Strengthening EU citizens’ rights abroad

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This paper, published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), outlines the necessity of reviewing the diplomatic and consular protection rights of EU citizens, enshrined in Article 20 of the European Community Treaty. The document is based on the CEPS response to the Commission’s Green Paper on the diplomatic and consular protection of EU citizens in third countries, adopted in November 2006.

According to the authors, the review of EU citizens’ consular protection rights became particularly necessary following recent events. First, contemporary global developments have made it more likely that EU citizens could find themselves in situations requiring diplomatic protection. The terrorism issue in particular makes the world increasingly unsafe for EU citizens abroad. From an intra-EU perspective, enlargement has reduced the number of countries in which all 27 member states are represented to three: China, Russia and the US. 

The paper therefore makes the following recommendations: 

  • The legal framework of Article 20 TEC – containing the concept of EU citizenship and rights related to diplomatic and consular assistance – should be strengthened to go a theoretical stage further;
  • the scope of Article 20 TEC, covering both diplomatic and consular assistance, should be clarified;
  • the way member states live up to the obligations of Article 20 TEC should be reviewed by national courts and the ECJ to ensure that individual rights correspond to a member state’s obligation to act. 
  • binding minimum standards outlining entitlement to protection under Article 20 TEC should be adopted;
  • consulates, embassies and EU delegations should co-operate in order to provide effective protection of EU rights abroad, and;
  • finally, the report outlines the role of Parliament – as a core element of EU citizenship – in developing the EU acquis on consular and diplomatic protection. 

However, the text welcomes actions included in the Commission Green Paper to provide better information for EU citizens on their right to diplomatic and consular protection outside the EU, and addressing the lack of uniformity in the application of these rights. 

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