Members' Research Service By / June 8, 2023

Minimum age to stand as a candidate in European elections

The European Electoral Act of 1976 allows the EU Member States to set the minimum age for standing as a candidate in European elections.

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Written by Rafał Mańko.

The European Electoral Act of 1976 allows the EU Member States to set the minimum age for standing as a candidate in European elections. While in May 2022 Parliament proposed a uniform minimum age of 18, the next round of elections – in 2024 – will be governed by the existing rules. The minimum age therefore varies among the Member States, ranging from 18 (in the majority of countries) to 25 (Italy and Greece).

Variation across the Member States

The existing rules on 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. The minimum age for standing as a candidate for the European Parliament is determined by the individual Member States, in line with Article 8 of the European Electoral Act. Across the EU, this age currently varies as follows: the rules in 15 Member States provide for 18 years of age, nine for 21 (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Ireland, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia), one (Romania) for 23, and two (Italy and Greece) for 25. Through a law adopted in 2021, Belgium lowered the minimum age from 21 to 18, and those new rules will apply for the 2024 elections.

Figure 1 – Age to stand as a candidate for the EP
Age to stand as a candidate for the EP

Parliament proposes a harmonised age of 18 for candidates

In May 2022, Parliament tabled a proposal for a Council regulation on the election of MEPs by direct universal suffrage, which would replace the existing European Electoral Act (2022/0902(APP)). The proposal harmonises a number of rules applicable to European elections, including the minimum age for eligibility to stand as a candidate for an MEP. According to its recital 17, a ‘single harmonised age … for standing as a candidate should be introduced across the Union in order to ensure equality and to avoid discrimination in access to those most fundamental civic and political rights’. Article 5(1) of the proposal sets the age at 18 and, in contrast to the voting right, provides for no exceptions. To enter into force, the regulation needs the unanimous approval of the Council and the approval of all Member States in line with their constitutional requirements.

Member StateMinimum ageLegal basis in national law

Belgium

18

Article 41 of the European Parliament Elections Act 1989 as modified by Act of 12.12.2021

Bulgaria

21

Article 351 of the Electoral Code

Czechia

21

Article 6 of the European Parliament Elections Act

Denmark

18

§ 6 of the Act Concerning the Election of the Danish MEPs

Germany

18

§ 6b of the European Elections Act

Estonia

21

§ 4(5) of the European Parliament Election Act

Ireland

21

Section 11 of the European Parliament Elections Act 1997

Greece

25

Article 2(1) of Law 4255/2014 on European elections in conjunction with Article 55 of the Constitution

Spain

18

Article 6 of the Organic Law 5/1985 of 19 June 1985

France

18

Article 5 of the EP Elections Act in conjunction with Article L.127 and L.2 of the Electoral Code

Croatia

18

Article5 of the European Parliament Elections Act in conjunction with Article 45 of the Constitution

Italy

25

Article 4 of the Law on the Election of Italian MEPs 1979

Cyprus

21

Article 13 of the European Parliament Elections Act

Latvia

21

§ 4 of the Act on Election to the European Parliament

Lithuania

21

Article 10(6) of the Electoral Code

Luxembourg

18

Article 285(1)(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

18

Article 19(1) of the European Parliament Elections Act 2004

Netherlands

18

Article Y4(a) of the Electoral Act

Austria

18

§ 29 of the European Elections Ordinance

Poland

21

Article 11 § 1(4) of the Electoral Code

Portugal

18

Article 4 of the Electoral Law for the European Parliament in conjunction with Articles 1 and 4 of the Law Governing Elections to the Assembly of the Republic

Romania

23

Article 5(7) of the European Parliament Elections Law

Slovenia

18

Article 10 of the Election of MEPs from the Republic of Slovenia Act

Slovakia

21

§ 73(1)(a)(b) of Act No 180/2014 Coll., on the conditions for the exercise of the right to vote

Finland

18

§ 164 of the Elections Act in conjunction with § 14(II) of the Constitution

Sweden

18

Avdeling V, 4 § of the Elections Act

Table 1 – Legal bases setting the age for candidates in European elections in the EU-27


Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘Minimum age to stand as a candidate in European elections‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


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