EU Citizenship Report: empowering citizens and protecting their rights

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the Commission published the 2020 EU Citizenship Report, which takes stock of the progress made on EU citizenship since the last report in 2017. The report also sets out new priorities and actions to empower EU citizens, such as an update of the EU guidelines on free movement, taking into account the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “EU citizenship is at the core of the European project. And yet we have seen unprecedented challenges to some of the basic rights we tend to take for granted in Europe – from restrictions to free movement because of the pandemic to challenges to our democratic institutions. Today, we are reaffirming our commitment to further empower citizens and protect their rights for a stronger and more resilient EU.”

The 2020 EU Citizenship Report complements the European Democracy Action Plan setting the framework of actions to empower citizens and build more resilient democracies. It brings a number of concrete actions aiming at strengthening democratic participation, facilitating free movement, protecting and promoting EU citizenship, and protecting EU citizens in Europe and abroad.

Concrete actions and priorities for EU citizens

  1. Enhancing democratic participation, empowerment and inclusion. Increasing citizens’ involvement in all stages of the democratic process is key to European democracy. Next year, the Commission will update the rules on voting rights of mobile EU citizens. The Commission aims to facilitate the supply of information to citizens when voting in municipal and European elections, as well as the exchange of relevant information among Member States, for instance, to prevent double voting. The Commission will also fund projects on independent election observation and projects that support European citizens’ engagement.
  2. Facilitating free movement and simplifying daily life. The Commission wants to improve legal certainty for EU citizens when traveling, studying or working in another Member State. To achieve that, in 2022 the Commission will update the 2009 EU guidelines on free movement. The Commission will also come forward with an initiative next year to make the daily lives of EU citizens easier by simplifying their tax obligations. In line with the Withdrawal Agreement, the Commission will continue to support the protection of the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK.
  3. Protecting and promoting EU citizenship. European citizenship is not for sale. The Commission will continue to address the risks posed by investor schemes for EU citizenship, where necessary by infringement procedures. The Commission will also continue to monitor the impact of restrictive measures put in place during the COVID-19 crisis, until such measures are lifted.
  4. Protecting EU citizens in Europe and abroad, including in times of crisis. The Commission will continue building a strong European Health Union and implement the EU strategy for COVID-19 vaccines together with the Member States. In 2021, the Commission will also review the EU rules on consular protection in order to improve the EU’s and Member States’ capacity to protect and support European citizens abroad, especially in times of crisis.

Next steps

The Commission is committed to develop the necessary tools for citizens to fully benefit from their status as European citizens. This is a joint effort. To implement the priorities set out in the report, the Commission will work closely and in partnership with Member States, including local and regional authorities as well as with other EU institutions and stakeholders, civil society and, most importantly, citizens themselves.

Background

The Commission reports on the application of the EU citizenship provisions every 3 years and proposes new priorities for the next 3 years. Since the last EU Citizenship Report in 2017, there have been significant challenges in exercising EU citizenship rights, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU citizenship Report is based on dedicated consultations, including a public consultation on EU citizenship rights, a Flash Eurobarometer survey on EU citizenship and democracy and the work of the Network of Academics on EU Citizenship Rights. A joint hearing on EU citizenship, co-organized by the Commission and the Parliament, was held on 29 October 2020.

The Citizenship Report is strongly linked to President von der Leyen‘s political priorities for Europe, particularly the new push for European democracy and bringing citizens closer to the EU. It complements other initiatives, such as the new strategy for the implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and, in particular, the European Democracy Action Plan.

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