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Removing roadblocks for citizens moving with their cars in the EU

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A European Commission proposal will simplify registration processes and reduce formalities associated with moving automobiles throughout the EU. This means that not just citizens, but also their vehicles will be given the green light to easily travel between Member States.

It has been 20 years since the creation of the internal market, which allows goods and people to freely move throughout the European Union. However, two decades later, European citizens are still unable to easily transfer cars between Member States because of burdensome vehicle registration procedures and paperwork.

According to the 2010 EU Citizenship Report, vehicle registration is one of the main obstacles that citizens face when applying their EU rights in practical life. Some of the problems include confusion about where to register vehicles, long and complicated procedures, cumbersome documentation and repetition of technical inspections. These concerns – which in 2012 affected some 3.5 million Europeans who moved cars between Member States – are currently dealt with by national legislations, and often the European Commission and the European Court of Justice must intervene to solve particular cases.

This is all about to change. The European Commission submitted a legislative proposal that will eradicate lengthy procedures for people who move permanently with their vehicle or purchase one in another Member State. European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani said the proposal would benefit both citizens and businesses: ‘In addition to enabling citizens to better exercise their right to freedom of movement, the proposal would lead to a very substantial administrative simplification with total savings of at least €1.4 billion per year for businesses, citizens and registration authorities.’

Key elements of the proposal

Where to register vehicles

There is often confusion about what to do if a citizen lives in one Member State, works in another and uses their vehicle in both. Moreover, registration requirements make it so Europeans cannot always rent or lease a car in one Member State and use it easily in another, and can create problems if someone drives a car borrowed from a family member in another Member State.

To eradicate these unnecessary burdens, the proposal clarifies that:

  • it is only necessary to re-register a vehicle in a Member State if the holder of the registration certificate has their normal residence in that Member State;
  • people who spend part of the year in a holiday residence in another EU country will not have to re-register their car there;
  • people who work in another EU country and use a car registered by their employer there will no longer have to register it in their home country;

What is more, car rental companies will be able to transfer cars to another EU country during the holiday periods without re-registration. Citizens will also have up to six months to re-register their car after moving to another Member State.

Physical inspections and refusal to re-register a vehicle

The physical inspection of vehicles is the part of the re-registration process that seems to inconvenience citizens the most. Often a citizen whose vehicle has recently passed technical inspection in their Member State is asked to go through the procedure again when relocating abroad. Re-registration may then be refused or delayed because citizens are requested to provide extra documents.

The proposal clarifies and limits, without hindering road safety, the cases in which a physical inspection is required prior to the re-registration, as well as cases in which re-registration can be refused.  For example, physical checks may only be required if the information about the vehicle cannot be found in the electronic register, or in the case of change of ownership or seriously damaged vehicles.

Quicker administrative procedures and electronic exchange of information

At present, Member States have little and sometimes no information about the vehicle they have to re-register. This is why citizens are asked to provide additional documents (that often need translation) or carry out additional tests to the vehicle.

The proposal aims to simplify the administrative procedures required to re-register a vehicle already registered in another Member State by utilising an electronic system for the exchange of information between Member States. This will also contribute to the fight against car crime, as authorities will have additional tools to verify if a car has been stolen.

Where is the proposal now?

The ‘ball is in the court’ of the European Council and European Parliament, which are the legislative bodies responsible for the adoption of this proposal. Member States in the Council have been discussing it since December 2012 and the European Parliament has given it priority because of the impact it has on citizens’ daily lives. Thus, it is desirable that the proposal will be adopted during this parliamentary term.

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