and to avoid discrimination‘. Article 4(1) of the proposal sets the age at 16 but allows for exceptions for ‘existing constitutional orders establishing a minimum voting age of 18 or 17 years of age’. To enter into force, the regulation needs the unanimous approval of the Council and the approval of all Member States in accordance with their constitutional requirements.
Voting by persons under 18 year of age
The 2024 European elections will be governed by the European Electoral Act of 1976. In Belgium, a law adopted in 2022 allows Belgians and other EU nationals resident in Belgium, aged 16-18, to vote in European elections after submitting a request to their municipality of residence. In Germany, a law adopted in early 2023 lowered the voting age for European elections from 18 to 16. In 2018, Malta‘s Constitution sets the standard voting age, including for European elections, at 16. In Greece, the voting age is set at 17. In 2007, Austria fixed its standard voting age at 16. In all other Member States, the voting age is 18.
|Member State||Voting age||Legal basis|
|Belgium||18, 16 on request||Article 1 § 2 of the EP Elections Act 1989 as modified by Act of 1 June 2022|
|Bulgaria||18||Article 350 of the Electoral Code|
|Czechia||18||Article 5 of the European Parliament Elections Act|
|Denmark||18||§ 6 of the Act Concerning the Election of the Danish MEPs in conjunction with § 1(1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act|
|Germany||16||§ 6 of the European Elections Act as modified by Act of 11.1.2023|
|Estonia||18||§ 4 (1) of the European Parliament Election Act|
|Ireland||18||Rule 72, Schedule 2 of the European Parliament Elections Act 1997|
|Greece||17||Article 1 of the European Elections Act 2014 in conjunction with Article 4(1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act|
|Spain||18||Article 2 of the Organic Law 5/1985 of 19 June 1985|
|France||18||Article 5 of the European Parliament Elections Act in conjunction with Article L.2 of the Electoral Code|
|Croatia||18||Article 45 of the Constitution|
|Italy||18||Article 3 of the Law on Election of Italian MEPs 1979|
|Cyprus||18||Article 4 of the European Parliament Elections Act|
|Latvia||18||§ 2 of the Act on Election to European Parliament|
|Lithuania||18||Article 8(4) of the Electoral Code|
|Luxembourg||18||Article 3 of the Electoral Act 2003|
|Hungary||18||Article XXIII of the Fundamental Law in conjunction with § 2:10 of the Civil Code (age of majority)|
|Malta||16||Article 11(c) of the European Parliament Elections Act 2004 in conjunction with Article 57(b) of the Constitution of Malta|
|Netherlands||18||Article Y3(a) and (b)(2) of the Electoral Act|
|Austria||16||§ 10 of the European Elections Ordinance|
|Poland||18||Article 10 § 1 of the Electoral Code|
|Portugal||18||Article 1 of the Electoral Law for the European Parliament in conjunction with Article 1 of the Law governing Elections to the Assembly of the Republic|
|Romania||18||Article 5(5) of the European Parliament Elections Law|
|Slovenia||18||Article 10 of the Election of MEPs from the Republic of Slovenia Act|
|Slovakia||18||§ 3 of the Act no. 180/2014 Coll., on the conditions for the exercise of the right to vote|
|Finland||18||§ 14(II) of the Constitution|
|Sweden||18||Avdeling 5, 4 § of the Elections Act (2005:837) in conjunction with Proclamation (1974:152) on the adoption of a new form of government, kap., 4 §.|
Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘Voting age for European elections‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.