Saturday

21st Oct 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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?'"

EU in diplomatic push to save Iran deal

EU leaders mobilise to stop Trump's attack on Iran deal, as Congress prepares knife-edge vote with implications for trans-Atantic ties and Middle East stability.

Macron puts trade policy on summit table

France's president wants a "political discussion" on EU trade policies at Thursday's summit, amid domestic concerns over Canada and South America deals. But his colleagues are likely to avoid a lengthy debate.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks