European Commission: 5th Report on European Union Citizenship

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Commission press release on new citizenship report. The full-text of the report is available here

Reference:  MEMO/08/91    Date:  15/02/2008  

Brussels, 15 February 2008
European Commission adopts its 5th Report on European Union Citizenship
The EC Treaty requires the Commission to report to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee every three years on the application of the provisions of Part Two of the EC Treaty.. This 5th Report assesses the application of these provisions during the period 1 May 2004 – 30 June 2007 in the light of the development of the Union.
As of 1 January 2006, there were approximately 8.2 million EU citizens who were exercising their right to reside in another Member State.
The report focuses on the legal core of citizens' rights, namely the right to move and reside within the EU (Article 18), the right to vote and stand as a candidate in European and municipal elections in the Member State of residence (Article 19), the right to diplomatic and consular protection in third countries (Article 20), the right to petition the European Parliament (EP) and the right to apply to the Ombudsman (Article 21). The Report also takes stock of advances in areas closely related to citizenship in the wider sense, such as equal treatment in terms of nationality and the protection of fundamental rights.
A 2007 Flash Eurobarometer public opinion survey of EU citizenship published simultaneously with the 5th citizenship report reveals that Europeans are largely aware of their status as citizens of the Union but would like to be better informed about their rights. More than three-quarters of EU citizens have heard about the term "citizen of the European Union", 90% know that they are simultaneously Union citizens and nationals of their Member State but only 31% of respondents feel "well informed" about their rights as Union citizens.
Summary of the 5th Report
Citizenship of the Union: problems related to the acquisition and loss of nationality; access to Union citizenship; promoting European citizenship
While the Commission has no power to deal with the question of the conferral or loss of Member States' nationality, during the reporting period it has intervened to promote integration of certain minorities, notably the Russian-speaking minorities in Estonia and Latvia, in line with EC anti-discrimination legislation. The Community Action Programme to promote active European citizenship, implemented in 2004-2006, provided the Union with important instruments to promote active European citizenship, supporting 2800 town-twinning projects and co-financing 250 transnational projects. The Action Programme has
Freedom of Movement and the right of residence: Directive 2004/38: reinforcing citizenship; transitional arrangements in the field of free movement of workers
The most important development in this area was the entry into force, on 30 April 2006, of Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. The Directive codified previous legislation and ECJ case law, simplified the conditions and formalities for the exercise of the right of residence, reinforced the rights of family members of EU citizens, created an unconditional permanent right of residence after five years of continuous legal residence and increased the protection against expulsion of Union citizens and their family members. The control of the correct implementation of the Directive is an absolute priority for the Commission. Union citizens and their family members who are third country nationals continue to encounter problems in this area. 88% of EU citizens are familiar with this right.
Concerning the transitional arrangements in the field of free movement of workers applied by several Member States after the 2004 and 2007 enlargements of the Union, nine out of fifteen Member States (Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK) had opened their labour markets to the nationals from those Member States (EU-8) which joined the Union in 2004 and ten out of twenty-five Member States (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden) had opened their labour markets to Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.
Electoral Rights
In December 2006 the Commission adopted a report on the 2004 European Parliament elections which demonstrated a general drop in participation between 1994 and 2004 (45,6% in 2004, 49,8% in 1999 and 56,8% in 1994) but an increase in participation of Union citizens living in another Member State. More than one million EU citizens registered to vote in their State of residence, representing nearly 11, 94%. This percentage was 5.9% in 1994 and 9% in 1999. However, fewer Union citizens are standing as candidates: 62 in 1999 versus 57 in 2004 (of whom only 3 were elected). In order to solve the problems identified in the report, the Commission proposed to amend Directive 93/109 to lighten the burden on candidates and Member States while providing the necessary guarantees against abuses. The Commission also adopted a proposal to allow for the establishment of European political foundations and it is assessing the legislation of those Member States which do not allow non-national Union citizens to become members of political parties or to found political parties.
EU citizens seem to be more aware of their rights in relation to European Parliamentary elections than in relation to municipal ones. 54% are familiar with the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in European Parliament elections, while only 37% know they have the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections.
Diplomatic and Consular Protection
The considerable increase in travel to third countries by EU citizens and the limited representation of Member States outside the EU and recent crisis situations (namely the Asian tsunami and the Lebanon crises) illustrate that there is room for improvement in cooperation between the consular authorities of the Member States. On 5.12.2007, the Commission adopted an Action Plan for the years 2007-2009 in this area and a Recommendation to Member States to include in passports the text of the article of the Treaty conferring the right to diplomatic and consular protection to EU citizens (Article 20 of the EC Treaty).
Equal Treatment on Grounds of Nationality
The European Court of Justice delivered several important judgments in this area recalling that Union citizenship enables those who find themselves in the same situation to enjoy the same treatment in law irrespective of nationality, subject to such exceptions as are expressly provided for. Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States has also further clarified the right to non-discrimination. Roughly eight out of ten EU citizens (83%) know that, when residing in another Member State, they have the right to be treated exactly in the same way as a national of that State.
Rendering Citizens' Rights Effective
While the Commission points out that it will continue to closely monitor the application of Community law, it will also encourage the use of alternative dispute settlement mechanisms. The report highlights the success of the SOLVIT problem-solving mechanism whose case flow has increased from 12 to 70 new cases per month with an average resolution rate of 80% of cases. Cases solved by SOLVIT have concerned a host of issues such as residence rights, visas, social security, recognition of professional qualifications and taxation.
Citizenship and Fundamental Rights
An important development which took place during the period covered by the report is the coming into existence on 1 March 2007 of the European Agency for Fundamental Rights. Its objective is to provide assistance and expertise relating to fundamental rights to Community institutions and the Member States when implementing EC law. Furthermore, the 'Fundamental rights and citizenship' programme for the period 2007-2013 was adopted by the Council in April 2007. With a budget of 93.8 M € over seven years, it aims at the promotion of a European society based on fundamental rights, including those derived from European citizenship.

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