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Consular help for all EU nationals - 23/03/2011

Flags of the EU's 27 member countries on flagpoles © EU

New measures will promote EU citizens' right to consular protection when they are travelling or living outside the EU and when their own country is not represented locally.

When in trouble abroad, the first port of call is usually your country's consulate or embassy. But what if your country has no diplomatic representation in that country?

In such cases, EU nationals can get that help from the consulate or embassy of any other EU country.

This is a right of EU citizenship: EU countries must provide the same help to citizens without representation abroad as they would to their own nationals.

This right applies in all countries outside the EU. In Libya, for example, Hungary recently evacuated 27 of its nationals by air, along with some 60 other citizens from Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

In Japan, Germany chartered a bus to transport Germans and some 18 other EU citizens from Sendai after the city was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami on 11 March.

Emergencies like this are rare, but the right to such consular assistance abroad is also available for more common problems like stolen passports, serious accidents and illness.

Raising awareness

With many EU citizens and consular officials still unaware of this right, the Commission is taking steps to provide more information and make it easier for Europeans abroad to get help when needed.

A dedicated website has been launched with information on the type of help you can expect and contact details for consulates/embassies in countries outside the EU. It also relays official travel advice for each of those countries from EU national authorities.

Over the next year the Commission will propose new measures to consolidate Europeans' rights to request and receive such assistance.

The changes will also help improve the day-to-day assistance consulates and embassies can provide for unrepresented EU citizens. This includes making it easier to get financial help during a crisis – and for the country that helped the EU citizen to be reimbursed by the citizen's home country.

EU citizens make more than 90m trips outside the EU every year. About 30m live permanently outside of the EU. Only in the US, China and Russia are all 27 EU countries represented diplomatically. Everywhere else, EU citizens without representation must turn to other EU countries for help.

More on EU citizenship

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