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.
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].
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).
For further information, see the following websites:
- European Commission, Justice, Liberty and Security Directorate-General (DG): Union citizenship;
- The European Ombudsman;
- European Parliament: petitions.