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EU global election assistance and observation strategy

EU global election assistance and observation strategy



Communication (COM(2000) 191 final) on EU election assistance and observation

Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU)


The communication seeks to help define a coherent policy line on EU election assistance* and observation* by means of a strategic and methodological approach, taking into account lessons learned from previous experiences.

Article 2 TEU sets out the EU’s values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.


Everyone’s right to take part in the government of their country is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In the case of elections, good governance requires an appropriate legislative and regulatory set of rules. In order to ensure respect for the rule of law, it also needs a transparent and accountable election administration, in particular independent supervision and monitoring. It is also essential for citizens to be informed and to participate throughout the electoral process. The criteria set out in the UDHR for the validation of observed elections are internationally accepted. Elections must be free, fair, genuine, held periodically and by secret ballot.

EU support for human rights, democracy and the rule of law is established in the EU treaties. Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union clearly states that the EU is founded on principles such as liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, which are fundamental values shared by all EU countries. Election missions are accepted as part of the EU's mandate.

Lessons learned from experience

The communication reviews the lessons learned from EU assistance and observation missions between 1993 and 2000:

  • the EU needs a coherent strategy in this field;
  • observation missions must be careful in not legitimising illegitimate electoral processes;
  • better cooperation with and training of domestic observer groups need to be established;
  • some regional and local elections also need assistance and observation;
  • exploratory missions are needed before deciding to send observation missions;
  • election observation missions need to remain in place long enough to cover all stages of the electoral process;
  • assessing elections is a delicate exercise and should lead to recommendations for future actions;
  • mission spokespersons should always make a preliminary statement after polling and final proclamations only at the end of the electoral process;
  • EU actors in the field should always speak with one voice;
  • the EU decision-making procedure needs to be clarified and rationalised;
  • a coherent and transparent financing policy is needed;
  • coordination between the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament needs strengthening;
  • coordination with other international actors should be based on partnerships;
  • EU missions need to be made more visible;
  • the human resources involved in election observation and assistance must match the political objectives;
  • an accelerated formula for EU decision-making would be advisable;
  • comparable methods for the recruitment of observers would improve missions;
  • EU observers should receive better training and field guidance.

Recommendations for the future

The communication stresses that the EU needs to adopt an election assistance and observation strategy that:

  • allows for case-by-case decisions;
  • promotes the development of sustainable national structures;
  • promotes pluralism at a political level and in local civil society;
  • encourages partnership between European and local non-governmental organisations and local observers.

The decision to launch an EU election observation mission should be based on an evaluation of the mission to be advisable, viable and useful. The Council has drawn up criteria in this respect, which are set out in Annex III to the communication. This annex also lists the conditions required for observers to be able to perform their work.

The following criteria could provide a basis for deciding to provide election assistance:

  • a request for assistance from the government of the host country;
  • the general agreement of the main political parties and other partners;
  • the existence of previous EU political monitoring or development programmes;
  • an adequate time-frame;
  • freedom of movement;
  • access to information;
  • the safety of the technical assistance team.

Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the latter is actively involved in election observation missions, in close cooperation with the competent Commission services (Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, co-located with the EEAS).

As regards the financing of missions, various ways of accelerating and simplifying decisions to commit funds and implement expenditure are being studied.

The communication considers that the agreed criteria for selection (Annex IV) and the code of conduct for EU observers (Annex III) provide a good basis for observer recruitment.

Guidelines for success

For election assistance and observation missions to be successful, the communication recommends taking account of the following aspects:

  • drawing up a clear mandate for the mission;
  • always starting with an exploratory mission;
  • setting up an EU field elections unit with a core team responsible for coordination;
  • sending technical assistance into the field sufficiently early;
  • producing regular mission reports;
  • training all EU observers using a common training programme;
  • working with other organisations in order to train observers;
  • deploying long-term observers 2 months before election day and keeping them in place until any electoral disputes have been resolved;
  • ensuring that all observers abide by the code of conduct.

In order to assess the outcome of an election, the communication advocates the use of the criteria set out in Annex III.

To improve visibility of the EU’s electoral activities, the communication proposes:

  • providing information on these activities on the Internet;
  • establishing good relations with the media;
  • using relevant publicity material; and
  • incorporating visibility into agreements with other partners.


For more information, see:


Election assistance: technical and material support for electoral processes, including assistance in establishing the elections’ legal framework, in registering political parties or voters and in providing civic education and training for local observers and journalists. Election assistance is complementary to election observation.
Election observation: intended to:
  • consolidate democracy,
  • legitimise electoral processes,
  • enhance public confidence,
  • deter fraud,
  • strengthen respect for human rights and
  • contribute to the resolution of conflict.

It is based on the principles of full coverage, impartiality, transparency and professionalism.


Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union – Title I – Common provisions – Article 2 (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 17)

Communication from the Commission on EU election assistance and observation (COM(2000) 191 final, 11.4.2000)


European Parliament resolution of 8 May 2008 on EU election observation missions: objectives, practices and future challenges (OJ C 271E, 12.11.2009, pp. 31-38)

Council Conclusions on election assistance and observation — Development Council press release, pp. I-V, 31 May 2001 (Not published in the OJ)

European Parliament resolution on the Commission communication on EU Election Assistance and Observation (OJ C 343, 5.12.2001, pp. 270-277)

last update 02.03.2018