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Diplomatic and consular protection

Embassies and consulates represent their respective States in third countries and protect the interests of their citizens. This Council Decision extends the protection of EU citizens outside Community territory through the diplomatic and consular representations of Member States other than their own.

ACT

Decision of the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council of 19 December 1995 regarding protection for citizens of the European Union by diplomatic and consular representations.

SUMMARY

Every citizen of the European Union located in the territory of a third country is entitled to consular and diplomatic protection in line with Article 20 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (the EC Treaty). The preamble to Decision 95/553/EC of 19 December 1995 recalls that the decision was adopted with a view to implementing the obligation set out in Article 20 of the EC Treaty (ex Article 8c).

The conditions for entitlement to diplomatic and consular protection are as follows:

  • the absence in the third country in which the citizen requesting protection is located of an accessible permanent representation (embassy, general consulate or consulate) of the citizen's own Member State;
  • the absence of an accessible Honorary Consul competent for such matters of his or her own Member State or another State representing it on a permanent basis;
  • production by the citizen requesting protection of proof of his or her nationality (passport, identity card or other document) for the diplomatic or consular representation approached.

The diplomatic or consular representation giving protection must treat the person seeking help as if he or she were a national of the Member State which it represents.

Assistance in the event of difficulties: mandatory protection

The protection must cover:

  • assistance in the event of death;
  • assistance in the event of serious accident or serious illness;
  • assistance in the event of arrest or detention;
  • assistance to victims of violent crime;
  • the relief and repatriation of distressed citizens of the Union.

This list is not exhaustive as EU citizens may find themselves in difficulties in any number of situations in countries that are not members of the EU. In so far as it is within their powers, Member States' diplomatic representations or consular agents may therefore assist citizens in other cases if they are requested to do so.

Authorised protection: financial assistance

Other than in cases of extreme urgency, no financial advance or assistance may be given or expenditure incurred on behalf of a citizen of the Union without the permission of the competent authorities of the Member State of which that citizen is a national, such permission being given either by the Foreign Ministry or by the nearest diplomatic mission.

Unless the authorities of the Member State of the applicant's nationality expressly waive this requirement, the applicant undertakes to repay the full value of any financial advance or help and expenditure incurred plus, where applicable, a consular fee notified by the competent authorities. This requirement may be waived by the authorities of the applicant's Member State.

The undertaking to repay takes the form of a document requiring the distressed national to repay to the Government of the Member State of which he is a national any costs incurred on his behalf or money paid to him.

The Government of the Member State of which the applicant is a national must reimburse all costs, on request, to the Government of the assisting Member State.

The Decision, published in 1995 in the Official Journal, entered into force on 3 May 2002 after a long process of ratification by the 15 Member States. It is to be reviewed five years after its entry into force, i.e. in 2007.

Guaranteeing protection for Community citizens

The protection of EU citizens by the embassies and consulates of the Member States has its basis in Article 20 of the EC Treaty. It is a fundamental right for all EU citizens in countries outside the Union where their own country has no representation (embassy or consulate).

Under public international law, an embassy or consulate of a State protects the citizens of that State. The added value of Article 20 of the EC Treaty compared to public international law is that, as a Union citizen, a citizen of any Member State may enjoy the diplomatic and consular protection of any other EU Member State as provided for under Article 20.

In the event of infringement of Community law by a Member State, citizens may register a complaint with the Secretariat General of the European Commission.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Decision 95/553/EC03.05.2002-OJ L 314 of 28.12.1995

RELATED ACTS

European Commission Green Paper of 28 November 2006 on diplomatic and consular protection of Union citizens in third countries [COM(2006) 712 final - Official Journal C 30 of 10.2.2007].


In 2006 the European Commission launched public consultations by publishing a Green Paper on diplomatic and consular protection of Union citizens in third countries [PDF ]. The closing date for contributions is 31 March 2007. Replies should be sent to the e-mail address indicated in the final paragraph of the Green Paper.

 
Last updated: 12.02.2007

See also

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