Poland and the United Kingdom have signed a treaty which secures the rights of Polish and British citizens resident in the other country to continue to both stand and vote in local elections following the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Poland is the fourth country to sign such an agreement securing bilateral voting rights for citizens with the UK, after Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg, who signed treaties last year.

The treaty was signed today by Polish deputy foreign minister Piotr Wawrzyk and British ambassador to Poland, Jonathan Knott.

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“The effect of our joint efforts is confirmation of the full electoral rights at the local level for Poles living in the United Kingdom, as well as for the British people who chose Poland as their home,” said Wawrzyk at the event in Warsaw.

He added that the agreement was “proof that ties between Poland and the UK remain strong and resistant, also in the adverse circumstances of the global pandemic”.

Ambassador Knott added that “difficult working environments” amid the coronavirus pandemic “should be no barrier” to ensuring citizens’ rights, and added that the agreement was a sign of “respect our countries have for each other”.

Poland’s ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, commented that the ability of Poles “to take an active part in the political life of their local communities” is important to increase the “visibility” of Poles who have lived in the UK for “generations” and “contributed significantly to the British cultural, economic and social life”.

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“This treaty underlines our countries’ shared commitment to democracy,” commented Wendy Morton, the British minister for European neighbourhood and the Americas.

The treaty follows last week’s agreement between Poland and the UK “committing to increased cooperation between the two countries” around the delivery of the Solidarity Central Transport Hub, a planned development outside of Warsaw, which is currently set to include an international airport and railway interchange.

European Union citizens have reciprocal voting rights in local as well as European Parliament elections, but not in national ones. The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, entering a transition period in which it remains in the EU customs union and single market while it continues negotiates. This is due to end on 31 December this year.

Main image credit: Tymon Markowski/MSZ

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