Brussels, 26 May 2000
Dialogue with Citizens and Business: Commission launches new guide "Enforcing your rights in the Single European Market"
The European Commission has published a new guide called "Enforcing your rights in the Single European Market" that gives comprehensive information on what action can be taken at local, national and European level if people or businesses have problems when trying to exercise their rights to live, work, travel and study anywhere in the European Union. The guide is backed up by country-specific factsheets, which explain step-by-step how to use national systems of redress, both administrative and legal, in each individual Member State. The information is available for free, in 11 languages, on paper or on line via the Commission's Dialogue with Citizens website (http://europa.eu/citizens). It can also be requested by calling the Europe Direct call centre (see IP/00/525).
Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "The advantage of this new guide and the accompanying factsheets is that they offer very practical and easily accessible advice and information to individual citizens and businesses on what to do if they run into problems taking advantage of their rights within the Internal Market. There is little point in having rights if you do not know how to enforce them. I have been particularly encouraged by the cooperation we have received from Member States in preparing this initiative. It is after all Member States that have the primary responsibility to apply Community law and there are many advantages for citizens and businesses to seek practical redress at the level of Member States in terms of finding rapid and practical solutions."
The principal aim of the "Enforcing your Rights in the Single European Market" guide is to give a general overview of the different means of redress available to citizens and businesses at local, national and European level. The guide takes into account the fact that it is Member States that have the primarily responsibility for the implementation of Community law. Many problems, particularly those arising from national administrations not being fully aware of particular Internal Market rights, can potentially be resolved quickly and effectively by means of administrative appeals at the national level and national ombudsmen. More conflictual problems can sometimes best be tackled through national courts, which can apply Community law themselves and be used to seek injunctions and damages.
There are also networks of special Contact Points for Citizens and Business designated in every Member State, whose purpose is to try to resolve problems arising from the application of Internal Market rules on an informal, bilateral basis between Member States' administrations. The full list of these Contact Points is available from the Europa Internet site at: (http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market).
The redress guide is complemented by factsheets available in 11 EU languages concerning each Member State. These factsheets feature practical information (names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses) on which bodies can be contacted in each country for specific types of problem. For example, the factsheets answer such questions as: Does legal aid exist in Italy and how does one apply for it? What are responsibilities of Spain's ombudsman, does he have an e-mail address? Can a non-UK citizen seek redress from the National Health Service in the UK, and if so how? If all cases must be argued in Danish before Danish courts, who provides the interpretation and who pays for it?
Know your rights an expert can help you
Anyone with a specific query or problem can, online or via the Europe Direct freephone numbers, contact the Citizens' Signpost Service. The Signpost Service will refer any problem/query to a legal expert who will call back with practical advice as to how best to go about resolving the issue in a maximum of three working days.
Working in another country is the issue that has so far solicited most enquiries, in particular issues involving the recognition of diplomas (questions about requirements and restraints), residence cards (there is often confusion between the right to residence itself and the card that is evidence of it).
By subsequently analysing individual queries the Signpost Service is able to build up a picture as to how the Internal Market works in practice. It is partly on the basis of this feedback that future Internal Market policy is shaped. Feedback was pioneered in the context of Dialogue with Citizens and has been so successful that it has recently been introduced in the Dialogue with Business (see IP/00/391). The feedback system ensures that new proposals match requirements more closely be it a need for better supervision, clearer rules, or the identification of unnecessary red tape that needs to be eliminated.
Where to obtain the guide and factsheets
The "Enforcing Your Rights" guide and factsheets, together with other guides and factsheets concerning "Buying Goods and Services in the Single European Market", Studying, Training and Doing Research in Another EU Country", "Equal Rights and Opportunities for Men and Women in the EU", "Living in Another Country of the EU", Working in Another Country of the EU" and "Travelling in Another Country of the EU" and other information are all available from the Dialogue with Citizens website (http://europa.eu/citizens).
Guides and factsheets are also available by telephoning the Europe Direct call centre at the following freephone numbers:
Austria: 0800 29 68 11 Belgium: 0800 920 39 (F) 0800 920 38 (N) Denmark: 80 01 02 01 Finland: 0800 11 31 91 France: 0800 90 97 00 Germany: 0800 186 0400 Greece: 00800 321 2254 Ireland: 1 800 55 31 88 Italy: 800 876 166 Luxembourg: 0800 25 50 Netherlands: 0800 09 05 1950 Portugal: 8002 09 5 50 Spain: 900 983 198 Sweden: 020 79 49 49 United Kingdom: 0800 581 591
The Dialogue with Citizens complements the Dialogue with Business (http://europa.eu/business) and is linked to the Commission's Europe Direct initiative (http://ec.europa.eu/europedirect as from 29 May 2000).
This is the latest in a series of guides published under the "Dialogue with Citizens and Business" initiative. This Dialogue not only makes available practical information on Internal Market rights. By systematically analysing the feedback from queries, the Dialogue also enables the Commission to monitor how the Internal Market operates on the ground. This way future policies can better reflect the needs of citizens and businesses who must live, work and trade within the Internal Market.