EU high court rules against prisoner seeking voting rights

BRUSSELS:  The European Union's highest court on Tuesday ruled that a member state can ban prisoners guilty of serious offenses from voting in EU elections in a decision which was keenly awaited in Britain.

The European Court of Justice said that France was within its rights to deny a prisoner who had been stripped of his civil rights to keep him from voting. It said the ban was "proportionate in so far as it takes into account the nature and gravity of the criminal offense."

Britain is currently debating its position within the European Union and has been extremely sensitive to any move than could undermine national decision-making on vital issues. Britain does not allow prisoners to vote.

Prime Minister David Cameron was steadfast that it was Britain to decide on such issues.

"I'm very clear prisoners shouldn't get the vote and it's a matter for the British Parliament. The British Parliament has spoken and the Supreme Court in Britain has spoken so I'm content to leave it there," Cameron told the LBC network.

In another move of the European Court, a chief adviser argued that the EU's Commission should desist from seeking action against Britain over allegations that its welfare system discriminates against migrants and should be ruled out of line with EU law.

In a summary of the opinion, Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon said the British legislation does not impose extraordinary conditions that merit such EU action. A full ruling is expected within months, and often a judgment follows the advice of the advocate general.