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European Commission - Press release

Going on holiday? Support is available for EU Citizens in moments of need

Brussels, 27 July 2011One in six Europeans plan to take their main holiday outside the EU this year (see Annex). Overall, Europeans take around 90 million trips outside the EU every year for business or pleasure. But what happens if you need help when abroad and your country has no embassy or consulate where you are staying? All EU citizens have certain European citizenship rights. For instance, you can request assistance from another EU country's embassy or consulate in case your own country is not represented. This right applies to everyday situations, like a passport being stolen, a serious accident or illness, as well as during crises – such as the recent events in Libya. To increase awareness of this right, all new passports in the EU will have information on consular protection printed along with the address of the EU's dedicated website providing details on where you can find help during your holidays outside the EU: 20 EU countries are doing this already or have confirmed that they will do so for all newly issued passports1. The rest is expected to follow suit soon.

"As EU citizens travel abroad this summer, it’s important that they know their rights,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner. “They have the right to ask for assistance from any EU consulate or embassy when their Member State is not represented in a country outside the EU. They have the right to protection under the same conditions as nationals of that Member State's embassy they are turning to. To reinforce these rights and ease citizens’ day-to-day consular protection, the European Commission will propose legislative measures on coordination and financial compensation in the coming six months. Consular protection is about European solidarity. Citizens should know where to get help when they are in need. They should not have to worry about administrative procedures."

Only in the United States, China and Russia do all 27 EU countries have diplomatic representation. Crises in Libya, Egypt and Yemen have highlighted the importance of consular support for stranded foreign nationals. For example, there were around 6,000 EU citizens in Libya when the crisis erupted, but only eight Member States had representations there. Consular protection is important in everyday situations too, such as a lost or stolen passport, a serious accident or illness, arrest or detention.


The EU Treaties guarantee all EU citizens the right to equal treatment regarding protection from the diplomatic and consular authorities of any Member State when they are travelling or living outside the EU and their own country is not represented (see Articles 20(2)(c) and 23 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; Article 46 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights). In almost all countries in the world, at least one EU state is not represented.

Although 62% of Europeans would expect the same kind of help from another EU country's embassy as they would get from their own, not all Europeans and consular officials are aware of the EU dimension to consular protection.

In its October 2010 Citizenship Report (see IP/10/1390 and MEMO/10/525), the Commission committed to increase the effectiveness of EU citizens’ right to be assisted in third countries through legislative measures and better information.

On 23 March 2011 the Commission launched a dedicated website – – where EU citizens travelling to a country outside the EU can find travel advice as well as the contact details of the nearest embassy (IP/11/355). The Commission will also make legal proposals before the end of this year to:

  • improve legal certainty regarding the scope, conditions and procedures related to consular protection and optimise the use of resources, including in times of crisis.

  • establish the coordination and cooperation measures necessary to facilitate day-to-day consular protection for unrepresented EU citizens and address the issue of financial compensation of consular protection in crisis situations.

For more information


EU citizens' travel plans and destinations

Source: Eurobarometer on Tourism, May 2011

Example of an EU passport with the right to consular protection

Contacts :

Matthew Newman (+32 2 296 24 06)

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

1 :

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom

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