Documents considered by the Committee on 19 June 2013 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

5 EU citizenship




COM(13) 269




COM(13) 270

Commission Report: EU Citizenship Report 2013 — EU citizens: your rights, your future

Commission Report under Article 25 TFEU: On progress towards effective EU citizenship 2011-2013

Legal base

Document originated

Deposited in Parliament

(a) and (b) —

(a) and (b) 8 May 2013

(a) and (b) 17 May 2013

DepartmentWork and Pensions
Basis of considerationEM of 1 June 2013
Previous Committee ReportNone
Discussion in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decision(a) Not cleared; further information requested

(b) Cleared


5.1 The Maastricht Treaty introduced the concept of citizenship of the European Union. All nationals of EU Member States are also EU citizens. EU citizenship confers a set of rights which are enshrined in the EU Treaties. These include:

  • the right to live and work in another Member State, without discrimination on grounds of nationality (although this right is subject to the limitations and conditions set out in the EU Treaties and secondary legislation);
  • the right, if resident in another Member State, to vote and to stand as a candidate in local and European Parliament elections;
  • the right to diplomatic and consular protection if living or travelling outside the EU;
  • the right to petition the European Parliament or to apply to the European Ombudsman; and
  • the right to participate in a citizens' initiative inviting the Commission to propose draft legislation for consideration by the European Parliament and Council.[12]

5.2 Document (a) — the EU Citizenship Report 2013 — is the successor to the Commission's first EU Citizenship Report, published in 2010, which set out to illustrate some of the practical obstacles encountered by EU citizens seeking to exercise the rights conferred by EU law and to propose a set of 25 concrete actions to overcome them.[13] Document (b) — also a Commission Report — fulfils the obligation in Article 25 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) to report every three years on the application of EU Treaty provisions on citizenship. It describes significant developments concerning EU citizenship for the period 2011-13. Both Reports highlight the designation of 2013 as the European Year of Citizens and its importance in giving impetus to EU citizenship. According to the Commission:

    "At a time when the EU is taking major steps towards a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union, of which democratic legitimacy is a cornerstone, with a Political Union on the horizon, it is all the more important to focus on the things the EU is doing to make citizens' lives easier, to help them understand their rights and involve them in a debate on the Europe they want to live in and build for future generations."[14]

Document (a) — the EU Citizenship Report 2013

5.3 Notwithstanding progress made in implementing the 25 actions set out in the EU Citizenship Report 2010 (summarised in an Annex to the 2013 Report), the Commission considers that obstacles to the full enjoyment of EU citizenship rights remain. It proposes 12 new actions to tackle the remaining obstacles, each of which will be subject to the appropriate decision-making procedures under the EU Treaties and the resources available under the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-20. The 2013 Citizenship Report draws on the outcome of a public consultation on EU citizenship launched by the Commission in May 2012, Eurobarometer surveys in 2013 on EU citizenship and electoral rights, and "citizens' dialogues" organised by the Commission as part of the European Year of Citizens.

Removing obstacles for workers, students and trainees

5.4 The Commission notes that there is relatively little labour migration within the EU, notwithstanding its potential to address imbalances in the labour market and to enhance opportunities for personal and professional development. Existing EU rules on the coordination of social security systems include provision for EU citizens to receive unemployment benefit from their home country for a period of three months while seeking employment in another EU Member State. Member States may extend this period for a further three months, up to a maximum of six months, but not all have chosen to do so.[15] The Commission suggests that current restrictions on the export of unemployment benefits to those genuinely seeking employment in another Member State may operate as a deterrent to mobility. It also highlights the absence of an EU-wide quality framework for traineeships which would give young people greater confidence to develop their skills and obtain work experience in another Member State. It proposes:

  • a revision of existing EU social security rules to make it easier for EU citizens to seek employment in another Member State — possible changes include extending beyond three months the period in which job seekers are entitled to receive unemployment benefit from their home State (Action 1); and
  • developing a quality framework for traineeships and reforming the EURES network of public employment services (Jobcentre Plus in the UK) to improve the coordination of labour mobility (for example, through better job matching services), as well as piloting a new initiative on the exchange of information on traineeships and apprenticeships (Action 2).[16]

Cutting red tape in Member States

5.5 According to the Commission, although most EU citizens are aware of their right to live and work in another Member State, many have either experienced, or anticipate that they will encounter, obstacles in exercising free movement rights. These obstacles include: a reluctance (especially on the part of private entities, such as banks or airlines) to accept documents issued in another Member State as proof of identity or registration certificates issued to EU foreign nationals by local authorities as proof of residence; difficulties for EU citizens who live, work or own property in another Member State in determining where to pay their taxes or how to seek advice on cross-border taxation issues; and administrative burdens and costs for EU citizens taking their car to another Member State because of the absence of minimum standards for the safety and roadworthiness of cars.

