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ECAS Highlight of the Week: The bigger the scope of citizen rights is, the stronger the democracy is. What can the EU do?

Freedom of movement is not so free when European citizenship legislation is not implemented correctly. The challenges that EU citizens face as a result can cause them time, money, and nerves.

There are a number of factors at play, but there is one that takes a leading role. While EU citizenship rights are granted by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, upholding them is often in the hands of the public administrations in the different Member States. Overwhelming evidence suggests that many of the obstacles faced by citizens when claiming their EU rights are due to the incorrect implementation of the relevant legislation on a national level.

The observed tendencies over the years by Your Europe Advice (YEA) – a free online EU advice service provided by ECAS legal experts, operating under contract with the European Commission – testify to the growing magnitude of this problem. In 2019, the service saw a 46% increase from the previous year in citizen enquiries, related to freedom of movement obstacles they are faced with (for a total of 28,034 handled enquiries that year). From social security uncertainties to not being able to claim their pension, YEA experts have also noted that these problems often arise due to national authorities’ lack of knowledge of EU citizenship legislation.

It is simple – the bigger the scope of citizen rights is, the stronger the democracy is. While the EU prides itself as one of the leaders in this aspect, it also does not hide the fact that it is in crisis. European decision-makers and the public have been reiterating the call to strengthen and ‘restart’ European democracy. But no efforts can be truly effective if the above is not addressed. Public administrations in Member States must ensure the uniformed implementation of EU citizenship rights.    

It is therefore why ECAS is calling on the European Commission and Member States to provide adequate and continuous training to public administrations on EU citizenship legislation. This call is part of a set of eight recommendations to stakeholders, which we believe will bring us closer to a ‘citizen-centric European Union’. Each one is based on our expertise and extensive research done within the framework of various projects and will be accompanied by a video explaining the background and reason for its inclusion.

To support our call for public administration training, this week we have released the video illustrating why this is desperately needed (problem –>reason–>solution):

 

ECAS has an extensive track record in helping EU citizens in exercising their right to free movement and in-depth knowledge of the problems associated with its implementation. In addition to the Your Europe Advice service, here is what else ECAS is currently doing to address this challenge:

 

Improving Inclusion of EU Mobile Citizens (IMPEU) project

Implemented by ECAS and a consortium of partners led by Agenzia per lo Sviluppo dell’Empolese Valdelsa (Italy). IMPEU fosters the political participation of EU mobile citizens and enhances the knowledge of civil servants and relevant experts on EU citizenship and related political rights.Within its framework, we have launched an accompanying Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) – a free, online training module for civil servants to enhance their knowledge on EU citizenship rights, while promoting inclusion and citizen participation.

 

A joint venture between ECAS, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) and Medecins du Monde (MdM), CORE aims to monitor and take stock of legal and political developments in the field of EU citizenship, including the right to free movement, political inclusion, access to health care and tackling homelessness among mobile EU citizens. This year, we released a set of policy recommendations, based on a carried out analysis of the obstacles to freedom of movement and political participation.

 

You can access the CORE Policy Paper here.

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