Friday

19th Oct 2018

Joint consular work to reinforce 'EU citizenship'

  • Libya evacuation effort. Eight member states' consulates in Libya helped pull out around 5,000 EU citizens from across the bloc (Photo: USEmbMalta)

The EU commission has urged all 27 member states to print a line in their passports telling people they have special rights as EU citizens if they get into trouble abroad.

The idea is part of broader guidelines on EU consular protection adopted by the Brussels executive on Wednesday (23 March). Passports from 20 EU member states already advertise the fact that if your own country cannot help you while abroad, any other EU consulate you can get to is legally obliged to step in.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Portugal and Slovakia have not yet made the move.

"What counts is that people are confident they can get a helping hand from fellow member states," commission spokesman Matthew Newman said.

The new 10-page-long guidelines urge EU countries' consulates to spell out people's rights on their websites, to send information to tourist centres and police stations and to hold seminars for consular officials using an EU fact-sheet. They point out that Catherine Ashton's EU embassies are obliged to help people if member states send them a formal request.

The commission on Tuesday also launched a new website, to be run by justice commissioner Viviane Reding's officials. The site pulls together on one page all travel warnings issued by EU countries' foreign ministries on trouble spots.

In 12 months' time, the executive aims to propose a new law obliging one EU country to reimburse a fellow EU member if it pays money to help evacuate the former's citizens, to give them medical treatment or to ship their dead body home.

A commission memo highlighted that during recent crises in Egypt, Haiti, Japan and Libya, EU countries already "pulled together" in what it called "European solidarity in action."

In Japan, Germany put 18 non-German EU citizens on a bus to flee the nuclear-crisis-struck city of Sendai. In Libya, eight EU consulates pulled out almost 5,000 citizens from across the union. Hungary airlifted 29 Romanians, 27 Hungarians, 20 Bulgarians, eight Germans and six Czechs from Tripoli.

The memo said EU citizens now take around 90 million foreign trips each year and that 30 million EU nationals reside outside the bloc. Just three countries - China, Russia and the US - host consulates from all 27 EU members, however.

Joint consular protection became part of EU law with the Lisbon Treaty in late 2009. But the kind of EU solidarity shown in Libya cannot always be taken for granted.

During the terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008, a Spanish liberal MEP, Ignasi Guardans, said a group of euro-deputies and their assistants were hiding in the Taj Mahal hotel when the German consul arrived. "He came and he picked up only the Germans, saying that memorable sentence which I will never forget 'I can take only the Germans' and then he left, taking only his fellow citizens and leaving everyone else," Mr Guardans recalled at the time.

Some EU citizens also fall between two stools because they are long-term residents in other EU countries but have kept their original citizenship.

When Michael Dixon, a British journalist resident in Belgium for 10 years, went missing in Costa Rica in 2009, the British police originally advised the family to contact Belgian authorities. But Belgian authorities refused to help.

The Dixons say the British consulate in Costa Rica did the bare minimum to help and got advice that Spanish diplomats might have more clout in San Jose. The commission's Newman said he did not want to comment on an individual case, but that in theory the Dixons have no legal right to approach other EU consulates because Dixon is a British citizen and the UK has a consulate in place.

When asked by this website if the new guidelines mean EU citizens should have priority over non-EU citizens in the case of, say, an EU-country-owned boat with limited space for evacuees, he answered: "This communication is not about non-EU citizens."

"I can't go into hypothetical cases about emergency situations. Obviously people trying to deal with an emergency have to use their common sense ... If you see somebody drowning, you're not going to ask: 'What country are you from?'"

Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times

Covering two-third of the world's economic output and governing more than half of the world's population, the Europe and Asian leaders' summit in Brussels on Friday tests potentials for outlining a post-Trump world order.

EU looks at Morocco and Tunisia to offload migrants

EU member states and the European Commission are pressing ahead with plans to possibly use Morocco and Tunisia as countries to offload asylum seekers and migrants - part of larger bid to create a so-called "safe third country" list.

News in Brief

  1. Rutte: summit was 'not the moment' for higher climate ambition
  2. Legal text for Brexit relocation EU agencies agreed
  3. Greek foreign minister resigns over Macedonia deal
  4. No Brexit backstop means no approval, says EU parliament
  5. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  6. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  7. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  8. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  2. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa
  3. EU leaders worried about Italy's budget
  4. Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action
  5. Kaczynski: No question of Polish EU exit
  6. EU summit to accept urgency of climate action – but no measures planned
  7. MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia
  8. EU migration solutions are on the table - let's adopt them

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us