5.6 The Commission proposes three actions:

  • considering the feasibility of introducing optional common format documents establishing proof of identity or residence for EU citizens and family members living in another Member State which could also be used as travel documents for journeys within the EU — this action would only apply to Member States which issue ID or registration documents (Action 3);
  • promoting best practice to resolve cross-border taxation problems (such as the creation of specialised contact points within national tax administrations and closer cooperation between them) and ensuring that national tax laws affecting mobile citizens comply with EU law (Action 4); and
  • building on an existing initiative to set minimum standards for the control and safety of cars[17] by establishing a "vehicle information platform" to facilitate the recognition of national roadworthiness certificates (Action 5).

Protecting the vulnerable

5.7 The Commission highlights two categories of vulnerable citizens: those with disabilities, and those involved in criminal proceedings in another Member State. On the former, it estimates that there are around 80 million people with disabilities in the EU but disability cards issued at national level which establish entitlements to certain services, such as transport or cultural activities, are often not recognised in other Member States, making it harder to travel abroad. As regards the latter, the Commission suggests that uncertainty as to the right to criminal legal aid or the adequacy of safeguards to ensure a fair trial may be compounded in the case of particularly vulnerable suspects or defendants by virtue of their age or mental or physical condition. It proposes two actions:

  • developing an EU disability card to ensure equal access in all Member States to certain benefits, principally in areas such as transport, tourism, culture and leisure (Action 6); and
  • proposing a package of legal instruments to strengthen the procedural rights of citizens suspected or accused of a criminal offence in another EU Member State with a view to ensuring adequate access to legal aid and assistance and guaranteeing the presumption of innocence (Action 7).

Removing barriers to cross-border shopping

5.8 As the number of consumers purchasing goods and services from sellers based in another Member State increases, so too does the risk of cross-border disputes. Although the introduction of a European small claims procedure in 2009 has made it easier to obtain redress for claims under €2,000, the Commission suggests that raising the claims threshold to €25,000 and simplifying procedures would strengthen consumer confidence in cross-border shopping. It also highlights difficulties in accessing important product information when shopping online, particularly when purchasing digital products. The Commission therefore proposes two actions:

  • revising the existing European small claims procedure to make it easier for consumers to obtain redress for purchases made in another EU Member State (Action 8); and
  • developing a model for the online display of key information on digital products in order to facilitate comparisons of price, functionality, interoperability, etc and launching a campaign to raise awareness of EU consumer rights and strengthen confidence in the digital online market (Action 9).

Increasing awareness of EU citizens' free movement rights

5.9 The Commission suggests that "front desk" staff in local administrations lack sufficient awareness of the rights associated with EU citizenship and EU citizens often do not know who to turn to for advice or to resolve problems arising when they exercise their free movement rights. The Commission says it will:

  • develop an e-training tool for local administrations and support (via town twinning schemes) the exchange of best practice with a view to raising awareness of EU citizens' rights and facilitating their practical application (Action 10); and
  • provide guidance on its Europa website to direct EU citizens to the most appropriate sources of information and advice (Action 11).

Participating in the democratic life of the EU

5.10 The Commission underlines the importance of encouraging participation in the democratic life of the EU by exercising voting rights or standing as a candidate in European Parliament and local elections, making use of citizens' initiatives, and engaging in broader public debates on the EU. It suggests that there are three obstacles to more effective participation which need to be addressed. First, it questions whether EU citizens should lose the right to vote in national elections in their Member State of origin by virtue of the fact that they have spent a certain period of time in another Member State. The Commission refers to increasing social and cultural interpenetration within the EU, as well as socio-economic and technological realities which make it easier to move to another Member State whilst retaining close ties with the Member State of origin, and adds:

    "Residing in another EU country no longer requires a definitive severing of ties with the country of origin, as may have been the case in the past. EU citizens should now be able to decide for themselves if they want to continue to participate in the political life of their country of nationality or invest in the political life of their host society."[18]

5.11 Second, the Commission highlights an "asymmetry" in the rights conferred on EU citizens. Although they are entitled to stand as a candidate and vote in local elections, they are:

"deprived of an effective voice as regards the decisions of the national legislature which directly affect them."[19]

5.12 The Commission continues:

    "Empowering EU citizens residing in another EU country to determine for themselves, depending on the ties they maintain with their Member State of nationality or have formed with their Member State of residence, in which of these two countries they wish to exercise their key political rights, would give a new impetus to their inclusion and participation in the democratic life of the Union."[20]

5.13 Finally, the Commission alludes to a widespread sense (expressed in Eurobarometer surveys) that EU citizens are not sufficiently informed about European affairs, adding:

    "Providing citizens with information about European issues from a European point of view, but also from a range of national perspectives from other Member States, could increase the European public space and contribute to a more informed democratic debate."[21]

5.14 The Commission says that it will:

  • publish a Handbook on Europe Day in May 2014 setting out in clear and simple language the rights associated with EU citizenship;
  • explore ways to enable EU citizens to participate in national and (where regions have legislative responsibilities) regional elections in their country of residence or to maintain the right to vote in their Member State of origin if they have moved to another Member State; and
  • consider ways of developing a "European public space" with a view to ending the current fragmentation of public opinion along national borders (Action 12).

Document (b) — progress towards effective EU Citizenship 2011-13

5.15 This second Commission Report reviews recent case law in the Court of Justice concerning EU citizenship; action taken by the Commission to secure the correct application of EU rules on free movement, including electoral rights and consular protection; the number of petitions received by the European Parliament and complaints registered with the European Ombudsman; and citizens' initiative requests received by the Commission. The Report includes useful data on the number of EU citizens living in another Member State for more than a year (up from around 11.7 million at the beginning of 2009 to 13.6 million in 2012). It also describes action taken by the Commission to prevent discrimination on grounds of nationality by, for example, challenging nationality restrictions on access to the notary profession in several Member States and proposing a draft Directive to prevent nationality-based discrimination against EU migrant workers.[22]

The Government's view

5.16 The Minister for Employment (Mr Mark Hoban) notes that document (b) — the Commission's Report on progress towards effective EU citizenship — contains no new proposals and is uncontroversial. By contrast, document (a) — the EU Citizenship Report 2013 — foreshadows a number of possible legislative initiatives, each of which would be deposited for scrutiny with Explanatory Memoranda setting out the Government's position. Whilst he says that the issues addressed in the Report are not a Government priority, the Government nevertheless "supports in principle" the right of individuals not to be discriminated against on nationality grounds, to move within the EU, to vote in EU elections and to petition the European Parliament. He continues:

    "The Report flags certain actions which the Commission intends to take on its own initiative (e.g. publication of a handbook on EU Citizen's rights), as well as urging future actions which Member States could take in order to promote European Citizenship. Where future binding actions are mentioned the Government will examine them on a case by case basis."[23]

5.17 Turning to each of the actions proposed by the Commission, the Minister says that the Government:

  • will carefully assess whether a Commission proposal to extend the period during which unemployment benefit may be exported to a recipient seeking work in another Member State would be in the UK's national interest, bearing in mind that other Member States would be responsible for paying unemployment benefit for a longer period to their own nationals who are seeking work in the UK (Action 1);
  • opposes the Commission's current proposal to establish an EU-wide quality framework for traineeships, since it would apply a single framework to a wide range of different initiatives and target groups, but will seek improvements; supports modernisation of the EURES network to make it more responsive to the economic realities of the labour market and to meeting migration needs through recruitment from within the EEA and Switzerland, but will be vigilant in ensuring that there is no extension of EU competence; and is open to a pilot initiative on the exchange of information on traineeships and apprenticeships, provided its scope is limited to workers aged 18 or over (Action 2);
  • supports improvements to the security features of identity and residence documents but opposes their use as travel documents (Action 3);
  • is willing to cooperate with the Commission and other Member States in addressing cross-border taxation issues, such as double taxation, and notes that there is no suggestion of further harmonisation or any element of coercion (Action 4);
  • supports the idea of sharing information on roadworthiness certificates in principle, but will examine any proposal in terms of proportionality, cost and added value (Action 5);
  • notes that participation in an EU disability card would be optional for Member States and would not facilitate access to welfare systems, and adds that the Government will consider its position once the outcome of a pilot initiative testing its feasibility, cost and added value is available (Action 6);
  • will determine UK participation in any legislative initiative on criminal procedural rights in accordance with the criteria set out in the Coalition Agreement on EU justice and home affairs (Title V) opt-ins with a view to maximising national security, protecting Britain's civil liberties and preserving the integrity of the criminal justice system (Action 7);
  • will consider with interest amendments to the current EU Small Claims Procedure, particularly as the Government advocated a higher claims threshold when the Regulation was negotiated (Action 8);
  • will monitor the proposed EU-wide awareness campaign on consumer rights to ensure it does not cut across national strategies and consumer information campaigns (Action 9);
  • questions the relevance of the e-training tool proposed for local administrations in the UK on the grounds that immigration and registration procedures are handled by national rather than local government, and notes that information on free movement rights is readily available to local authorities and the wider public on the Home Office website (Action 10);
  • has no comment on the Commission's proposal to redesign its Europa website (Action 11); and
  • will review any proposals seeking to increase citizen participation in the democratic life of the EU as they arise — whilst keen to encourage all those who are eligible to register to vote to do so, the Government is not minded to change domestic law imposing a 15 year time limit on overseas voting rights, although the issue remains under consideration (Action 12).

