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Commission proposes new practical rights for all EU citizens
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Improved online consumer rights, a quality framework for work traineeships and an EU-wide disability card granting access to disabled facilities throughout the EU are amongst new steps proposed by the European Commission today to tackle obstacles that people still face in their everyday life.

Coinciding with the announcement of UK Consumer Rights Bill (transposition of the EU Consumer Rights Directive) in the Queen's speech today, these further Commission initiatives look to complement wider EU efforts to protect people as citizens and consumers, for example by building a strong framework for police and judicial cooperation to tackle cross-border crime and by extensive reforms to financial services so taxpayers never again have to pay the bill for massive bank bail-outs.

    Commissioner Viviane Reding

    Commissioner Viviane Reding

    The Commission is also announcing today proposals to reinforce the consumer rights of high-street bank customers.

    It is twenty years since European Citizenship came into being with the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty and in that time nationals of EU member states have enjoyed unprecedented rights in terms of travel, working, living and doing business in fellow member states. UK citizens have been at the forefront of that.

    These rights are now so commonly used that they are considered the norm. This is a sign of their success but in recent EU-wide surveys many thousands of EU citizens called for further improvement and reinforcement.

    These calls have been backed in an on-going series of public meetings (Citizens' Dialogues) held with thousands of Europeans by Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding and other Commissioners and national politicians.

    The Commission is now answering those calls for more and better rights, as part of the European Year of Citizens 2013.

    The 2013 EU Citizenship Report sets out new ways to help Europeans make better use of their EU rights, from looking for a job in another EU country to providing opportunities for stronger participation in the democratic life of the Union.

    Key proposals include making it easier for people to work and do training in another EU country; reducing paperwork for EU citizens living and travelling in the EU; and eliminating barriers to cross-border shopping.

    Today's announcement comes as the Commission adopts the latest report on the application of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights (see IP/13/411 and MEMO/13/411), including citizens’ rights such as the right to personal data protection. It is also accompanied by a report looking at progress made towards more effective EU citizenship, a track-record of enforcing EU citizens' rights, such as free movement, political rights or consular protection, and fighting discrimination on the grounds of nationality.

    “EU citizenship is the crown jewel of European integration. It is to Political Union what the euro is to our Economic and Monetary Union. Today's Citizenship Report places EU citizens centre stage," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. “Ever since it was first included in the Treaties in 1993, EU citizenship has been evolving - but it is not yet mature: people still face obstacles exercising their rights in everyday life. We receive over 1 million enquiries every year from citizens on issues that relate to their rights. That is why today we are taking action to reinforce citizens’ rights in everyday situations, like looking for a job, shopping online or taking part in European decision-making.”

    The main steps announced today

    Removing obstacles for workers, students and trainees in the EU

    • by looking into extending the right of jobseekers to receive unemployment benefits from their home country while they are looking for a job in another EU member state beyond the current mandatory three months to increase the mobility of workers; and
    • by setting out a quality framework for traineeships that specifies the rights and obligations of the parties making sure that traineeships are not used as a form of 'unpaid employment'

    Cutting red tape in the Member States

    • by facilitating the acceptance of identity and residence documents when citizens want to travel or have to prove their identity in another EU country, including through optional uniform European documents that citizens could use in all EU countries; and
    • by making it easier to recogniseroadworthiness certificates for cars cross-border in the EU

    Protecting the more vulnerable in the EU

    • by developing an EU disability card to be mutually recognised across the EU making sure that the 80 million disabled people can also take advantage of the benefits that come with national cards (for example access to transport, tourism, culture and leisure) when exercising their right to free movement; and
    • by proposing a set of laws to further strengthen citizens' procedural rights, especially those of children and vulnerable citizens, when they are suspected or accused of a crime

    Eliminating barriers to shopping in the EU

    • by improving rules to settle cross-border disputes over small amounts when buying products online or in another EU country; the European Small Claims procedure can help consumers get their money back swiftly; and
    • by working on an online tool that makes the purchase of digital products more transparent and that allows citizens to compare deals cross-border

    Promoting the availability of targeted and accessible information about the EU

    • by making e-training tools available to local administrations and providing citizen-friendly information about who to turn to to solve their problems.

    Strengthening citizens’ participation in the democratic process

    • by working on ways to enable EU citizens to keep their right to vote in national elections in their country of origin. The practice in some Member States of depriving their citizens of their right to vote once they move to another EU country effectively is tantamount to punishing citizens for having exercised their right to free movement.

    Background

    Two decades since the Treaty of Maastricht laid down EU citizenship rights, these rights are not always a reality in people’s everyday lives. This has been confirmed by EU citizens in a wide-ranging public consultation on EU Citizenship (IP/12/461) where 12 000 EU citizens gave examples of bureaucratic hurdles they still face for example when exercising their right to free movement. Eurobarometer surveys on citizenship (IP/13/119) and electoral rights (IP/13/215), a series of direct Citizens' dialogues with national and European politicians as well as a large numbers of queries from the public about EU rights received through the Europe Direct information service confirm that more needs to be done. The Commission is responding to these concerns.

    The EU Citizenship Report forms the centrepiece of the 2013 European Year of Citizens and also takes stock of progress since the first Citizenship Report in 2010 (see IP/10/1390 and MEMO/10/525) - with the Commission delivering on the 25 action items announced in October 2010.

    Those included:

    • Strengthening the rights of around 75 million crime victims a year across the EU (IP/11/585)
    • Cutting red tape for 3.5 million people registering a car in another EU country each year, with savings of €1.5 billion (IP/12/349)
    • Banning extra credit card charges and pre-ticked boxes for online shoppers (MEMO/11/675)
    • Reinforcing fair trial rights for all EU citizens, applying to around 8 million proceedings a year (IP/12/430, IP/10/1305)
    • Clarifying property rights for Europe's 16 million international couples (IP/11/320)

     

    For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.
    Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.

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    Last update: 08/05/2013  |Top