ECAS: More Action Needed to Safeguard Freedom of Movement – EU Citizenship Report 2017
On 24 January, the European Commission published its 2017 EU Citizenship Report, taking stock of the achievements of the three years since the last report was issued and putting forward new actions to further improve the exercise of EU rights by citizens and businesses. While the new edition definitely brings a qualitative leap compared to the previous report, we believe the current situation demands more than a “business-as-usual” approach.
ECAS welcomes, in particular, the Commission’s proposed actions to address the lack of awareness among citizens of the rights and benefits that come with EU citizenship, as well as some measures to improve the exercise of free movement rights, such as:
- An EU-wide information and awareness-raising campaign on EU citizenship rights;
- An e-learning tool on EU free movement rights to help local administrations to better understand the rights and obligations that come with free movement;
- A Single Digital Gateway to ensure the availability of high quality, comprehensive information and effective online problem-solving systems;
- A study on EU policy options to improve the security of EU citizens’ identity cards and residence documents, possibly leading to a legislative initiative
Bolder measures needed
However, the proposed actions do not address the notable deterioration that some EU citizenship rights – in particular freedom of movement – have undergone in recent years. This situation calls for bolder measures to protect them, beyond promotion and awareness-raising.
The right to freedom of movement, which has been enshrined as a fundamental freedom in EU Law since 1957 and the right most cherished by EU citizens, has been frequently challenged in recent years, as reflected in the enquiries received by the Your Europe Advice (YEA) service.
Enquires submitted by mobile EU citizens who encounter difficulties when exercising their right to free movement have increased by more than 30% in the period 2012–2015. In 2015, for the first time, “entry procedures” featured as the second most problematic issue across the EU after “social security” and followed by “residence”.
Considering these trends, ECAS recommends a review of Directive 2004/38/EC as the most important legislative instrument governing free movement of people in order to improve its implementation and reflect the numerous judgments of the EU Court of Justice relating to it.
ECAS will address these issues at a high level conference in Brussels on 12 April 2017. The conference “Free Movement of Persons in the EU: A Loved and Feared Reality” will take place at the Press Club and will bring together key experts to reflect on the challenges to freedom of movement and measures to address them. More information soon at: http://ecas.org/events/