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Reports on citizenship of the Union

Published every three years, the European Commission's reports on citizenship of the Union assess the application of Community rules on citizens' rights and propose concrete measures to further their complete and effective implementation.

ACT

Second Report from the European Commission of 27 May 1997 on Citizenship of the Union, presented to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions [COM(97)230 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The second report follows up the Commission's first report on citizenship of the Union [COM(93) 0702 final], which was presented on 21 December 1993 in accordance with former Article 8 E, shortly after the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty on 1 November 1993. The Commission reviews the new rights introduced by the Maastricht Treaty in terms of European citizenship, then discusses the rights conferred prior to the Treaty concerning free movement, and lastly stresses the need to improve citizens' awareness of and access to their rights.

There are three categories of new rights:

  • the right to vote and stand for election in local and European elections;
  • the right to diplomatic and consular protection;
  • the right to out-of-court methods for the protection of citizens' rights.

With regard to the right to vote and to stand for election, this now applies to all citizens of the Union residing in another Member State of which they are not nationals, as far as European Parliament elections are concerned. However, this was far from being the case in 1996 for local elections. By 1 January 1997 only eight Member States had fully implemented Directive (EC) No 94/80 on municipal elections. In order to counteract the low participation rate recorded at the European elections of 1994 and of 1995/1996 in the new Member States, the Commission proposes two measures:

  • improving the information to be provided in good time to citizens, through campaigns such as 'Citizens First';
  • promoting the participation of citizens in the political life of their country of residence.

With regard to the right to diplomatic and consular protection, this right founded on the provisions of the Treaty (Decision of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of 19 December 1995 introducing this protection and Decision of 6 July 1996 on the establishment of an emergency travel document) had not yet been introduced in 1997.

Lastly, the out-of-court methods for the protection of EU citizens' rights comprise two parts:

  • the right to petition the European Parliament;
  • the right to apply to the Ombudsman.

The right to petition, which is open to all persons legally residing in the Union, whether or not citizens of one of the EU Member States, generates a constant influx of petitions. Between the end of the 1993/1994 parliamentary term and the middle of the 1996/1997 parliamentary year, a total of 4 131 petitions were addressed to the European Parliament.

The first European Ombudsman, Jacob Söderman of Finland, was appointed on 12 July 1995 and performed the duties of ombudsman until 2003. From the time he was appointed until the end of December 1996, he received 1 140 complaints. In 1996, he initiated three investigations on information and transparency. On 1 April 2003, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros took up the post of European Ombudsman.

In the second part, the report points out that citizens still face difficulties when exercising their right to freedom of movement and of residence, primarily as a result of incorrect or particularly restrictive administrative procedures. Furthermore, the right of residence is still subject to different provisions which apply to different categories of citizens, since the secondary Community legislation consists of two Regulations and nine Directives, excluding the provisions on social security.

However, as the EC Treaty does not provide for a common legal basis, it is not possible to adopt a single set of rules. Therefore, the Commission recommends revising Article 8 A (now Article 18), upgrading it from a supplementary legal basis to a specific legal basis for free movement and right of residence.

Lastly, with regard to citizens' awareness of and access to their rights, the Commission proposes two measures:

  • a permanent effort to provide citizens with simple and factual information about their rights ('Citizens First' initiative launched on 29 November 1996, useful guides, an information service);
  • a greater effort on the part of the Commission and the Member States in order to ensure effective enforcement of these rights (contact points for citizens in the Member States, increased cooperation among national administrations in respect of citizens' rights, setting up of bodies for the amicable settlement of problems, Commission follow-ups on the application of Community law and complaints).

RELATED ACTS

Fifth Report from the European Commission of 15 February 2008 on Citizenship of the Union [COM(2008)85 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

In this report, which covers the period from 1 May 2004 to 30 June 2007, the Commission takes stock of the application of existing provisions on citizenship of the Union and examines whether it is necessary to strengthen the rights of the Union's citizens.

The Commission focuses on the 'legal core' of citizens' rights - the right to move and reside freely within the EU, the right to vote and stand as a candidate in municipal elections in the Member State of residence, the right to diplomatic and consular protection in third countries, the right to petition the European Parliament and the right to apply to the Ombudsman.

In particular the right to freedom of movement and the right to freedom of residence seem to have been applied inequitably throughout the EU. This would appear to have been confirmed by the number of questions raised as the result of alleged violations of these rights which citizens have reported to the Commission. However, the SOLVIT network provides an effective means of resolving citizens' cross-border problems pragmatically and quickly (within ten weeks). This network was set up in July 2002 by the Commission and the Member States. While monitoring the uniform application of Community law by the Member States, the Commission also encourages the use of alternative mechanisms to find effective, successful and less cumbersome ways of resolving disputes and dealing with citizens' problems. 

Fourth Report from the European Commission of 26 October 2004 on Citizenship of the Union [COM(2004)695 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

In this fourth report on Union citizenship covering the period from 1 May 2001 to 30 April 2004, the Commission concludes that the Community rules on the rights of Union citizens are on the whole applied correctly and without serious problems. The Member States have implemented the secondary legislation in this area and remaining problems are due to incorrect application and practices rather than to the failure of national legislation to comply with Community legislation.

The Commission stresses that information concerning the proper interpretation of Community rules and the proper application of citizens' rights is crucial. Information and communication activities must be targeted both at Union citizens and at national authorities administering the issues relating to the rights in question.

With a view to strengthening the rights of Union citizens, the Commission:

  • draws attention to complaints related to the fact that Union citizens who are not nationals of their Member State of residence do not have the right to vote or to stand as a candidate in national or regional elections in that Member State;
  • bearing in mind that the principle of the free movement of persons has been extended to Switzerland and is also guaranteed in the European Economic Area, suggests that citizens of the contracting parties be granted the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in local elections in their country of residence;
  • examines the possibility of harmonising standards and procedures governing the repatriation of mortal remains.

Third Report from the European Commission of 7 September 2001 on Citizenship of the Union [COM(2001)506 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The third report focuses on the rights provided for in the second part of the EC Treaty. However, it includes two significant advances in areas closely related to citizenship, the proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (at the Nice European Council in December 2000) and the adoption by the Commission of the proposal for a Directive on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

Report from the European Commission on Citizenship of the Union [COM(93)702 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 04.04.2008

See also

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