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17 March 2009

States News Service


(c) 2009 States News Service



The following information was released by the European Parliament:


Since 2006 over eight million Europeans have exercised their right to reside in another EU Member State. However, the Member States have erected many obstacles to the free movement of the EU's citizens, according to the EP Civil Liberties Committee. The public still has little awareness of its rights, including the right to vote in local and European elections in the country where they live, say MEPs in two reports.


Practical application of the right to free of movement and residence of citizens and members of their families on the territory of the Member States is disappointing, say members of the Civil Liberties Committee in an own-initiative report by Adina-Ioana Vۀlean (ALDE, RO) adopted on Monday. In fact, no Member State has enacted the whole directive in its national law properly.


Major infringements of fundamental rights have therefore been identified, including some relating to the right of entry and residence for family members from non-EU countries and the obligation for EU citizens, when applying for a residence permit, to submit additional documents such as work permits or satisfactory proof of accommodation, something not required under the directive.


MEPs therefore call on the Commission to take action against Member States whose national laws are incompatible with the directive. National administrative practices very often constitute serious obstacles to the exercise of their rights by citizens, says the committee.


The report points out that the Commission has received over 1,800 complaints, 40 parliamentary questions and 33 petitions on these matters. Five infringement proceedings have been launched. MEPs believe the situation shows the Commission's inability to ensure that Member States comply with the directive in consistent and timely fashion and to manage the sizeable number of complaints lodged by the public regarding the implementation of the directive.


Key concepts of the directive on free movement are misinterpreted


In particular, some Member States place vague interpretations on the idea of "sufficient resources" (the condition for a stay of over three months), say MEPs. The concepts of "family member" and "partner", in particular with regard to same-sex partners, are also misinterpreted. On these points, MEPs urge Member States to recognise not only spouses of different sexes but also same-sex couples, on the basis of mutual recognition. They point out to Member States that the recognition of free movement for same-sex couples does not necessarily entail recognition of same-sex marriage.


MEPs also call on Member States not to introduce legislation that imposes disproportionate or discriminatory sanctions on Union citizens, such as providing that it is an aggravating circumstance in relation to a criminal offence committed by a Union citizen if that citizen had been illegally staying in another Member State.


The committee draws attention to some particular problems, for example in Belgium, where a delegation from the Committee on Civil Liberties found Union citizens being detained in detention centres for illegal immigrants.


Transitional arrangements for free movement tantamount to discrimination


MEPs also call for the scrapping, or at least a review, of the "discrimination" entailed by the transitional arrangements restricting free movement of nationals of Member States that joined the EU on 1 May 2004 and on 1 January 2007. They point out that four Member States of the EU-15 have not opened their labour markets to Member States of the EU-8, and that eleven Member States have decided to keep restrictions on their labour markets against Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.


Union citizenship: problems and prospects


Another report, drafted by Urszula Gacek (EPP-ED, PL) and also adopted on Monday by the Civil Liberties Committee, highlights the problems and the future prospects of Union citizenship. MEPs point out that enlargement has led to a considerable rise in the number of EU citizens resident outside their Member State of origin but that very few are aware of their rights. The committee is disappointed at the low number of EU citizens resident in a Member State other than their own who make use of their right to vote in European or local elections.


Another key right of European citizenship, that of protection by the diplomatic authorities of any Member States when outside the EU, must be beefed up, say MEPs. The Union should also take steps to protect its citizens in non-EU countries, notably by seeking to prevent EU citizens from being subjected to the death penalty.


Lastly, the Civil Liberties Committee calls on the Commission to continue negotiating for visa-free travel to non-EU countries for all Member States. It criticises the "injustice" whereby citizens of some Member States must apply for visas whereas others do not, notably in connection with US "visa waiver program" which is not yet available to citizens of all EU Member States.



658 words

18 March 2009




Copyright 2009 Europe Information Service All Rights Reserved



MEPs are protesting against national violations of the freedom of Europeans and their families to move and reside in another EU member state. This right is guaranteed by a 2004 directive. Their objections were evident at the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, with the adoption of a non-binding report by Liberal Adina-Ioana Valean (Romania), on 16 March in Brussels.


Since 2006, more than eight million Europeans have exercised their relevant rights. But, in light of a very poor implementation of the 2004 directive, the EP has criticised the "incapacity of the Commission to guarantee that member states are respecting the directive in a coherent manner and in the given timeframe, as well as to manage the significant number of complaints lodged by citizens regarding the implementation of this directive".


There is, in fact, work to be done. According to a report published in mid-December 2008 by the Commission, it is clear that most member states have poorly transposed EU legislation (compulsory after two years) or have placed administrative constraints, such that they constitute obstacles to free movement. For example, some countries interpret the concept of sufficient resources' in a prohibitive manner, without personal situations being taken into account. They do not make right of entry and residence easier for members of non-EU families (only seven member states have adopted provisions making it easier for them to obtain an entry visa). Or they demand documents which are not anticipated by the directive.


Austria, Slovakia, Denmark, Slovenia and Estonia have correctly transposed less than 60% of the text. Only Cyprus, Greece, Finland, Portugal, Malta, Luxembourg and Spain have transposed more than 85% of the provisions. To all these faults and loopholes, the EU executive intends to respond with guidelines' on the implementation of EU law (see Europolitics 3656).




The EP wants more. With regard to homosexual couples, it asks member states to acknowledge them on the basis of mutual recognition. However, this does not necessarily mean recognition of marriage, which is possible in Belgium and the Netherlands. To this day, only thirteen member states grant them the full right to freedom of movement and residence, by considering registered members as members of the family (Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom).


MEPs also underline abuses - as in Belgium, where European citizens may be detained for a simple administrative offence, some being held in detention centres for illegal immigrants.


Lastly, MEPs call for the repeal or the review of discrimination', which they believe is a transitional scheme restricting the free movement of nationals from Central and Eastern Europe. Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Austria have decided to apply restrictions until the end of April 2011 against eight Central European countries and eleven countries until 31 December 2013 against Romania and Bulgaria.




In another report on various subjects (by Urszula Gacek, EPP-ED, Poland), the Committee on Civil Liberties points out the problems linked to EU citizenship, regretting in particular "the low number of EU citizens resident in member states other than those who use their right to vote or who stand for European or local elections in their place of residence". This is a legitimate concern in the approach to the EP elections of 4-7 June.


Lastly, the Commission is urged to make proposals to strengthen the consular protection of Europeans in non-EU countries, particularly against the threat of a death penalty. It has also been invited, at a later stage, to negotiate visa-free travel for all Europeans in particular to the United States, which only provides exemption for 22 out of 27 countries (Poland, Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria are still excluded from the US Visa Waiver Programme).


A vote on the two reports will take place in the plenary of 1 and 2 April in Brussels.