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9.1.  Citizenship of the European Union and its attributes

    The treaty of Lisbon (following the Treaties of Amsterdam and of Nice) establishes the citizenship of the Union, which is additional to and does not replace national citizenship. Every person holding the nationality of a Member State is a citizen of the Union. Citizens of the Union, thus defined, enjoy the rights conferred by the Treaty and are subject to the duties imposed thereby. They receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies (Articles 9 TEU and 20 TFEU, ex Article 17 TEC). In the next sections we examine how are established and protected by the treaties and European law the rights and freedoms of EU citizens. We examine here three main attributes of the citizenship of the Union: the principle of non-discrimination, the electoral rights and the right to diplomatic protection of the citizens of the Member States.

    The treaty on European Union proclaims that the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail (Article 2 TEU). More specifically the treaty on the functioning of the EU prohibits any discrimination on grounds of nationality. The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, may adopt rules designed to prohibit such discrimination (Article 18 TFEU). They may also, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, adopt the basic principles of Union incentive measures against discrimination. The Council, acting unanimously in accordance with a special legislative procedure and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation (Article 19 TFEU).

    Every citizen of the Union residing in a Member State of which he or she is not a national has the right to vote and to stand as a candidate at European and municipal elections in the Member State in which he resides, under the same conditions as nationals of that State [Article 22 TFEU, ex Article 19 TEC]. A directive lays down arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in European Parliament elections in the Member State of residence [Directive 93/109, last amended by Directive 2013/1]. While including provisions to ensure freedom of choice and to prevent individuals from voting or standing for election in two constituencies at once, the Directive is based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination and is designed to facilitate the exercise by the citizens of the Union of their right to vote and to stand for election in the Member State where they reside.

    The Directive laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections ensures the same rights to Union citizens in elections by direct universal suffrage at local government level [Directive 94/80, last amended by Decision 2012/408]. Member States may, however, reserve for their own nationals the posts of mayor and deputy mayor, which involve participation in an official authority or in the election of a parliamentary assembly. The Directive also allows Member States where the proportion of nationals of other Union countries exceeds 20% to restrict the right to vote and stand as candidate to those who meet certain criteria regarding length of residence.

    Every citizen of the Union is, in the territory of a third country in which the Member State of which he or she is a national is not represented, entitled to protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of any Member State, on the same conditions as the nationals of that State (Articles 35 TEU and 23 TFEU, ex Article 20 TEC). Two Decisions specify the right to diplomatic protection. This right is not negligible, as there are many cases where one Member State is not represented in a third country. It includes assistance in the event of death, illness or serious accident, arrest, detention or assault as well as help and repatriation in the event of difficulty [Directive 2015/637]. In practical terms, EU nationals whose passport or travel document is lost, stolen or temporarily unavailable in a country where their own Member State has no representation, may obtain an emergency travel document, from the diplomatic or consular representation of another Member State [Decision 96/409 consolidated version 01.01.2007].

    Two programmes of the Union concern the citizenship and the rights of the citizens. The ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme, with a budget of 185,468,000 for the period 2014 to 2020, aims to to contribute to citizens' understanding of the Union, its history and diversity and to foster European citizenship [Regulation 390/2014]. The specific objectives of the programme are: (a) to raise awareness of remembrance, the common history and values of the Union and the Union's aim, namely to promote peace, the values of the Union and the well-being of its peoples, by stimulating debate, reflection and the development of networks; and (b) to encourage the democratic and civic participation of citizens at Union level, by developing citizens' understanding of the Union policy making-process and promoting opportunities for societal and intercultural engagement and volunteering at Union level.

    The general objective of the 'Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme' for the period 2014 to 2020 is to contribute (with a budget of 439,473,000 EUR) to the further development of an area where equality and the rights of persons as enshrined in the TEU, in the TFEU, in the Charter and in the international human rights conventions to which the Union has acceded, are promoted, protected and effectively implemented [Regulation 1381/2013]. The specific objectives of the programme are: (a) to promote the effective implementation of the principle of non -discrimination on grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, and to respect the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds provided for in Article 21 of the Charter; (b) to prevent and combat racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of intolerance; (c) to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities; (d) to promote equality between women and men and to advance gender mainstreaming; (e) to prevent and combat all forms of violence against children, young people and women, as well as violence against other groups at risk, in particular groups at risk of violence in close relationships, and to protect victims of such violence; (f) to promote and protect the rights of the child; (g) to contribute to ensuring the highest level of protection of privacy and personal data; (h) to promote and enhance the exercise of rights deriving from citizenship of the Union; and (i) to enable individuals in their capacity as consumers or entrepreneurs in the internal market to enforce their rights deriving from Union law, having regard to the projects funded under the Consumer Programme [see chapter 11].

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