Understanding your rights as an EU citizen is key to taking advantage of the benefits – such as the possibility to live and work anywhere in the Union.
Many people do not know enough about their rights as EU citizens to exercise them effectively. A 2010 survey found only 43% of people know the meaning of the term “citizen of the European Union” and almost half say they are “not well informed” about their rights.
The EU's Europe for Citizens programme aims to help people become more aware of these rights – and foster a sense of European identity.
The current 7-year programme ends in 2013. For the next round of funding, to 2020, the Commission proposes to focus its budget of €229m on promoting a better understanding of the EU, its shared values, history and culture.
Funds will also help people engage in civic activities through debates and discussions on the impact of the EU in their daily lives.
One example is the programme's support for town twinning. It funds networking among municipalities and helps them develop joint local projects.
Upholding citizens' rights
Raising awareness is part of the Commission's approach to upholding citizens' rights throughout the Union – together with effective enforcement and simplifying their application in practice.
A 2010 report on citizenship identified the main obstacles people face when trying to exercise their rights, and 25 measures the EU should take to remove them.
Action has been taken on many of them. This week, for example, the Commission made a proposal to strengthen the right to consular protection abroad. Another proposal recommends ways to resolve cross-border inheritance tax problems.
What is European citizenship?
Every national of an EU country is also a citizen of the Union. In addition to national privileges, they hold an additional set of rights, guaranteed by the EU’s treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU
Citizenship gives people the right to live, work, travel and shop anywhere in the 27 member countries – as if they were in their own country.