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Procedure : 2007/2196(INI)
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Document selected : A6-0454/2007

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PV 11/12/2007 - 9.15
CRE 11/12/2007 - 9.15
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Tuesday, 11 December 2007 - Strasbourg
Green Paper: Diplomatic and consular protection of Union citizens

European Parliament resolution of 11 December 2007 on the Green Paper: Diplomatic and consular protection of Union citizens in third countries (2007/2196(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission's Green Paper of 28 November 2006 on diplomatic and consular protection of Union citizens in third countries (COM(2006)0712),

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A6-0454/2007),

A.   whereas the representation of the Member States in third countries is very uneven,

B.   whereas in particular in only three countries in the world (China, Russia and the USA) does each of the EU Member States have diplomatic and consular representation, whereas in 107 countries 10 Member States at most are represented and whereas in certain popular destinations such as the Maldives there is no representation at all,

C.   whereas in response to the explosion in the number of EU citizens travelling (180 million travel documents were sold in 2006) or resident outside the EU, the European presence represented by the Commission delegations could be taken into account in a joint effort to pool resources in order to compensate for the limitations of the Member States' consular and diplomatic networks,

D.   whereas the relevant Community acquis is very restricted in extent and consists only of Decision 95/553/EC of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council of 19 December 1995 regarding protection for citizens of the European Union by diplomatic and consular representations(1), and of exchanges of information among the Member States within COCON (the Council working party on consular cooperation, the task of which is to organise the exchange of information concerning good practices followed by the Member States),

E.   having regard to the Commission's initiative in the form of a Green Paper which is intended to put flesh on the little-known Article 20 of the EC Treaty, pursuant to which every Union citizen, in the absence of an embassy or a consular post belonging to his own Member State in a third country, shall enjoy the diplomatic and consular protection of any other Member State represented in that third country, in accordance with the principle of non-discrimination and under the same conditions as nationals of that State,

F.   whereas in this connection the Commission:

   acknowledges Article 46 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in which the right to consular and diplomatic protection is enshrined as a fundamental right of Union citizens,
   meets the requirement for Decision 95/553/EC, which came into effect in May 2002, to be revised after five years,
   looks ahead to the Commission's fifth report on Union citizenship, which constitutes a special opportunity for announcing initiatives enabling diplomatic and consular protection to be developed further,

G.   whereas, however, the existing legal framework has hitherto been interpreted restrictively, since diplomatic or consular protection has been regarded as coming within the narrow field of inter-governmental relations as governed by the 1963 Vienna Convention rather than by Article 20 of the Treaty,

H.  H whereas diplomatic and consular protection should not be confused with, among other things, the public registrar or notary duties often assigned to consular representatives,

I.   whereas there are indeed differences (of nature and structure and as regards the triggering of procedures) between diplomatic protection and consular protection, since although the latter may, in certain cases at least, be obligatory, diplomatic protection has always been subject to a discretionary power and therefore a distinction should be made, in the respective legal instruments, between consular and diplomatic protection,

J.   whereas, on the contrary, the Maastricht Treaty created a Union citizenship stemming from citizenship of the Member States and it would be desirable, so as to flesh that concept out, for comparable protection to be achieved for all Union citizens irrespective of their nationality,

K.   whereas from this point of view the conditions for a revision of Decision 95/553/EC (with the aim of extending it) must be created without delay and diplomatic protection must be included fairly and squarely within its scope,

L.   whereas the Member States are already pursuing initiatives, such as the 'Pilot State' and joint simulation exercises, which will enable a better response to be made in the event of a crisis and/or exceptional circumstances and to which the Commission could contribute by carrying out assessments,

M.   whereas still under-exploited networks, such as the Honorary Consuls network, exist which nonetheless constitute a significant resource to which the necessary aid should be allocated,

N.   whereas the Treaty of Lisbon establishes a European Foreign Service with its own competences and responsibilities,

1.  Wholeheartedly endorses the Commission's initiative which rejects a shallow interpretation of Article 20 of the EC Treaty and is intended to lay the foundations for a genuine harmonised fundamental right to diplomatic and consular protection for each and every citizen of the Union;

2.  Calls on the Commission to refer to its Legal Service the question of whether the EC Treaty or EU Treaty contains a legal basis for approximating Member State arrangements in the field of diplomatic and consular protection;

3.  Supports the Commission in its efforts to establish an ambitious long-term strategy within which information and communication will be key elements;

