EUEOM - An EU Chief observer speaks to the press
EUEOM - An EU Chief observer speaks to the press

Answers to questions on where the EU EOMs work, what type of elections they observe, how to assess the validity of an election and many more.

Where do EU EOMs work?

Countries where EU EOMs operate are carefully selected on the basis of how they deal with democracy and human rights issues - and in terms of the additional value that such a mission can bring to the election process. A final decision is only taken after an exploratory mission has visited the country to determine whether an EU EOM would be useful, advisable and feasible.

The EU does not send EOMs if elections can be credibly or systematically observed by other international organisations or local stakeholders. In order to avoid duplication, the EU does not deploy observation missions in the countries belonging to the OSCE, as EU countries are members of this organisation that observes the electoral process of its membership.

What type of elections does the EU observe?

Generally ,EU EOMs are deployed for national elections (parliamentary and presidential), but they also observe local elections (Cambodia in 2002 and the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2005) and referenda (Rwanda in 2003 and Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006).

However, the observation of local elections or referenda is an exception, reserved for cases of specific political significance or for use as a tool to support long-term democratisation goals such as in Kosovo.

What are the prerequisites for observing?

Firstly and most importantly, the EU requires an invitation from a country's government or election authorities.

Then a number of conditions should be met:

  • Franchise must be genuinely universal
  • Political parties and individual candidates must enjoy their legitimate right to take part in the election
  • There must be freedom of expression, allowing possible criticism of the incumbent government and the right to free movement and assembly
  • All contesting parties and candidates must have reasonable access to the media.

What is the added value of an EU EOM?

EU EOMs not only have the ambitious task of observing and reporting on elections, they also enhance the transparency of the process and the confidence of voters. They can serve as a conflict prevention mechanism by providing an impartial assessment of the election process, and their presence helps defuse tension and deter fraud.

National and international stakeholders may use the EOMs conclusions and recommendations to promote electoral reform, for example through capacity building projects that strengthen election administration. At a political level, an EU EOM final report may be the basis for discussions on elections in the framework of the EU's political dialogue with the country concerned.

How do you assess the validity of an election?

The elections are assessed against international standards, regional commitments undertaken by the host country and national laws. According to the methodology developed in 2000 to assess the validity of an election, EU observers must consider all the relevant factors that affect the electoral process, including:

  • The degree of impartiality shown by the election management body
  • The degree of freedom enjoyed by political parties, alliances and candidates to organise, move, assemble and express their views publicly
  • Fairness of access to state resources made available for the election
  • Fairness of access for political parties, alliances and candidates to the media, in particular the state media
  • The registration of voters without discrimination on the basis of gender and racial or ethnic origin
  • Any other issue that concerns the essential freedom and fairness of the election
  • The conduct of polling and counting of votes as described in the electoral law.

What happens if the report is negative?

EU EOMs issue factual reports based on impartial and objective information collected by the observers. EU institutions take note of the findings and determine what steps should be taken in response, both in terms of political ties as well as in the field of economic co-operation.

How many EOMs are organised every year and how much do they cost?

This depends on the election calendar and on available resources. In the past, an average of ten elections were observed each year for a total cost per annum of approximately ?30 million Euros. In 2006, this number increased to 13 elections.

The cost varies from one mission to another depending on the number of observers, the duration of the mission, the logistical expenses in a country and any security costs.