Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Title III, Article 21:

  1. Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.

If we follow the text's logic, does this mean setting a minimum voting age is discriminatiory as it would disenfranchize a certain demographic (i.e. people under 18 in most member states)?

I know that this is not a controversial topic right now, but I'm still quite bothered by the implication of the wording on a theoretical level. For instance, it might mean age-restriction for marriage is also discriminatory (thus child marriage is okay). Surely, that can't be the case.

Am I understanding the text correctly? If yes, how would EU legal system handle this contradiction?

  • Generally speaking restriction of rights in the EU is often subject to a balancing test despite the"shall be prohibited" wording of the Charter, which in a US context might be read differently. Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 7:01
  • Some even speak of the "paramountcy of the proportionality test and the technique of balancing" in the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 7:06
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    As far as I know, at least in Hungary (member of the EU) voting right is not directly tied to actual age, but of "being of legal age". By default people became of legal age at their 18th birthday, but if someone marries while under 18 (it's legal with some restrictions), they automatically become "of legal age". So this "discrimination" is technically not based purely on age, at least in Hungary. Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 9:29
  • @user2414208 That is directly at odds with the Austrian laws, where legal age is 18, but the minimum age for active voting is 16. Also, there is a pending decision (Nr. 27) at the German Constitutional Court (2 BvC 62/19 u.a.) about that question.
    – ccprog
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


Restrictions related to the age - based maturity are very widespread. You can drive moped from certain age, later a big motorbike and then get ATPL to fly an airliner. There are age limits for allowing to buy alcohol, to be elected as President of USA and to join Wagner troops as a mercenary - everywhere.

These restrictions are likely seen as something different than "discrimination by age". Otherwise probably there is no country in the world that would not violate them.

  • I agree that it would be pretty absurd to take it to logical extreme. But if these restrictions are not categorized as "discrimination by age" what would they be? I'm asking from a purely legal perspective, as in, how do you make the laws align without contradiction. Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 7:28
  • It may be possible to find something in the recent discussions on restrictions to carry guns that exist and being questioned. So far I cannot find the source with good argumentation.
    – Stančikas
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 7:31

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