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Public Documents: European Parliament backs Commission proposal to slash red tape in the Member States

European Commission - MEMO/14/76   04/02/2014

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European Commission

MEMO

Strasbourg, 4 February 2014

Public Documents: European Parliament backs Commission proposal to slash red tape in the Member States

The European Parliament has today voted with an overwhelming majority (573 for, 62 against and 44 abstentions) to back the European Commission’s proposal to do away with bureaucratic rubber-stamping exercises for citizens and businesses in the Member States (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. 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's vote in the European Parliament backs the Commission's initiative to do away with a series of arcane administrative requirements, such as the Apostille stamp, which Member States still require to certify public documents for people living and working in other EU countries.

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, so should their documents” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. “Bureaucratic requirements such as the Apostille stamp are relics from a different era. The reform will simplify procedures and safe citizens and companies troubles and money. I want to thank the European Parliament and its rapporteur, Bernhard Rapkay, for their support. I will continue working with the European Parliament and Ministers in the Council – for a swift adoption of this proposal and against any attempts that seek to re-introduce requirements for stamps for certain public documents.

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. Abolishing these requirements will save citizens and businesses in the EU up to 330 million euro, not counting the time saved and inconvenience avoided. 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.

The vote of the European Parliament confirms the rationale of the Commission's proposal, and introduces changes in the following respects:

  1. Scope: the list of public documents is expanded from 12 to 20 and includes documents from EU authorities (in addition to documents issued by Member States as proposed by the Commission). Documents on social security, driver licences and immigration status are added to the list, among others. The greater number of documents covered will increase further the expected benefits for citizens and businesses.

  2. European Union standard forms (see example in the annex): The European Parliament expands the list of optional standard forms proposed by the Commission, from five to 16. The list now includes, among others, standard forms on citizenship and nationality, absence of a criminal record, residence, educational record, and disability.

  3. Translations: authorities can request a certified translation of public documents only in cases concerning real estate, companies and other legal persons. In respect of other kinds of public documents, non-certified translations are to be accepted.

The new rules will have no impact on the recognition of the content or the effects of the documents concerned. They 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: Today’s plenary vote by the European Parliament follows a positive opinion on the initiative from the Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee (MEMO/13/1167).To become law the proposed Regulation will now have to be adopted by the Council of Ministers using the "ordinary legislative procedure" (co-decision).

Background

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 proposed will simplify formalities by:

  1. Abolishing the formalities of 'legalisation' and 'Apostille';

  2. Doing away with the need to present a certified copy together with the original public document and, instead, allow for non-certified copies to be presented together with the originals;

  3. Ensuring that non-certified translations of public documents issued by the authorities of other Member States are accepted.

  4. Providing optional multilingual EU standard forms.

  5. Improving administrative cooperation between the Member States to help fight against fraud.

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). 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 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

MEMO/13/370

Press Pack: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/civil/news/130424_en.htm

European Commission – civil justice policy:

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

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

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

ANNEX: EXAMPLES OF OPTIONAL MULTINLINGUAL FORMS

1 :

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.


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