Expats are becoming a political force to be reckoned with. As of 2015, the number of international migrants worldwide stood at almost 244 million (or 3.3 percent of the world’s population), making them an attractive target group for many industries except for politics. This year, however, saw a surprising turn of events on the political stage – some very smart politicians have decided to appeal to their nationals living abroad seeking expats’ support in coming elections.
France – Emmanuel Macron Woos French Expats in the UK
Last week France’s centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron tried to win heads and hearts of thousands of expat voters living in London.
Doubtful about their future in London after Brexit, many highly skilled French professionals living in the UK are considering going back to France once Britain leaves the EU. This is a 300,000 audience of young, well-educated, aspiring and geographically mobile people. Their support can help Mr Macron reach the second-round presidential run-off in May and maybe even win the presidency.
While in London Mr Macron promised to French Londoners that he would make France attractive for talented and skilled people, ease up the rules and bureaucracy that makes starting a business in France hard, and encourage risk-taking and enterprise.
Netherlands’ Keij Promises to Stand Up for Dutch Expats
In less than three weeks the Netherlands is electing a new lower house of parliament. An unusually high number – 77,500 – of Dutch nationals who either live abroad or will be away on holiday have signed up to vote on March 15. In comparison, in 2012 fewer than 50,000 Dutch expats registered to vote.
They have their favourite – Eelco Keij, who campaigns for the rights of Dutch expats and says both his and other parties cannot afford to longer disregard the Dutch abroad.
‘Both politically and in electoral terms, they are now a factor of importance,’ said Keij, who is hoping to get elected on preference votes.
Eelco Keij presents himself as “the international candidate”. He recently published his own manifesto, Fortunate Connections, in which he makes a case for political representation of Dutch foreign nationals in The Hague, the seat of the Dutch government.
Keij argues that it is important for Dutch politicians to acknowledge 500,000 Dutch expats, their rights and interests. There are many issues and problems in which expats need strong political representation: citizenship, work of consulates, dual nationality (which is not allowed under the current rules), Dutch education abroad, Dutch pension payments, taxation on Dutch property, etc.
“Mostly, I want to emphasize under-utilization of Dutch social and economic capital. Countries like Italy and Switzerland nurture the relationships with ‘their’ people because of the favorable economic impact. My manifesto is primarily written for the perspective of the politician in The Hague, indicating that Dutch people abroad are a strong economic asset for The Netherlands, even when they don’t pay direct taxes to the country anymore”.
British Expats Need a Strong Political Representation, Too
The 5 million Britons living abroad represent a bigger force than French and Dutch expats put together, and yet they have very little political support at home.
With so many urgent issues such as frozen pensions, reciprocal healthcare arrangements, freedom of movement and legal status, repatriation, taxes, voting rights and, of course, Brexit, – Britons abroad feel neglected and left in limbo by their own government. It’s high time politicians remembered expats and put their problems on the agenda.