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Summaries of EU Legislation

EU consular protection: better protection for EU citizens abroad

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EU consular protection: better protection for EU citizens abroad

SUMMARY

Almost 7 million European Union (EU) citizens travel or live outside the EU in places where their own country does not have an embassy or consulate.

During their stay, they might need assistance from consular authorities for instance if their passport is lost or stolen, if they are victims of an accident or if they find themselves in the middle of a political crisis which requires that they are evacuated.

WHAT DOES THIS DIRECTIVE DO?

It determines when and how EU citizens in distress in a non-EU country have the right to enjoy the protection of the other EU countries’ embassies or consulates if their own country is not represented.

KEY POINTS

Non-discriminatory consular protection

Other EU countries must provide unrepresented EU citizens with whatever assistance they would provide to their own nationals such as

assistance in cases of death;

assistance in cases of serious accident or illness;

assistance in cases of arrest or detention;

assistance to victims of crime;

the relief and repatriation in case of an emergency.

The Directive also clarifies to what extent non-EU family members can get assistance.

Coordination and cooperation measures

The new Directive also clarifies the rules on how assistance should be coordinated between the EU countries and the role of EU Delegations.

The citizens’ EU home country will always be consulted by the country from whom the citizen is seeking help and can, at any time, decide to take care of its own citizens, even when it has no embassy or consulate in the country concerned (for instance by providing information over the phone, contacting family or friends, or by way of online consular services).

The citizen can be redirected from one embassy to another, as EU countries present in the country can agree locally on who should take care of whom in order to ensure efficient protection for EU citizens. Such agreements will have to be made public.

Citizens can get information on assistance available and any agreements in place between consulates by contacting the EU Delegation in the country in question.

Crisis situations

The Directive sets up the rules to guarantee that unrepresented citizens are duly taken into account and fully assisted in crisis situations. In such cases, a clear division of responsibilities and coordination is essential to avoid that EU citizens are neglected.

Financial procedures

If the assistance provided implies costs or fees, unrepresented EU citizens should not have to pay more than the citizens of the EU country which assists them.

Citizens who are not able to pay these costs on the spot will be asked to sign a form by which they undertake to repay those costs to their own authorities.

WHEN DOES THIS DIRECTIVE APPLY?

From 1 May 2018.

BACKGROUND

The EU Treaties guarantee all EU citizens the right to equal treatment regarding protection from the diplomatic and consular authorities of any EU country when they are travelling or living outside the EU and their own country is not represented (see Articles 20(2)(c) and 23 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; Article 46 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights).

Under the previous legal regime, EU countries were to establish the necessary rules among themselves. This took the form of a Council Decision (Council Decision 95/553/EC on consular protection for unrepresented EU citizens).

The new Directive will repeal Decision 95/553/EC as from 1 May 2018. The aim is to further facilitate cooperation and coordination between consular authorities and to strengthen EU citizens' right to consular protection.

For further information, see:

ACT

Council Directive (EU) 2015/637 of 20 April 2015 on the coordination and cooperation measures to facilitate consular protection for unrepresented citizens of the Union in third countries and repealing Decision 95/553/EC

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Council Directive (EU) 2015/637

14.5.2015

1.5.2018

OJ L 106, 24.4.2015, pp. 1-13

RELATED ACTS

95/553/EC: Decision of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council of 19 December 1995 regarding protection for citizens of the European Union by diplomatic and consular representations (OJ L 314, 28.12.1995, pp. 73-76)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council - Consular protection for EU citizens in third countries: State of play and way forward (COM(2011) 149 final of 23.3.2011)

last update 19.08.2015

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