Thursday, 2 April 2009

EU Parliament: Union citizenship and freedom of movement: MEPs slam Member States
2.4.9 Justice and Home Affairs  

Since 2006 over eight million Europeans have exercised their right to reside in another EU Member State. However, the Member States have erected many obstacles to the free movement of the EU's citizens, according to the European Parliament. The public still has little awareness of its rights, including the right to vote in local and European elections in the country where they live, say MEPs. The report was adopted with 500 votes in favour, 104 against and 55 abstentions.

Practical application of the right to freedom of movement and residence of citizens and members of their families in the territory of the Member States is disappointing, say MEPs in an own-initiative report by Adina-Ioana Vălean (ALDE, RO). In fact, no Member State has fully enacted the whole directive in its national law.

Major infringements of fundamental rights have therefore been identified, including some relating to the right of entry and residence for family members from non-EU countries and the obligation for EU citizens, when applying for a residence permit, to submit additional documents such as work permits or satisfactory proof of accommodation, something not required under the directive.

MEPs therefore call on the Commission to take action against Member States whose national laws are incompatible with the directive. National administrative practices very often constitute serious obstacles to the exercise of their rights by citizens, says the House.

The report points out that the Commission has received over 1,800 complaints, 40 parliamentary questions and 33 petitions on these matters. Five infringement proceedings have been launched. MEPs believe the situation shows the Commission's inability to ensure that Member States comply with the directive in consistent and timely fashion and to manage the sizeable number of complaints lodged by the public regarding the implementation of the directive.

Key concepts of the directive on free movement are misinterpreted

In particular, some Member States place vague interpretations on the idea of "sufficient resources" (the condition for a stay of over three months), say MEPs. The concepts of "family member" and "partner", in particular with regard to same-sex partners, are also misinterpreted. On these points, MEPs urge Member States to recognise not only spouses of different sexes but also same-sex couples, on the basis of mutual recognition. They point out to Member States that the recognition of free movement for same-sex couples does not necessarily entail recognition of same-sex marriage.

MEPs also call on Member States not to introduce legislation that imposes disproportionate or discriminatory sanctions on Union citizens, such as an aggravating circumstance in relation to a criminal offence committed by a Union citizen if that citizen had been illegally staying in another Member State.

Parliament draws attention to some particular problems, for example in Belgium, where a delegation from the Committee on Civil Liberties found Union citizens being detained in detention centres for illegal immigrants.

Transitional arrangements for free movement tantamount to discrimination

MEPs also call for the scrapping, or at least a review, of the "discrimination" entailed by the transitional arrangements restricting free movement of nationals of Member States that joined the EU on 1 May 2004 and on 1 January 2007. They point out that four Member States of the EU-15 have not opened their labour markets to Member States of the EU-8, and that eleven Member States have decided to keep restrictions on their labour markets against Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.

REF. : 20090401IPR53231

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