5.18 Finally, if Council Conclusions are proposed, the Government will seek to ensure that they do not bind Member States to implementing any of the specific actions described in the EU Citizenship Report 2013.


5.19 The Commission's Report on progress towards effective EU citizenship —document (b) — provides a retrospective overview of significant developments concerning EU citizenship during the period 2011-13 and proposes no new policy initiatives. We are therefore content to clear it from scrutiny.

5.20 By contrast, the EU Citizenship Report 2013 — document (a) — foreshadows a number of new initiatives, some legislative, during 2013 and 2014 whilst also illustrating how the rights associated with EU citizenship cut across numerous policy areas. For that reason alone, we think that it merits a Report to the House. We appreciate that it would be unreasonable to expect the Government, at this stage, to provide a detailed assessment of the legal, policy and financial implications for the UK of each of the twelve specific actions proposed by the Commission, given that they are expressed in such general terms and that each one will be deposited for scrutiny as specific proposals are put forward for consideration. We would, however, welcome a fuller assessment of the measures proposed in Action 12 on enhancing participation in the democratic life of the EU. Whilst the Minister indicates that the Government is not currently minded to abolish the 15-year time limit on the eligibility of British citizens resident abroad to register as overseas electors and vote in UK Parliamentary elections, he does not tell us whether the Government would be open to extending the franchise for national Parliamentary elections to EU nationals resident in the UK. We therefore ask him to provide a more detailed analysis of the practical and political implications of extending the franchise for national elections which the Report appears to advocate. We also ask him to confirm whether the Council intends to agree Conclusions on the EU Citizenship Report 2013 and, if so, to explain what safeguards the Government intends to seek to ensure that it is not tied into any of the actions proposed. Meanwhile, the Report remains under scrutiny.

12   See Articles 18, 20 and 24 TFEU. The provision for citizens' initiatives was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. Back

13   See (32139) 15936/10; HC 428-xiii (2010-12), chapter 1 (19 January 2011). Back

14   See p.1 of the EU Citizenship Report 2013. Back

15   See Regulation (EC) No. 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems (OJ No. L 166, 30.04.2004) and implementing Regulation (EC) No. 987/2009 (OJ No. L 284, 30.10.2009). Back

16   For further information on these initiatives, see Commission Communications, Moving Youth into Employment (34532) 17575/12 and Towards a Quality Framework on Traineeships (34533) 17578/12; HC 86-xxxi (2012-13), chapter 4 (6 February 2013). Back

17   See (34131) 12786/12; HC 86-xv (2012-13), chapter 1 (17 October 2012) ; HC 86-xvi (2012- 13), chapter 10 (24 October 2012); and HC 83-iv (2013-14), chapter 7 (5 June 2013). Back

18   See pp.21-22 of the EU Citizenship Report 2013. Back

19   See p.22 of the EU Citizenship Report 2013. Back

20   See p.24 of the EU Citizenship Report 2013. Back

21   See pp.24-25 of the EU Citizenship Report 2013. Back

22   See (34896) 9124/13; HC 83-v (2013-14), chapter 3 (12 June 2013). Back

23   See para 25 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum. Back

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Prepared 27 June 2013