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EU Citizenship: Commission proposes 12 new actions to boost citizens' rights

European Commission - IP/13/410   08/05/2013

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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 8 May 2013

EU Citizenship: Commission proposes 12 new actions to boost citizens' rights

The European Commission has today unveiled a new push to reinforce EU citizens’ rights with a series of actions to tackle obstacles that citizens still face in their everyday life. The 2013 EU Citizenship Report sets out 12 concrete ways to help Europeans make better use of their EU rights, from looking for a job in another EU country to ensuring stronger participation in the democratic life of the Union. Key proposals include making it easier for people to work and do training in another EU country; reducing excessive paperwork for EU citizens living and travelling in the EU; and eliminating barriers to cross-border shopping. During the European Year of Citizens the EU Citizenship Report is the Commission's answer to the numerous calls from EU citizens who have shared problems they have experienced when travelling, moving to or shopping in another EU country.

EU citizenship is the crown jewel of European integration. It is to Political Union what the euro is to our Economic and Monetary Union. Today's Citizenship Report places EU citizens centre stage," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. “Ever since it was first included in the Treaties in 1993, EU citizenship has been evolving - but it is not yet mature: people still face obstacles exercising their rights in everyday life. We receive over 1 million enquiries every year from citizens on issues that relate to their rights. That is why today we are taking action to reinforce citizens’ rights in everyday situations, like looking for a job, shopping online or taking part in European decision-making.

Two decades since the Treaty of Maastricht laid down EU citizenship rights, these rights are not always a reality in people’s everyday lives. This has been confirmed by EU citizens in a wide-ranging public consultation on EU Citizenship (IP/12/461) where 12 000 EU citizens gave examples of bureaucratic hurdles they still face for example when exercising their right to free movement. Eurobarometer surveys on citizenship (IP/13/119) and electoral rights (IP/13/215), a series of direct Citizens' dialogues with national and European politicians as well as a large numbers of queries from the public about EU rights received through the Europe Direct information service confirm that more needs to be done. The Commission is responding to these concerns.

In the context of the financial and sovereign debt crisis, hurdles for citizens who want to look for qualified jobs in other EU countries or which deter them from buying goods across the internal market, need to be addressed. This is all the more relevant as the EU moves towards a genuine Economic and Monetary Union with a political union on the horizon.

The EU Citizenship Report 2013 announces 12 new actions in six areas to strengthen citizens' rights (see Annex for the full list of the 12 actions):

  1. Removing obstacles for workers, students and trainees in the EU

  1. by looking into extending the right of jobseekers to receive unemployment benefits from their home country while they are looking for a job in another EU member state beyond the current mandatory three months to increase the mobility of workers; and

  2. by setting out a quality framework for traineeships that specifies the rights and obligations of the parties making sure that traineeships are not used as a form of 'unpaid employment'

  1. Cutting red tape in the Member States

  1. by facilitating the acceptance of identity and residence documents when citizens want to travel or have to prove their identity in another EU country, including through optional uniform European documents that citizens could use in all EU countries; and

  2. by making it easier to recognise roadworthiness certificates for cars cross-border in the EU

  1. Protecting the more vulnerable in the EU

  1. by developing an EU disability card to be mutually recognised across the EU making sure that the 80 million disabled people can also take advantage of the benefits that come with national cards (for example access to transport, tourism, culture and leisure) when exercising their right to free movement; and

  2. by proposing a set of laws to further strengthen citizens' procedural rights, especially those of children and vulnerable citizens, when they are suspected or accused of a crime

  1. Eliminating barriers to shopping in the EU

  1. by improving rules to settle cross-border disputes over small amounts when buying products online or in another EU country; the European Small Claims procedure can help consumers get their money back swiftly; and

  2. by working on an online tool that makes the purchase of digital products more transparent and that allows citizens to compare deals cross-border

  1. Promoting the availability of targeted and accessible information about the EU

  1. by making e-training tools available to local administrations and providing citizen-friendly information about who to turn to to solve their problems.

  1. Strengthening citizens’ participation in the democratic process

  1. by working on ways to enable EU citizens to keep their right to vote in national elections in their country of origin. The practice in some Member States of depriving their citizens of their right to vote once they move to another EU country effectively is tantamount to punishing citizens for having exercised their right to free movement.

The EU Citizenship Report forms the centrepiece of the 2013 European Year of Citizens and also takes stock of progress since the first Citizenship Report in 2010 (see IP/10/1390 and MEMO/10/525) - with the Commission delivering on the 25 action items announced in October 2010.

The initiative comes as the Commission adopts the latest report on the application of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights (see IP/13/411 and MEMO/13/411), including citizens’ rights such as the right to personal data protection. It is also accompanied by a report looking at progress made towards more effective EU citizenship, a track-record of enforcing EU citizens' rights, such as free movement, political rights or consular protection, and fighting discrimination on the grounds of nationality.

Background

EU citizens still face obstacles in their everyday lives when exercising their right to free movement. The Commission is listening to these concerns and acting to strengthen citizens’ rights. The EU Citizenship Report 2013 comes at a timely moment during the debate about the future of the European Union. Deeper integration has to go hand in hand with greater democratic legitimacy.

With the 2013 Citizenship report, the Commission is also taking stock of achievements recently made and identifying remaining obstacles which prevent citizens from making full use of their rights.

The first EU Citizenship Report was adopted in 2010 with a list of 25 actions to address problems faced by EU citizens when exercising their rights. Since then the Commission has been working to deliver on its promises by:

  • Strengthening the rights of around 75 million crime victims a year across the EU (IP/11/585);

  • Cutting red tape for 3.5 million people registering a car in another EU country each year, with savings of €1.5 billion (IP/12/349);

  • Banning extra credit card charges and pre-ticked boxes for online shoppers (MEMO/11/675);

  • Reinforcing fair trial rights for all EU citizens, applying to around 8 million proceedings a year (IP/12/430, IP/10/1305);

  • Clarifying property rights for Europe's 16 million international couples (IP/11/320).

For more information

MEMO/13/409

Press Pack:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/citizen/news/130508_en.htm

European Commission – EU Citizenship:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/index_en.htm

2013 European Year of Citizens:

http://europa.eu/citizens-2013

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)

ANNEX: Twelve new key actions to improve EU citizens' lives


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