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EUROPEAN UNION

Brits in Sweden will get to vote in EU referendum

British nationals who have been living in Sweden for less than 15 years will be allowed to vote in the EU referendum, while most citizens from other EU countries who are living in the UK will have no say on whether the nation in the European Union, the British government has announced.

Brits in Sweden will get to vote in EU referendum
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged that Britain will hold a referendum on the EU. Photo: AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

Prime Minister David Cameron made it an electoral pledge to hold a referendum on whether to stay within the EU, a vote that will take place by the end of 2017.

Now his office has announced who be able to vote in the referendum, and eligibility will be roughly the same as in a UK general election.

DEBATE: Give us a vote: we've got most to lose if UK quits

This means British nationals who have been living abroad for less than 15 years will have their say on whether or not the UK remains in the European Union.

But those living abroad for more than 15 years will not be allowed to vote on the future of the UK in Europe, the new voting criteria confirms. 

The move comes as a potential 'Brexit' remains a hot topic in European media.

Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström told The Local in an exclusive interview on Friday that it would be “a very serious blow to the entire EU” if the UK left.

"Unfortunately, I have also seen that the media picture has been very, very negative in the UK in a way that has raised some eyebrows elsewhere – that you can claim almost anything unopposed and that is sad. We have to hope that there will be a more nuanced debate,” she added.

INTERVIEW: 'We would miss Britain if they left'

The EU Referendum Bill will be officially announced after the Queen's speech on Wednesday, and legislation confirming the voting eligibility for the referendum will be introduced to Parliament on Thursday May 28th.

It is understood that Irish citizens living in the UK will also be eligible to vote as well as Commonwealth citizens including those from Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus.

In a statement released after the announcement, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said, "David Cameron has been true to his word to the people of Gibraltar and, as a British part of the EU, our voice will be heard as part of the franchise for this seminal exercise in democracy."

Around one million other EU nationals who are resident in the UK will not be allowed to vote in the referendum however.

British citizens under the age of 18 will also not be eligible to vote, provoking calls, led by the Scottish National Party, for the voting age to be lowered to 16. Over-16s were allowed to vote in the Scottish independence referendum in September 2014, as were EU nationals based in Scotland.

DEBATE: Will Brexit force Brits from Sweden?

Prime Minister David Cameron is due to meet with several European leaders this week to discuss EU reforms. He will meet with the leaders of Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland while also meeting with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker in the UK on Monday.

Many British residents abroad are likely to vote for the UK to remain a member of the European Union.

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ENERGY

How European countries are spending billions on easing energy crisis

European governments are announcing emergency measures on a near-weekly basis to protect households and businesses from the energy crisis stemming from Russia's war in Ukraine.

How European countries are spending billions on easing energy crisis

Hundreds of billions of euros and counting have been shelled out since Russia invaded its pro-EU neighbour in late February.

Governments have gone all out: from capping gas and electricity prices to rescuing struggling energy companies and providing direct aid to households to fill up their cars.

The public spending has continued, even though European Union countries had accumulated mountains of new debt to save their economies during the Covid pandemic in 2020.

But some leaders have taken pride at their use of the public purse to battle this new crisis, which has sent inflation soaring, raised the cost of living and sparked fears of recession.

After announcing €14billion in new measures last week, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi boasted the latest spending put Italy, “among the countries that have spent the most in Europe”.

The Bruegel institute, a Brussels-based think tank that is tracking energy crisis spending by EU governments, ranks Italy as the second-biggest spender in Europe, after Germany.

READ ALSO How EU countries aim to cut energy bills and avoid blackouts this winter

Rome has allocated €59.2billion since September 2021 to shield households and businesses from the rising energy prices, accounting for 3.3 percent of its gross domestic product.

Germany tops the list with €100.2billion, or 2.8 percent of its GDP, as the country was hit hard by its reliance on Russian gas supplies, which have dwindled in suspected retaliation over Western sanctions against Moscow for the war.

On Wednesday, Germany announced the nationalisation of troubled gas giant Uniper.

France, which shielded consumers from gas and electricity price rises early, ranks third with €53.6billion euros allocated so far, representing 2.2 percent of its GDP.

Spending to continue rising
EU countries have now put up €314billion so far since September 2021, according to Bruegel.

“This number is set to increase as energy prices remain elevated,” Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at Bruegel, told AFP.

The energy bills of a typical European family could reach €500 per month early next year, compared to €160 in 2021, according to US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

The measures to help consumers have ranged from a special tax on excess profits in Italy, to the energy price freeze in France, and subsidies public transport in Germany.

But the spending follows a pandemic response that increased public debt, which in the first quarter accounted for 189 percent of Greece’s GDP, 153 percent in Italy, 127 percent in Portugal, 118 percent in Spain and 114 percent in France.

“Initially designed as a temporary response to what was supposed to be a temporary problem, these measures have ballooned and become structural,” Tagliapietra said.

“This is clearly not sustainable from a public finance perspective. It is important that governments make an effort to focus this action on the most vulnerable households and businesses as much as possible.”

Budget reform
The higher spending comes as borrowing costs are rising. The European Central Bank hiked its rate for the first time in more than a decade in July to combat runaway inflation, which has been fuelled by soaring energy prices.

The yield on 10-year French sovereign bonds reached an eight-year high of 2.5 percent on Tuesday, while Germany now pays 1.8 percent interest after boasting a negative rate at the start of the year.

The rate charged to Italy has quadrupled from one percent earlier this year to four percent now, reviving the spectre of the debt crisis that threatened the eurozone a decade ago.

“It is critical to avoid debt crises that could have large destabilising effects and put the EU itself at risk,” the International Monetary Fund warned in a recent blog calling for reforms to budget rules.

The EU has suspended until 2023 rules that limit the public deficit of countries to three percent of GDP and debt to 60 percent.

The European Commission plans to present next month proposals to reform the 27-nation bloc’s budget rules, which have been shattered by the crises.

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