Free circulation of public documents
People in the Union have become increasingly mobile and they now more than ever study, work, live or raise a family in another EU country. However, Europeans who are on the move - around 13 million EU citizens today live in an EU country other than their own - are often confronted with bureaucratic hurdles.
Obstacles to free movement
Europeans who live in another EU country or simply want to benefit from a right or comply with an obligation in another EU country may need to present a public document. For example, a citizen may need to present a birth certificate in order to get married in another EU country, a certificate on the absence of a criminal record in order to apply for a job in another EU country, or a death certificate if they must resolve inheritance matters in another EU country.
Citizens often complain about the red tape and costs that they need to bear in order to have a public document issued in one EU country considered as authentic in another EU country. This may entail the need for the citizen to obtain and pay for an authentication stamp for their document (the so-called Apostille), get a certified translation of the document or always present a certified copy of the document.
All these formalities may constitute obstacles to the citizens' right to free movement guaranteed by the EU Treaties.
Facilitating the free circulation of citizens
The smooth circulation of public documents is essential to facilitate the lives of citizens who move to another EU country or need to present a public document in another EU country.
According to a Eurobarometer survey , 73% of EU citizens believe that measures should be taken to improve the circulation of public documents between EU countries.
In 2010, the Commission adopted a Green Paper entitled 'Less bureaucracy for citizens: promoting free movement of public documents and recognition of the effects of civil status records', which proposed actions to ease the free circulation of public documents. A Public Consultation was subsequently conducted to gather stakeholders' comments on the actions proposed in the Green Paper.
As a first follow-up step to the Green Paper, the Commission adopted in 2013 a proposal for a Regulation simplifying the acceptance of certain public documents in the EU. In order that EU citizens and businesses can better benefit from their free movement rights and internal market freedoms, the proposal aims at abolishing the Apostille authentication stamp and at simplifying other formalities such as certified translations and certified copies in a number of areas which are currently required where a public document is presented in another EU country. The proposal also introduces multilingual standard forms on certain matters in order to bridge language barriers between EU countries. The proposal deals with the authenticity of a public document presented in another EU country, but not with the recognition of its content or effects in another EU country.
The Commission proposal is currently being negotiated by the European Parliament and the EU countries meeting within the Council.