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European Commission

Viviane Reding

Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner

EU Citizenship Report: 12 new actions to make EU citizens’ rights a reality

Press Conference/Brussels

8 May 2013

2013 is the European Year of Citizens. But it takes more than just a year to tear down barriers for our citizens. It takes concrete actions. This is what the Commission is delivering today with its second EU citizenship Report: 12 concrete actions to make life simpler for EU citizens; to boost their rights wherever they work, live travel or shop across our Union.

Over the past year, my colleagues in the Commission and I have listened to citizens: we have carried out public consultations on citizens' rights (I remember it was exactly a year ago that I launched this consultation from this podium). We have had over 1 million enquires from EU citizens on their rights over the past year; we have conducted Eurobarometer polls and we have participated in citizens' dialogues. The results: although two thirds of EU citizens feel European only one in three citizens (36%) say they are well informed about their EU rights. People also tell us that they still run into problems when working or studying, living, travelling or shopping in the EU, or when they want to use their vote to take part in the EU's decision-making process.

So today's citizenship report is not the outcome of the usual "stakeholder consultation" but it is the response to citizens' real concerns that they have shared with us. It deserves the name "EU Citizenship report".

It's another building block of a Europe for citizens. It was three years ago, we adopted the first ever EU Citizenship Report, with an action plan of 25 measures to improve EU citizens' rights and to make their daily lives easier. We have done our homework. We have delivered on all 25 of those actions. So, it's time for a new push to reinforce EU citizens’ rights: the EU Citizenship Report, adopted today, contains 12 new concrete actions to help make sure that EU citizens can effectively enjoy their rights in everyday life.

We will make it easier for citizens to work and do training in another EU country; we will reduce excessive paperwork for EU citizens living and travelling in the EU; and we will eliminate barriers to cross-border shopping.

There are over 13.6 million EU citizens living in another Member State to their own, and around 210 million travelling each year within the European Union for business or leisure. Many of the proposals in this year’s Citizenship report apply to all 500 million EU citizens.

Let me just pick some of the highlights:

  1. Enabling Europeans to benefit from job opportunities in other EU countries and contribute to the economy is at the top of what we have agreed today. Labour mobility is Europe's chance to battle the crisis. That is why we will look into updating the EU's social security coordination rules to allow citizens to continue receiving the financial support they are entitled to at home for longer than the current minimum three months period - when they want to look for a job in another EU country. In our polls, 70% of citizens considered that they should receive unemployment benefits for at least six months when looking for a job in another EU country.

Member states should also make full use of the current rules to allow jobseekers to receive their unemployment benefits for up to six months. This will be the test case for member states to show how committed they are to easing the effects of the crisis on ordinary people.

We will also make it easier for young people to find out about traineeships and apprenticeships in other EU countries through EURES – the European network of employment services – and its online jobs portal. And we want to guarantee them quality work placements by setting out a European quality framework for traineeships. Today, a traineeship contract specifying the rights and obligations of the parties is still not compulsory in one fourth of Member States. We want to make sure traineeships are not used as a form of 'unpaid employment' but that our young generations get the best out of their work experience abroad in the EU.

  1. To protect vulnerable people in the EU, we will introduce an EU disability card to be recognised across Europe. Unlike parking cards for persons with disabilities, for which a common EU model was established almost fifteen years ago, disability cards are recognised only at national level making it even more difficult of disabled people to travel. With the EU disability card the 80 million disabled people should be able to take Europe-wide advantage of the benefits that come with national disability cards, such as for example access to transport, tourism, culture and leisure.

  2. To strengthen citizens’ participation in the democratic process, we will work 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 (disenfranchisement) is effectively tantamount to punishing citizens for having exercised their right to free movement.

  3. And we will continue cutting red tape in the Member States that gives citizens bureaucratic headaches in their everyday lives. We will for example facilitate the acceptance of identity and residence documents when citizens want to travel or have to prove their identity in another EU country, including through uniform European documents which would be optional and that citizens could use in all EU countries.

And we will facilitate the recognition of roadworthiness certificates, making it easier and safer for citizens to travel to another EU country with their car. I have heard complex stories like that of a Lithuanian woman working five months a year in a hotel in an Austrian ski resort. As the annual roadworthiness test for her car was due when she was in Austria, she has to interrupt her stay and drive all the way back to Lithuania just to present her car for the periodic test. It would be so much easier if she could do the test in Austria and have the roadworthiness certificate automatically recognised in Lithuania, and elsewhere in the EU.

Conclusion: Life should be simple. That's why we are proposing today's 12 actions.

Let me finish by adding that today in parallel the Commission also adopted the latest report on the Application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which documents how, over the past year, the Charter of Fundamental Rights has been put into practice: by EU institutions, by European and by national courts. Or, in short: what difference has it made for EU citizens? Though I do not have time to go through it with you now, I invite you to take a look. It gives you a range of interesting examples of how national courts and the European Court are increasingly bringing the Charter to life and how the rights enshrined in the Charter can make a real difference for citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the European Year for Citizens we are placing European citizens centre stage. The Commission is working to make EU citizenship a reality in people's daily lives.

Today this starts with tangible proposals to make it easier for citizens to work, study and train 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. And it deserves nothing less than concerted action to make it a reality for Europe's 500 million EU citizens.


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