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Brussels, 17 December 2013
European Parliament committee backs Commission proposal to slash red tape in the Member States
A key European Parliament committee has today supported proposals by the European Commission to do away with bureaucratic rubber-stamping exercises for citizens and businesses in Europe (IP/13/355). Currently, citizens who move to another EU country have to spend time and money demonstrating that their public documents from another Member State (such as birth or marriage certificates) are authentic. This involves the so-called 'Apostille' certificate used by public authorities as proof that public documents are genuine. Businesses operating across EU borders in the EU’s Single Market are also affected as they are often required to produce a number of certified public documents in order to prove their legal status when operating cross-border. Today the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) voted by 23 in favour to 1 against to endorse the Commission’s proposal to scrap the Apostille stamp and a further series of arcane administrative requirements Member States still require for certifying public documents for people living and working in other Member States.
“EU citizens should be able to live, move and work in other EU countries as easily as they can in their home countries. If citizens can move freely, their documents should too,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. “Bureaucratic requirements such as the Apostille stamp date from another era. This reform will simplify people's and companies’ lives when they exercise their free movement rights in the EU. I want to thank the JURI Committee and its rapporteur, Mr Rapkay, for their support and will continue working with the European Parliament and Ministers in the Council to get this proposal adopted swiftly.”
Under the Commission’s proposal, citizens and businesses would no longer have to provide costly 'legalised' versions or 'certified' translations of official documents when, for example, registering a house or company, getting married, or requesting a residence card. Twelve categories of public documents1 would automatically be exempted from formalities such as 'Apostille' and 'legalisation' – which are currently required for around 1.4 million documents within the EU each year. Abolishing these requirements will save citizens and businesses in the EU up to 330 million euro, not counting the time saved and inconvenience avoided.
The new rules will not, however, have any impact on the recognition of the content or the effects of the documents concerned. The new rules will only help prove the authenticity of the public document, for example whether a signature is authentic and the capacity in which the public office holder is signing. This will have to be mutually accepted between Member States without any additional certification requirements.
Next steps: To become law the proposed Regulation will now have to be adopted by the European Parliament in a full plenary vote, at the beginning of 2014, and by the Council of Ministers using the "ordinary legislative procedure" (co-decision).
According to a Eurobarometer survey in October 2010, 73% of Europeans believe that measures should be taken to improve the circulation of public documents between EU countries.
In response, in 2010, the European Commission published a Green Paper on promoting the free movement of public documents, and held a public consultation on the possible means to facilitate the use and acceptance of public documents.
The new rules will simplify formalities by:
The Commission also proposed a further simplification tool: optional multilingual standardised forms in all EU official languages that citizens and businesses could request instead of and under the same conditions as national public documents concerning birth, death, marriage, registered partnership and legal status and representation of a company or other undertaking (see Annex for examples). This would particularly help to save on translation costs, since the attraction of such an option is that it frees citizens and businesses from having to worry about translations. The design of these forms has taken inspiration from specific international conventions.
The proposal also provides for safeguards against fraud. If a national authority has reasonable doubt about a particular document, Member States will be able to check its authenticity with the issuing authorities through the existing Internal Market Information System (IMI).
For more information
European Commission – civil justice policy:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU
ANNEX: EXAMPLES OF OPTIONAL MULTINLINGUAL FORMS
The simplification will apply to public documents concerning name, marriage and registered partnership, birth, parenthood, adoption, death, residence, citizenship and nationality, real estate, legal status and representation of a company or undertaking, intellectual property rights or documents proving the absence of a criminal record.