Report reveals EU citizens’ daily frustrations

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Two weeks after the Irish voiced their discontent with the EU in a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, MEP Alain Lamassoure presented French President Nicolas Sarkozy with a detailed report on Thursday (26 June), providing an in-depth study of the byzantine obstacles Europeans face when it comes to asserting their rights in another EU country.

The 188-page report, initiated at Sarkozy’s request, states that the “Europe of citizens” is lagging behind progress achieved in other areas, in particular economic integration.

“Fifty years later, a worrying imbalance can be observed,” Lamassoure writes in the report, to be presented in Brussels on Monday (30 June) and seen by EURACTIV. “Economic integration has gone so far as to achieve the merging of national currencies, while the union of Europe’s peoples and citizens is still in its infancy.”

Lamassoure’s analysis comes as France prepares to take over the EU’s rotating Presidency on 1 July with a promise to “reconcile Europe with French citizens” after voters there rejected the draft EU Constitution in 2005 (EURACTIV 16/05/08). Public suspicion about European integration was further highlighted when the Constitution’s successor, the Lisbon Treaty, was rejected by Irish voters two weeks ago (EURACTIV 13/06/08).

The report highlights the paradox between how the EU benefits citizens via increased trade exchanges and wealth creation and the administrative and legal hassles it leaves unsolved when it comes to their private lives. This is illustrated by the low number of bi-national marriages, few university exchanges and a lack of mutual recognition of degrees and qualifications. The same goes for the recognition of professional qualifications that national administrations deal with on a case-by-case basis, leading to lengthy and frustrating administrative processes.

In particular, the report highlights problems posed by the “portability” of social rights, which makes it easier for EU citizens to work abroad, pointing to their poor implementation. When it comes to medical reimbursement, the conditions are “erratic”, says Lamassoure. 

Faced with a lack of coordination between member states’ policies and laws, which sometimes lead to unsolved legal issues, the report recommends the creation of a European Citizen Card.

The card would act as a “judicial passport” which would serve as a permanent residence permit, a work permit, a certificate of nationality, a health card and a social security card. 

According to Lamassoure, this would greatly simplify current administrative procedures. “The time has come to frame more adequate policies and laws founded on European realities, at the risk of having to reconsider projects and forsake our dreams,” the French MEP warned.

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