The European Commission is seeking views on how best to ease the circulation of public and civil documents, such as property deeds, birth and marriage certificates, and making them more easily recognised across the EU.
Currently, Europeans who live outside their home country are often confronted with bureaucratic hurdles: waiting for an official stamp on a court ruling or a property deed, paying for a translation for a birth, marriage or death certificate, or struggling with public authorities to get a surname recognised.
"Europe’s Single Market is not just about breaking down barriers for goods and services – it’s about making the lives of our citizens easier, notably when they are moving around the EU," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner.
"However, the citizen dimension of the Single Market is not fully developed, and people are calling for change. Three quarters of Europeans tell us that the EU needs to improve the circulation of public documents between EU countries. Obsolete formalities frustrate citizens and cost them time and money," Mrs Reding added.
The smooth circulation of public documents (such as diplomas, proof of nationality, property deeds) and the recognition of civil status documents recording “life events” (such as birth, adoption, marriage or death) or a person’s change of surname are essential for citizens who move to another EU country.
Member states' registries and administrative systems vary considerably, causing cumbersome and costly formalities (translation, additional proof of authenticity of documents). These problems make it difficult for citizens to fully enjoy their rights within the EU.
In the policy paper adopted today, the Commission asks how the free circulation of public documents could be improved as well as proposing possible options to ease the cross-border recognition of civil status documents.
One option outlined could be the automatic recognition of civil status documents. Such recognition would not involve the harmonisation of existing rules and would leave member states’ legal systems unchanged.
Depending on the outcome of the public consultation, the Commission plans two separate legislative proposals in 2013: first, on the free circulation of public documents; and second, on the recognition of civil status situations.
Interested parties have until end of April 2011 to comment on the Commission's green paper.