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European Commission

Viviane Reding

Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner

Cutting red tape for citizens and businesses

Press room statement/Brussels

24 April 2013

Today, within the European Union, people can move around freely. They study, live or work abroad in the EU. Companies also move and operate cross-border. The Commission wants to make this process as easy as possible.

As the EU's justice Commissioner I am working to build bridges between our different legal systems. I am working to remove obstacles that frustrate citizens making use of their right to free movement. And I am working to remove bureaucratic obstacles for companies, such as the costly 'exequatur' procedure, which we abolished in December – a purely administrative procedure costing on average 2,200 EUR just to rubber-stamp a court judgement in another EU country.

Today's proposal is yet another piece of the puzzle - getting rid of further unnecessary red tape, pure bureaucracy that originates in the Member States.

And I quite literally mean a 'bureaucratic piece of red tape'.

Today, when people move to another EU country and they want to register a birth, get married, register a house, or apply for a residence card or when companies want to prove their legal status, they have to jump through many a bureaucratic hoop to do so.

National authorities will ask for certified copies, certified translations and rubber stamps, like this Apostille stamp I have just shown. All that hassle just to show that your birth certificate really is your birth certificate.

These requirements date from an era when countries would only trust a public document if it came from the foreign office of another country.

But just as we trust in each other's court judgements, we should be able to trust a Member State's Registry Office issuing birth certificates, without needing their foreign office, justice ministry, or other authorities to vouch for them and the signature of their officials.

Our countries have strong and ever deeper ties with each other within the European Union, and it does not make sense to apply the same formalities and procedures to our own citizens and public authorities as we would to documents from Botswana or Kazakhstan.

All this bureaucracy and arcane procedures take time and cost money. The average cost of an Apostille is around 13 EUR and if we multiply it by the number of pages you need to authenticate you can easily arrive at a price range between 60 and 450 EUR. And it takes on average around one working week to get it.

Apostille affect an estimated 1.4 million documents a year. Just imagine the unnecessary frustration and delays. And not only for citizens. Around 7 million SMEs in Europe have cross-border trade, or investment, or contracts which mean they also have to deal with additional bureaucratic requirements for documents in their daily business.

Today we are proposing to do away with these procedures. The college just adopted a Regulation to abolish needless requirements for accepting people’s public documents as "real" in another Member State. People will no longer need to get hold of an Apostille stamp within the European Union. They will no longer have to get ‘legalised’ versions of their documents. They will no longer need to present a certified copy together with the original public document and they will no longer need certified translations. We are doing this for 12 categories of public documents – focusing on the most important ones like birth or parenthood certificates.

Of course we will still have safeguards in place against possible fraudulent use of documents to avoid any abuse of the system. We are stepping up cooperation between the Member States. In case there is any doubt about the authenticity of a document, it can easily be checked with the authorities in the Member State who issued it (through the Internal Market Information System).

And we will also cut translation costs by providing optional European standard forms for the most common documents, already translated in all EU languages, which citizens and businesses are free to request from their local authorities.

Overall, this will bring savings of up to 330 million Euros – and that is not counting the delays and inconvenience which will be avoided.

In sum, what we are doing today is very simple: we are cutting red tape - in the Member States. To make life easier for citizens and businesses and to allow them to take full advantage of all the opportunities the EU’s Single Market has to offer them.

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