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EU Rights

ECAS Warns against Limitations to Free Movement

The European Citizens Action Service (ECAS) warns EU lawmakers against adopting increased security measures which may jeopardise freedom of movement and other fundamental rights and further increase divisions and marginalisation in the EU itself.

“European citizens should not be forced to choose between their freedoms and their security. They are entitled to both! We shouldn’t forget that ’The Right to Swing my Fist Ends Where the Other Man’s Nose Begins’[1]”, said Assya Kavrakova, Director of ECAS.

ECAS reiterates that the Freedom of Movement of Persons is one of the four fundamental freedoms underpinning the European project as a whole and is the right most deeply cherished by European citizens today[2]. In the opinion of ECAS, any new approach which has not been tested for its effects on free movement and on the other rights and freedoms of EU citizens, risks upsetting a delicate balance between freedom and security which is already difficult to maintain.

As an association with a Pan-European membership and 24 years of experience in helping civil society organizations and citizens concerning rights enforcement[3] and participation in the EU decision-making process, ECAS[4] believes that any measures to be adopted as part of the European Agenda on Security should:

  1.  Undergo a preliminary impact assessment for compatibility with EU fundamental rights and freedoms, the results of which should be made public and fully transparent; and
  2. Be consulted with citizens first through strict application of  the minimum standards of consultation[5].

Consistent with its mission, ECAS will monitor and evaluate any proposed measures with regards to their potential impact on the free movement of persons in the EU.

Following the terrorist attacks in France there has been intensive discussion as well as various proposals for a wide range of measures to strengthen security and combat terrorism: from ad hoc measures to proposals aiming at more systemic change and long-term impact, e.g. revision of the Schengen framework. While the Schengen borders are usually referred to as the external borders of the EU, it’s important to remember that for those EU member states which are not part of the Schengen agreement, they represent internal division lines within the EU. Bulgarians, Romanians, Cypriots and Croatians are still subject to border control when they enter the Schengen area. The UK and Ireland have opted out from certain Schengen rules and are also subject to Schengen border control.

[1] Attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, and as Acting Chief Justice of the United States January–February 1930.

[2]56% of the Europeans according to the Standard Eurobarometer 81, European Citizenship 2014

[3] ECAS provides legal advice and support to more than 20 000 EU citizens annually who encounter problems when exercising their right to free movement in the EU – e.g. http://www.ecas.org/eu-rights/your-europe-advice-yea/

[4] http://www.ecas.org/about-us/ecas-mission/

[5] http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/civil_society/general_overview_en.htm#3

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