European Union citizenship and rights.

The Maastricht Treaty introduced the concept of citizenship of the European Union.  The Treaty declares the rights of a citizen.  Citizens have the rights conferred by the Treaty and the duties imposed by it.  The duties imposed are limited. The European Union flag and anthem were formally adopted.

EU citizenship arises from the nationality of an EU member state.  Such persons are deemed citizens of the Union.  EU citizenship complements national citizenship but does not supplant it.

Citizenship remains a matter for the member states.  However, states must recognise each other’s laws on recognition of their own nationality.  Such persons become EU citizens once they become nationals of an EU state.

Rights of Citizens

Every citizen of the EU has a right to move freely within the EU states subject only to the limitations provided by the treaty.  Any member of an EU citizen’s family may not exercise the right of free moment unless he or she is himself an EU national or the movement is done in tandem with the movement of the EU national.

The EU has the power to adopt measures to implement the above provisions declared in the treaty. The treaty rights have been supplemented by  EU implementing legislation.  On some occasions, resort may be had to the treaty rights to cover gaps in the legislation.

The treaty article on citizenship is directly effective. The Court of Justice has been assertive in spelling out the consequences of the treaty rights.  It has been held that any social rights should be available to nationals of other EU states even outside of the direct exercise of employment or the establishment of business.

In practice, the courts have made some  (limited) inroads on the requirements for economic self-sufficiency in the directive..There are however limits.  States are not obliged to take in other state’s nationals in a manner that imposes a burden on the social system of the host state.

Residence permits are not required. States may require residents to register within a period of not less than three months.  Registration must be given on production of identity, passport or alternative identity and declaration of compliance with the requirements or other evidence thereof.

Long-Term Residents

A long-term resident is a person who has been continuously resident in an EU state for at least five years, is not a burden on its social assistance system, has appropriate health insurance and is not a threat to public policy, security and health may claim status.  The status does not apply to asylum-seekers, diplomats, students and others who have not been given permanent leave to remain in the state.  States may impose limitations in relation to access to social benefits and in some cases employment.

An EU directive on family unification gives rights to nationals of third countries who hold a residence permit from a state for a period of validity of one year or more and who have a reasonable prospect of obtaining right of permanent residence.  The directive provides that such persons are entitled to be reunited with family members who are third-party nationals, who accordingly, may be entitled to join them in the EU state concerned.

An EU directive provides for the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU.  States of residence are required to confer such persons and their families with rights as near as possible as those enjoyed by EU citizens.

Refugee children in need of protection may be granted residence permits for family members if the parents and children are third-country nationals, provided they are not a threat to public order, security or other grounds.

Civic and Consular Rights of Citizens

EU nationals of other states may take part in municipal and European Parliament elections and may vote in them.  This does not apply to national parliamentary elections.  Municipal elections relate to local government units elected by general universal suffrage administering the basic level of administrative organisation, local affairs and its own responsibility.

EU nationals are entitled to the diplomatic and consular protection of any member state under the same terms as nationals of that Member State.  This is of particular relevance where its member state of nationality has no representation in the territory of a third state.  The necessary rules are required to secure the protection, implement the right.

Guidelines have been adopted regarding diplomatic and consular assistance.  They seek to ensure that if a national in a non-EU country he is entitled to request the diplomatic mission of an EU state for assistance and repatriation in the event of serious unexpected matters such as death, accidents, violence, attack, natural disasters and catastrophes.

EU Ombudsman

Complaints may be made to the EU Ombudsman by citizens.  The Parliament appoints the Ombudsman and specifies conditions regulating his duties.

The Ombudsman is nominated by the Parliament and holds office for its term.  He may be removed from Parliament by Parliament.

The Ombudsman may receive complaints from EU citizens and natural persons established in the EU.  Complaints may be made in relation to maladministration by EU institutions.  It will not extend to maladministration of EU law by domestic bodies.  The Ombudsman works with national Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman may undertake investigations at its own initiative or on foot of complaints or true facts brought to his attention by EU Parliament.

The Ombudsman may make refer a complaint which he determines well-founded with its views to the institution concerned.  It has three months to express the view.  After that period, if it has not taken appropriate measures to remedy the matter, he may draft a report to forward to the Parliament or institution.  There is no legal remedy.

Rights to Petition

A citizen may petition the European Parliament. The right of petition extends to companies and body corporates registered in the state. It must relate to matters within the Union ’s which affect the person concerned directly. There is a committee on petitions which determines the admissibility of a petition.  If it is admissible, the committee may request the Commission or other bodies to provide information.  It may be put on the committee agenda. The Commission may be invited to make a statement and comment on the matters raised in the petition.

If the petition requires individual treatment, the Commission may contact authorities in the state concerned.  It may ask the President of the Parliament to make representations with national authorities.

If the petition has a more general application such for example that there is a breach of law by a state, it may take appropriate actions and proceedings. If the petition relates to political matters it may be used as a basis of political action.

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