The essence of EU citizenship is the free movement and residence of EU citizens and their family in the Union. Free movement of persons is one of the main achievements of the European integration process. Many rights are attached to EU citizenship, starting with the right to travel, live, work and do business anywhere in the EU. Almost 13 million EU citizens currently live in a different Member State to the one where they have citizenship. According to a 2018 Eurobarometer survey, the right to live, work and do business in another EU Member State continues to be one of the most valued aspects of the EU.
EU citizenship also means that EU citizens benefit from the right to vote for and stand as a candidate in European Parliament and municipal elections. EU citizenship is also about the citizens’ relationship with the EU institutions, for example, the possibility to submit petitions to the European Parliament, to complain to the European Ombudsman or to send requests to or access documents from the EU institutions. Since 2007, Milieu has been working on a variety of projects in this area, supporting the Commission, the European Parliament and the Fundamental Rights Agency.
Some highlights of our projects in this area include:
Investor citizenship and residence schemes, also known as golden passports or visa schemes, aim to attract investment in exchange for citizenship or residency rights in the country concerned. This concept also exists in Europe. For example, a number of Member States operate schemes allowing the acquisition of citizenship for an investment of EUR 800 000 to EUR 2 million. These schemes raise concerns about various risks such as security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. As such, the European Commission is calling for more transparency on how nationality or residency is granted as well as further cooperation between Member States. To this end, on 23 January 2019, the European Commission issued a Report and Staff Working Documents on Investor Citizenship and Residence Schemes in the European Union.
Milieu’s work on this project constitutes a fact-finding basis for these documents. More specifically, Milieu analysed national legislation and other implementing measures covering this issue in all 28 Member States and how they are applied in practice. Existing mechanisms of verification and control which authorities are monitoring to-date were also explored.
The EU has several key directives guiding the principle of citizenship. In this project, Milieu was responsible for exploring the extent to which each Member State had incorporated these directives into national legislation as well as broader implementation aspects. Directives covered included:
- Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States;
- Act concerning the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, annexed to Council Decision 76/787/ECSC, EEC, Euratom;
- Directive 94/80/EC laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections by citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals;
- Directive 93/109/EC laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament for citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals.
The project required an analysis of whether the Member States had adopted the necessary measures to ensure the effective application and enforce-ability of the EU acts, e.g. a review of the sanctions (expulsion orders), the application and interpretation of national legislation by national courts in line with the definitions provided by the Directive, administrative practice in the Member States and procedural rules.
The right to exercise free movement is central to EU citizenship. The Citizens’ Rights Directive (Directive 2004/38/EC) was adopted to take that right into account and to streamline the previously fragmented EU legal approach to free movement. According to SOLVIT – a service that helps people who encounter difficulties in another Member State – the right to free movement is still one of the main problem areas in the EU.
The aim of this project was to highlight for the European Parliament, the primary obstacles for EU citizens and their families to exercise their right to free movement and residence across all Member States. Milieu’s research explored the transposition of Directive 2004/38/EC (the Citizens’ Rights Directive) with a focus on cases of discrimination (based on nationality, ethnicity/race or civil status) as well as measures to prevent the abuse of rights. The research covered all 28 EU Member States, with more in depth research for nine EU Member States: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The study resulted in recommendations for the European Parliament, European Commission, and Member States.
The published report can be found online.