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26th Jan 2020

EU states not applying free movement rules, Brussels says

  • The very core principles of the European construction at stake (Photo: European Commission)

EU member states' implementation of rules on free movement and residence within the bloc has been "rather disappointing," the European Commission said on Wednesday (10 December).

Currently, EU citizens have the right to move to another member state to retire, study, work and live, with certain requirements and conditions linked to this right and set in EU legislation from 2004.

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Most member states have failed to fully comply with these EU rules Brussels says, however.

According to the commission "not one single member state has transposed the directive [on the right of EU citizens to move and reside freely within the EU] effectively and correctly in its entity. Not one article of the directive has been transposed effectively and correctly by all member states."

"The overall transposition of the directive is rather disappointing," the EU executive adds in its statement.

Only Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Spain have correctly adopted more than 85 percent of the directive's provisions.

In contrast, Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Slovenia and Slovakia have correctly adopted less than 60 percent of the provisions.

Additionally, some member states create artificial hurdles to free movement of EU citizens.

One example for this is the right of residence of Europeans in another member state for more than three months, which some countries link to conditions not foreseen in the directive.

"The Czech Republic recognises the right of residence only when the family has satisfactory accommodation. Malta requires EU citizens to obtain a work licence in order to have the right of residence as workers. Such requirements are contrary to community law," the commission says.

Under the free movement directive, any EU citizen who is a student, worker, or self-employed, or has enough resourses "not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the host member state" and has a health insurance in the host country, can reside in any EU state longer than three months.

Infringement threat

"Flaws in the implementation of EU law in this field might result in a breach of the principles lying at the very core basis of the European construction," EU justice commissioner Jacques Barrot told journalists in Brussels.

He added that if things did not change, the commission would not hesitate to launch infringement procedures against the member states that continuously fail to correctly implement the free movement rules.

Mr Barrot rejected calls coming from some countries, notably Denmark and Ireland, to change the EU rules as they may boost marriages of conveniences with non-EU nationals.

"Guidelines" the commission is to publish in the first half of next year should suffice to reassure member states on this and other issues, showing them there are "good practices" to fight against such marriages, Mr Barrot said.

Rules in place in the UK in that respect, including language knowledge verification and "trial periods" following the marriage, could serve as an example, he added.

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