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Dismantling the obstacles to EU citizens’ rights

This report launches a debate on EU citizens’ rights by describing the main obstacles to the enjoyment of these rights across national borders and by proposing solutions for overcoming these obstacles.

ACT

EU citizenship report 2010 of 27 October 2010 – Dismantling the obstacles to EU citizens’ rights [COM(2010) 603 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The report is a strategic initiative of the Commission and presents the main obstacles European Union (EU) citizens continue to face in their daily lives when exercising their EU rights across national borders. It also provides an overview of the measures the Commission intends to take to overcome these obstacles. In parallel with this report, the Commission also adopted the communication “Towards a Single Market Act”, which focuses on the obstacles that consumers, entrepreneurs, workers, etc. face when acting within the single market.

The report identifies the main obstacles that EU citizens may still confront in their private, academic or professional life, when consuming goods and services or in their role as political actors. It proposes concrete solutions to be implemented by the Commission in the next years. A complete list of the 25 legislative actions and other measures aimed at facilitating EU citizens’ daily lives can be found at the end of the report.

Citizens as private individuals

To eliminate the main obstacles EU citizens face in cross-border situations in their private lives, the Commission will propose a series of measures aimed at:

  • making it easier for international couples to know which courts have jurisdiction and which law applies to their property rights;
  • facilitating the free circulation of civil status documents and enabling citizens to easily find multilingual information on justice via the European e-Justice web portal;
  • improving the protection of victims of crime and of persons suspected and accused in criminal proceedings;
  • simplifying the formalities and conditions for the registration of cars previously registered in another EU country and finding solutions to double registration taxes or discriminatory tax treatment of cars;
  • facilitating access to cross-border health care and to eHealth technologies;
  • ensuring that EU citizens whose country of origin does not have a consulate in a non-EU country are effectively assisted by the consulate of any other EU country.

Citizens as consumers

When buying holiday packages or when travelling within the EU as passengers or as tourists, citizens are often not aware of their rights or are confronted with situations where these rights are not sufficiently enforced. Persons with disabilities often face additional difficulties, notably in accessing transportation, information and other goods and services.

EU citizens are still hesitant to purchase goods and services across national borders, mainly because they lack confidence in consumer protection rules (currently, there is no single set of EU-wide consumer protection rules) or are insufficiently aware of the means of redress available to them.

To remove these barriers, the Commission will take a series of initiatives in order to:

  • modernise current rules for the protection of consumers buying package travel;
  • ensure a set of common rights for passengers travelling by any transport mode;
  • propose an EU Disability Strategy 2010-20;
  • increase consumer confidence in tourism products;
  • set out in an understandable way the rights of users of online services;
  • facilitate fast and inexpensive out-of-court resolution of consumer problems (such as Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms and mediation).

Citizens as residents, students and professionals

Due to some EU countries’ incorrect application of EU law on EU citizens’ right to free movement within the Union, as well as the cumbersome administrative procedures that they can sometimes impose, citizens are faced with particular difficulties with regard to entry, residence and access to various kinds of benefits. Further obstacles hindering work abroad relate, among others, to EU countries’ divergent social security systems and to complex cooperation between national social security institutions.

To tackle these problems, the Commission will:

  • strictly enforce EU rules on free movement and step up dissemination of information to EU citizens;
  • improve the provision of information to citizens on their social security rights, whilst developing a new system of electronic exchange of data to reduce delays and difficulties in the exchange of social security.

Citizens as political actors

EU citizens participate less and less in European Parliament elections, which is partly attributed to the lack of information on how the EU can impact their lives. Furthermore, the conditions that a few EU countries impose for nationals of other EU countries living in their territory to vote and stand as candidates in these elections or for founding or becoming members of political parties can pose an obstacle to the exercise of citizens’ voting rights.

To eliminate these obstacles, the Commission will ask EU countries to ensure that:

  • EU citizens’ voting rights in their EU country of residence are fully enforced;
  • EU citizens can be members of or found political parties in their EU country of residence;
  • EU citizens are duly informed of their electoral rights.

Information on EU citizens’ rights

Citizens are familiar with the term “citizen of the EU”, but are often not aware of the precise content of the rights that EU citizenship brings them, and are thus prevented from fully making use of these rights. Even though there is already a wealth of EU-level information and problem-solving networks on citizens’ rights, many citizens either are not aware of these networks or are frustrated because information is distributed among multiple sources and therefore hard to find.

To strengthen citizens' awareness of their rights as EU citizens and the meaning of these rights in their daily lives, the Commission is taking a series of measures with a view to:

  • further developing the Your Europe web portal into an easy to use one-stop-shop information point on the rights of citizens, accessible via the web and a free phone number;
  • streamlining its information networks in EU countries so that citizens easily find the right contact point at national, regional and local level;
  • designating 2013 as the European Year of Citizens;
  • making it simpler for citizens to use the financial support provided by EU level programmes such as “Europe for Citizens (2007-13)” and “Fundamental rights and citizenship (2007-13)”;
  • strengthening independent, professional and high-quality reporting on European affairs.

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee under Article 25 TFEU of 27 October 2010 on progress towards effective EU Citizenship 2007-2010 [COM(2010) 602 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Report from the Commission of 27 October on the election of Members of the European Parliament (1976 Act as amended by Decision 2002/772/EC, Euratom) and on the participation of European Union citizens in the elections for the European Parliament in the Member State of residence (Directive 93/109/EC) [COM(2010) 605 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 09.02.2011

See also

  • European Commission Directorate-General for Justice website on EU citizenship
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