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Election observation, a mission for democracy

Elections are the defining basis of a functioning democracy. The European Union believes that actions supporting the right to participate in free and fair elections can make a major contribution to peace, security and conflict prevention around the world, particularly in fragile, post-conflict or developing regions.

An EU observer at work at a polling station in Senegal in 2012.

EU support for democratic elections takes the form of electoral assistance projects and EU election observation missions (EOMs). Under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, FPI, working closely with the European External Action Service's Democracy Support and Elections Division, finances and prepares EU missions to observe and assess elections in partner countries, with a view to ensuring that they are fair and democratic.

The annual budget for election observation is approximately EUR 38 million. Up to 10 large missions, comprising long-term and short-term observers, are deployed around the world per year.

EOMs are conducted by the European Union in third countries upon invitation of the country holding the election. They are headed by a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), who acts as the mission’s Chief Observer. The ultimate decision on where EOMs will be conducted is taken by the EU High Representative/Vice-President (HRVP) Catherine Ashton.

The regions benefiting from EU EOMs are Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

When a decision to launch an EOM is confirmed, the FPI provides all logistical and security needs for the mission through outside contractors, and selects the Deputy Chief Observer, the Core Team of experts as well as a number of long-term and short-term election observers.

FPI showcases

‘Elections in Senegal’

The presence of EU observers during the presidential elections in Senegal in February and March 2012 helped guarantee a credible electoral process. Without these EU observers, the process could have taken a very different turn. Read more FPI in action stories.

Read more