The European Commission published today (24 January) its third EU Citizenship Report. The report takes stock of progress since 2014 and presents actions to ensure that citizens can fully enjoy their rights when working, travelling, studying or participating in elections.
European Citizenship was established in 1993 in the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993. It lists a set of rights available to nationals of all EU Member States. EU citizenship is additional to and does not replace national citizenship of a Member State.
The key additional rights EU citizenship confers include: the right to move and reside freely within the EU; the right to be protected by the diplomatic and consular authorities of any other EU country; the right to petition the European Parliament and complain to the European Ombudsman; and the right to vote for and stand as a candidate in European Parliament and municipal elections.
The Treaty also prohibits discrimination based on nationality. In addition, the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 introduced a new form of public participation for European citizens, the Citizens’ Initiative. This allows one million EU citizens who are nationals of at least seven of the Member States to call directly on the European Commission to propose a legal act within the framework of its powers.
At a press conference today, Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality and responsible for EU citizenship rights, said: “87% of Europeans are aware of their EU citizenship, which is more than ever before, but they are not always aware of the rights that come with EU citizenship. We want to empower citizens to know more about their EU rights and use them more easily.”
Her colleague Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, added: “The European Union exists for the European citizens and through them. To ensure that EU citizens can fully enjoy their rights and freedoms in times of increasing transnational challenges, we are committed to continuing our work on strengthening security within the EU and stepping up the protection of our common external borders.”
The two commissioners were asked by The Brussels Times if we can expect EU citizens to be equipped with an EU identity card or EU passport, a move that probably would increase their European identity and awareness.
Commissioner Jourová replied that an overwhelming majority of Europeans already are aware of the European citizenship, judging from surveys, and its benefits since about 15 million people are living in an EU country other than their country of origin.
Commissioner Avramopoulos added that “our ambition is to deepen the citizens’ relations with EU institutions.” He said that it was possible to adopt “federal procedures” without aiming at a federal system. “I believe that at the end of this process we’ll all have not only a European passport in our pockets but also a deepened consciousness of our European citizenship and our belonging to the European Union.”
A lack of awareness of European citizens means that EU citizens do not fully exercise their right to vote in European and local elections and many are unaware of their right to consular protection from other Member States’ embassies.
The Commission proposes among others to strengthen voluntary engagement by creating more opportunities for young people in Europe to make a meaningful contribution to society and show solidarity. Since the European Solidarity Corps was launched on 7 December 2016, about 20 000 young people have joined it. The Corps is open for young people between 18 and 31 years.
Another proposal is a ‘Single Digital Gateway’ to give citizens easy online access to information, assistance and problem-solving services on a wide range of administrative questions.
|Survey findings on European Citizenship|
· The vast majority of respondents say they are familiar with the term ‘citizen of the European Union’ (87%). This is the highest level recorded, showing an increase of six percentage points since 2012 (81%) and an overall increase of nine percentage points since 2007 (78%).
· The proportion of respondents who say that they have never heard of the term is the highest in Austria (27%), Belgium (24%) and the Netherlands (23%).
· There is little confusion about how EU citizenship can be “obtained”, with most Europeans (78%) correctly saying that one does not have to ask to become a citizen of the EU.
· Awareness of European Citizenship varies by socio-demographic factors.
· Only a minority of Europeans – just under three in ten (28%) – think it is justified that EU citizens who live in an EU country other than their country of origin should lose their right to vote in the national elections of their country of origin.
. A majority of Europeans think that EU citizens living in countries that are not their country of origin should acquire electoral rights in the country where they are residing.
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 430, published in March 2016
The Brussels Times