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EU citizenship


Your rights – and how to use them

All nationals of an EU country are automatically citizens of the EU. Being an EU citizen gives you some important extra rights and responsibilities.

Your EU citizenship rights

These are spelled out in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 20) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Chapter V).

Need help exercising your rights?

To raise awareness of EU citizenship among both the public and national authorities, the Commission periodically publishes an EU Citizenship Report .

Moving & living in the EU

As an EU citizen, you have the right to live and move within the EU without being discriminated against on the grounds of your nationality.

You may set up home in any EU country if you meet certain conditions, depending on whether you are working, studying, etc.

Participating in the political life of the EU

Hand placing an envelope in a ballot box with the EU flag in the background © iStockphoto

All EU citizens have the right to vote in the European Parliament elections.

Every EU citizen has the right to vote and stand as a candidate in both municipal and European elections in whichever EU country they live, under the same conditions as nationals.

Petitions & complaints

You can petition the European Parliament to address either a personal need or grievance, or a matter of public interest. The subject must fall within the EU’s sphere of activity and must concern you directly.

For grievances about misconduct by an EU institution or body, you can complain to the European Ombudsman.

You can also contact EU institutions and advisory bodies directly, and are entitled to a reply in any of the EU’s 24 official languages.

Consular protection

European banknotes and a passport in a wallet © iStockphoto

With a valid passport or identity card, EU citizens can live in another EU country for up to 3 months.

When in a non-EU country and in need of help, as an EU citizen you are entitled to consular protection from the embassy or consulate of any other EU country. You can expect assistance in situations including death, accident or illness, arrest or detention, violent crime and repatriation.

Citizens’ initiative

The European Citizens’ Initiative allows you to ask the European Commission to prepare a proposal for a legal act. The petition must be signed by at least 1 million people from at least one quarter of the EU's countries.

Active participation in the civic life of the EU

Various initiatives encourage citizens and organisations to play an active role in the EU: 

  • Europe for Citizens programme – funds initiatives to encourage debate & networking on the bloc's history, identity and aims, and gather input on the future direction of the EU.
  • Fundamental Rights & Citizenship – programme promoting the rights of EU citizens.
  • European Year of Citizens (2013) – in 2014, some activities will continue, this time with more focus on the European elections (22-25 May).
  • the Commission regularly launches public consultations on initiatives it is planning, in which every European can have their say.
  • Citizens' Dialogues – held in cities across the EU, to listen to and exchange with citizens.
  • Civil society contacts – regular Commission interaction ("structured dialogues") with civil society in various fields of activity.

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Justice, citizenship, fundamental rights

Published in October 2013

This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series


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