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25-10-2012

Better protection for EU citizens abroad

The diplomatic and consular services of all EU member states must give any EU citizen seeking help abroad the same protection that they give their own nationals, said Parliament on Thursday. MEPs are also calling for the EU delegations to have a key role in strengthening protection for EU nationals in non-EU countries.

Parliament's position on proposed new rules aimed at strengthening consular protection abroad, which is one of the key rights conferred by EU citizenship, was adopted by 596 votes to 66, with 12 abstentions.

"This proposal is an excellent example to show, that more Europe does not necessarily mean more bureaucracy or more Brussels. More Europe could mean more help for European citizens who are in need, more protection for those unrepresented citizens in third countries who find themselves in precarious or crisis situations", said Edit Bauer, (EPP, SK), who drew up the resolution, after the vote.

MEPs say any EU citizen in difficulty abroad, for example after suffering an accident, violence or robbery, or caught up in a crisis situation, should be free to seek assistance from the embassy or consulate of any other EU member state or, where appropriate, from the EU delegation, if their own country is not represented.

Union delegations

Parliament calls for EU delegations (run by the European External Action Service) in non-EU countries to be responsible for cooperation and coordination among member states, including sharing out tasks to ensure that unrepresented citizens are fully assisted in a crisis.

Where relevant, EU delegations should be entrusted with consular tasks, the MEPs say. They should also be allowed to conclude local arrangements with member states' representations on burden sharing and exchanging information.

However, the directive should not force Member States to provide unrepresented citizens with types of assistance which they do not provide for their own nationals, say MEPs.

Many EU citizens have been affected by recent crises, for example in Libya, Egypt and Bahrain after the democratic uprisings in the spring of 2011, or in Japan after the earthquake in March 2011. Also, consular protection is often essential in day-to-day situations, for example when people fall seriously ill or are victims of crime.

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