4.  Suggests that the Commission should propose without delay to the Council (over and above the requirement for it to report every three years on Union citizenship pursuant to Article 22 of the EC Treaty) that common concepts and binding guidelines enabling common standards to be established in the field of consular protection be adopted;

5.  Encourages the Commission to begin work immediately on a rationalised structure to enable resources to be pooled straight away and on greater sharing of best practices by immediately carrying out an inventory of all relevant public and private resources which are available and can be marshalled, and by establishing varied forms of cooperation amongst the many parties which, in their response to the Commission consultation, have offered to contribute to the project (Member States and also Honorary Consuls, local authorities and NGOs);

6.  Calls on the Commission to intensify its communication and information efforts, in particular by:

   establishing a single European emergency telephone number for inclusion in the passports of Union citizens together with the text of Article 20 of the EC Treaty, enabling any Union citizen to be connected to a call centre which will provide him with comprehensive information in the event of a critical situation triggering the consular protection process in particular an up-to-date list of contact details for the Member States" embassies and consulates to which he is entitled to apply; the number could be administered on a central basis in Brussels;
   raising awareness among those professionally involved in the (short or long-term) stay of Union citizens in third countries by distributing booklets tailored to their area of activity;
   drawing up a recommendation on good practice in the drafting of advice to travellers, with a view to ensuring that it is clearly and unambiguously worded;
   creating under its own responsibility a harmonised website containing information for travellers and compiling and/or summarising each Member State's advice to travellers;
   raising awareness among Union citizens travelling outside the Union, notably in airports and ports, through travel agents and operators, on travel tickets and through national agencies involved in travel and tourism;
   setting up a working party made up of representatives of the European institutions and highly qualified diplomats from each Member State to exchange information on the assessment by each Member State of the risks involved in travelling in third countries and work towards a common approach to advice to travellers;

7.  Urges the Commission to issue a recommendation to the Member States calling on them to reproduce Article 20 of the EC Treaty in the passports issued to their nationals;

8.  Calls on the Commission to submit to it, once the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified, a proposal for amending Decision 95/553/EC, so that it expressly includes:

   diplomatic protection;
   the identification and repatriation of mortal remains;
   simplification of the procedures for advancing money;

9.  Encourages the Commission to extend consular protection to the family members of Union citizens who are third country nationals, as well as recognised refugees and stateless persons and other persons who do not hold the nationality of any country but who reside in a Member State and are holders of a travel document issued by that Member State;

10.  Calls on the Commission to take appropriate steps to ensure that legal assistance is provided to Union citizens in the event of their arrest or detention in a third country, and to make such assistance more effective;

11.  Wholeheartedly endorses the initiative which has already been announced in the Barnier Report concerning the establishment of "joint offices" in four "test" areas (the Caribbean, the Balkans, the Indian Ocean and West Africa) and encourages the Commission to launch (at the same time as the "joint offices" are established) an information campaign targeted at Union nationals resident in those areas in order to ensure that they complete the necessary registration formalities;

12.  Considers that, pending the advent of joint offices performing all the most important consular tasks (issue of visas, legalisation of documents, etc.), the Commission should make a contribution to the efforts being made by the Member States in order to enhance their cooperation, in particular:

   as regards the assessment and analysis of exercises and simulations undertaken under the aegis of "Pilot States' in order to improve yet further their coordination and response skills should exceptional circumstances arise, while endeavouring to clarify the procedures applicable during implementation of the Pilot States initiative and to ensure greater consultation of interested third parties, particularly in the transport and tourism industries;
   as regards the coordination and provision of logistical capacity and civil defence resources;

13.  Calls on the Commission to resort where possible to training and technology in order to make good certain shortcomings and/or to make optimum use of certain resources which are still under-exploited; in this connection the Commission should in particular marshal its resources in order to finance specific training courses given by experienced diplomats and consular staff from the Member States for the benefit of Honorary Consuls who are already established in third countries; such training should subsequently be given to Union representatives as well, once the 'joint offices' and subsequently the Union delegations are actually responsible for the consular tasks which these days are performed exclusively by the Member States' representations;

14.  Notes that the procedures for granting financial assistance are often slowed down by the amount of consultation that needs to be carried out, thus creating an additional difficulty at a time when Union citizens in an emergency situation in a third country require straightforward assistance; calls on the Commission to look into the possibility of streamlining and standardising the procedures for granting such assistance;

15.  Calls on the Commission to analyse the possibilities and implications with regard to consular and diplomatic protection which may result from establishing a European Foreign Service as provided for by the Treaty of Lisbon;

16.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 314, 28.12.1995, p. 73.

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