Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: FR DE IT


Brussels, 28 November 2006

Green Paper on diplomatic and consular protection for citizens of the Union in third countries

Aim of the Green Paper

The aim of this Green Paper is to launch a wide-ranging public debate on ideas for strengthening the right of Union citizens to Community diplomatic and consular protection, enshrined in Article 20 of the EC Treaty. This states that if a citizen of the Union is in a third country in which the Member State of which he is a national does not have an embassy or a consular post, he is entitled to protection by the authorities of any Member State represented on the spot, on the same conditions as the nationals of that State. This right is formulated in the same terms in Article 46 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Recent emergencies in Asia (the tsunami) and Lebanon have shown that this is now a particularly high profile issue. Even if the right to diplomatic and consular protection is not confined to crisis situations but also applies to individual cases, these events have highlighted the need to reinforce the Community’s action to apply this fundamental right of Union citizens.

One of the reasons for launching this debate with the Green Paper is that the Community acquis in the field of consular and diplomatic protection remains very limited and is coming up for review. Decision 95/553/EC[1] outlined a number of possible interventions by the Member States in particular cases (arrest or detention, serious accident or illness, victims of serious crime, death, relief and repatriation of distressed citizens) and laid down procedures linked to the financial advances to be made to citizens in difficulty. The decision is due to be reviewed in 2007.

The need for protection is particularly acute because of the sharp increase in the number of trips made by EU citizens to third countries, coupled with the fact that the Member States do not all have a permanent and accessible representation in every third country. For example, there are currently only three countries in which all Member States are represented: the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation and the USA.

At the same time, a recent Eurobarometer poll revealed that EU citizens are unaware of this right and have high expectations of Europe in this regard. The findings show that half of those residing in the EU expect to travel to a non-EU country in the next three years, and only 23% of them know about the possibilities offered by Article 20 of the EC Treaty. Moreover, 17% think that it is possible to seek protection from the Commission’s delegations.
Content of the Green Paper

The Green Paper addresses five issues :

Information for citizens. The Commission proposes several measures: (i) information on the right to diplomatic and consular protection (brochures, information on the EUROPA website and the Commission delegations’ website in third countries, posters in airports, public information services); (ii) information on Member States' representation in third countries (publication and updating of contact details of the embassies and consulates of the Member States that are represented in each third country); (iii) using the passport to provide information (Commission recommendation that Member States reproduce Article 20 EC in passports); (iv) advice for travellers (joint presentation of advice).

The scope for protection for citizens. EU citizens are confronted with as many protection regimes as there are Member States (Article 20 EC simply commits each Member State to protecting EU citizens under the same conditions as it applies to its own nationals). The Green Paper proposes considering the possibilities of offering citizens similar protection irrespective of their nationality. In the short term it proposes including in Member States’ bilateral agreements with third counties provisions protecting Union citizens working and living in those countries; extending consular protection to Union citizens’ family members who are third country nationals, by appropriate legislative means (amending Decision 95/553/EC or a Commission proposal based on Article 22 of the Treaty); initiatives on the identification and repatriation of remains (particularly amending Decision 95/553/EC in order to include the identification and repatriation of remains); and simplifying the procedures for providing financial advances to citizens in difficulties.

Structures and resources. The Green Paper suggests setting up “common offices", initially in the Caribbean, the Balkans, the Indian Ocean and West Africa. This proposal aims to ensure that the work is fairly distributed among the Member States, given the growing number of requests for assistance or repatriation from citizens whose own country does not have any representation. The creation of common offices would help to streamline functions and save on the fixed costs of the structures of Member States' diplomatic and consular networks. In this context, the Green Paper envisages the publication of rules establishing a system whereby Member States would deputise for each other in third countries. It also proposes training measures for Member States’ officials.

The consent of the third-country authorities. A condition for the application of Article 20 EC is that third countries agree to EU citizens being allowed to receive the protection of a Member State of which they are not a national. The Member States will therefore have to enter into the requisite international negotiations to this effect. The Green Paper proposes inserting a consent clause in mixed agreements concluded with third countries and, in the long term, examining the possibilities of getting the consent of third countries for the Union to exercise a duty of protection, via the Commission delegations, in cases relating to Community competence.
Information campaign

The Commission will shortly be launching an information campaign with posters informing Union citizens of their right to diplomatic and consular protection in third countries (putting up posters in airports, travel agencies, etc.).

A number of national associations of travel agencies have signed up to this initiative:

Number of agencies

Number of agencies
1 071
3 741
1 540
Czech Republic

The organisations in other countries (e.g. Sweden and the Netherlands) have asked for an electronic version of the poster to put on their websites.

The campaign will not be restricted to these countries: other organisations will be targeted soon (e.g. national passport offices).

Contributions to the public debate launched by the Green Paper should be sent to the following address: by 31 March 2007. The contributions received will be published on "Your Voice in Europe".

The final stage of the dialogue will take the form of a hearing in which all interested parties will be invited to participate.
The Green Paper will be available at:

Following the hearing, practical initiatives on the right to diplomatic and consular protection will be incorporated in a strategic initiative, as announced by the Commission in its Work Programme for 2007. It could be submitted together with the 5th report on the citizenship of the Union, which is due to be presented in the second half of 2007.

[1] Decision of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council of 19 December 1995 regarding protection for citizens of the European Union by diplomatic and consular representations (OJ L 314, 28/12/1995 p. 73).

Side Bar