30 May 2014

Reports uncover the tender spot in relation to EU citizens' rights

EU law

Top lawyers from all over EU meet in these days at an international congress in Copenhagen to discuss, amongst other things, Union citizenship on the basis of reports produced in connection with the congress. One of the conclusions from the reports is that Union citizenship has a different meaning depending on where you live in the EU and that EU should therefore intervene to ensure equal rights for all EU citizens.

Discussion of the EU’s tender spots

The Member States have committed themselves to ensuring equal rights for all Union citizens, such as freedom of movement inside EU’s borders and equal access to social welfare payments. But even though the equality of Union citizens should be ensured by EU law, reality is something else. This is the conclusion of one of the reports that is being discussed in these days by over 400 European top lawyers in connection with the XXVI FIDE Congress.

The FIDE organisation (Fédération Internationale pour le Droit Européen) holds a congress every other year at which lawyers from all over Europe take the temperature of various EU related challenges. Ulla Neergaard, Professor of EU Law at the University of Copenhagen and President of FIDE 2013-2014 emphasises the importance of meeting across borders and areas of practice:

- The reports are produced by national experts from all over Europe charting and analysing how the rights of EU citizens are implemented in the respective countries. The reports therefore provide a comprehensive picture of the weak spots. Attending the congress are lawyers that work on a daily basis as experts, advisors, judges, lawyers and researchers in EU law and it is therefore a unique opportunity for academics and practitioners to meet and challenge each other on legal issues in the EU.

The Union citizen is perceived as being foreign

The book ”Union Citizenship: Development, Impact and Challenges” contains reports on Union citizenship from 23 Member States. The book is published in connection with the XXVI FIDE Congress.

By comparing analyses from different countries it becomes clear that there are considerable differences in countries’ regulation and practice in relation to EU law. The reports show that, amongst other things, expulsion is handled very differently from country to country even though EU law in principle should provide equal protection to EU citizens.

The reports also suggest that the problem of inequality between EU’s different nationalities can be hard to solve as it is connected with our understanding of what it means to be a Union citizen. Jo Shaw and Niamh Nic Shuibhne, both internationally recognized law professors from the University of Edinburgh, have produced a 160 page analysis of the reports and the results are surprising.

- Both the authorities and the media in the majority of Member States regard the EU citizen as a foreigner. There is therefore little difference in the perception of an EU citizen and a citizen from a non-EU country. This is perplexing, when you consider that last year was the twentieth anniversary of the introduction of EU citizenship, the two researchers conclude. 

Union citizenship lacks support from the Member States

The lack of uniformity and equality indicates, according to the two researchers, that Union citizenship is in a crisis that they believe the EU cannot afford to ignore.

- The trajectory of Union citizenship shows a range of extraordinary achievements. But it also suggests a worrying note of frailty – and one that is being stretched because of rather than against a prevailing political momentum. Will the Member States stand by their own creation, or not?


Press Officer for the XXVI FIDE Congress, lawyer Peter Biering, mobile +45 2543 0207
Professor of EU law and President for FIDE 2013-2014, Ulla Neergaard, tel. +45 3532 3313