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14th Apr 2024

Brits top list of nationals asking advice from EU lawyers

  • People from the UK asked EU lawyers for more legal advice than any other EU national, due in part to Brexit. (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Lawyers in the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) say that UK citizens made more use of their free legal service than any other EU nationality in 2016.

A report out on Wednesday (12 April), published by ECAS, an NGO, found that British citizens made up the bulk of the demands, followed by Germans, and then by the French. ECAS provides advice from 60 legal experts.

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Out of around 20,500 legal queries raised, approximately 18 percent were filed by people from the UK.

"These inquiries provide information about the problems faced by citizens who seek to exercise their right to free movement," noted the report.

Britain tops the list partly due to people's concerns about leaving the European Union, following the referendum last June.

Rights typically enjoyed by EU nationals will no longer apply to the UK once the country leave the bloc of 28 member states.

EU rights denied

But such rights are not consistently applied, and in some cases even denied across most EU states regardless of citizenship.

The biggest issues from all the queries received last year centred mostly around social security, entry procedures, and residency rights.

The lack of information and cooperation among EU member states on many of these issues appears to have led to confusion and frustration among EU citizens.

"Citizens do not know where to pay social contributions when they work in two countries, when they live in one country and work in another, or when they retire in another country," notes the report.

In some cases, EU member states flat out refuse to help nationals from other EU countries despite the legal obligation to do so.

The report cites an example of where a self-employed Belgian citizen started working in France but then fell ill shortly afterwards.

The French authorities refused to reimburse his health expenses, even though the Belgian national was no longer under the Belgian system. The French were found to be at fault.

Other issues such as visa exemptions and pension rights for those who have worked in a number of EU states also figure among the most frequently-asked questions.

The report also notes the case of a Spanish citizen who had worked for 25 years in Sweden and another 10 years in Spain. The Spaniard had moved to Sweden to retire. Then, last April, Swedish authorities asked their counterparts in Spain to send over the 10 years worth of pension allowance.

"So far, almost one year has passed and no response has been received from Spain. The citizen still has not received any payments," notes the report.

Other cases found that Germany had withheld family benefit claims submitted by non-German EU citizens.

The issue was most pronounced amongst people who work in one EU country, but whose families live in another.

MEPs endorse EP red lines on Brexit

Juncker said the EU is looking for success with the UK during talks, as the European Parliament outlines its position on citizens, borders, and the bill that will have to be settled before London can move on to future discussions.

EU citizens to be checked at Schengen borders

EU justice and interior ministers meeting Friday will ask the commission to change the Schengen area rules and will push for better use of technologies to control external and internal borders.

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