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In 2024, there will be an additional 270,000 minors who will have the right to vote

Belgium lowers the voting age in EU elections to 16

Belgium lowers the voting age in EU elections to 16

Belgium will now join a small club of countries empowering youth political participation – Austria, Greece and Malta

Last week, the Belgian Parliament introduced a law that will lower the voting age in European elections to 16. The move is part of meeting the 325 demands of the ‘Conference for the Future of Europe’, signed early last year by all 27 Member States.

Importantly, implementing the decisions made during the conference depends on the legislative process in the individual Member States.

Now, Belgium joins a rather exclusive club of countries, that features only Greece, Malta and Austria, as countries that have already expanded voting rights to minors. Thus, in two years, the country will have hundreds of thousands of first-time voters, as the ruling applies to all EU citizens living in Belgium, as well as to Belgians living abroad.

Hundreds of thousands of first-time voters

In Belgium, the policy proposition was first introduced in the national parliament by Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès back in October 2021.

After deliberating on the text, parliament has finally passed the law, giving 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in the 2024 elections. The issue of giving voting rights to minors was also part of the 2020 coalition agreement by the incumbent seven-party ruling government.

In practice, this means that an additional 270,000 Belgians and other EU citizens, as well as 13,000 Belgians living abroad, aged 16 and 17 will have the chance to cast their vote in the 2024 EU election for the first time in their lives. Considering all the people who would have reached the age of 18 since the last EU election in 2019, 2024 could possibly be the year when youth issues dominate the ballot box.

Minister Annelies Verlinden was quoted in a press release, saying: “By giving young people the opportunity to actively participate in our democracy, they can make their voices heard and we further stimulate their involvement in politics. The young are the future, and they will now be able to help determine that future."

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