Do you know your rights as a citizen of the European Union?
Any citizen of a member state of the EU is entitled to the European citizenship which entails, apart from other rights, the important right to consular assistance in case any problems might emerge during a stay outside the European Union where no representation is established of the citizens’ own national state.
The legal base of the right to consular protection derives from Art. 23 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”) that establishes the citizenship of the Union. The Lisbon Treaty incorporated the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union into EU law, which defines the fundamental right to diplomatic and consular protection:
“Every citizen of the Union shall, in the territory of a third country in which the Member State of which he or she is a national is not represented, be entitled to protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of any Member State, on the same conditions as the nationals of that Member State”.
But how does it work?
The kind of assistance provided by the diplomatic or consular authorities of any EU state and its limits are defined in the Council Directive 2015/637.
According to the directive, when an EU citizen seeks help at the diplomatic or consular authorities of any EU state different from his/her own, he/she must produce a passport or identity card as proof of nationality. If the citizen of the Union is unable to produce a valid passport or identity card, nationality may be proven by any other means, if necessary including verification with the diplomatic or consular authorities of the Member State of which the applicant claims to be a national.
The general protection offered by embassies or consulates of other EU countries includes:
• Assistance in cases of arrest or detention;
• Assistance to victims of crime;
• Assistance in cases of serious accident or illness;
• Assistance in cases of death;
• The relief and repatriation of distressed Union citizens;
• Assistance for citizens in need for emergency travel document.
Consular protection shall be provided to family members, who are not themselves citizens of the Union, accompanying unrepresented European citizens in a third country, to the same extent and on the same conditions as it would be provided to the EU citizen.