Simplified acceptance of certain public documents - free movement

In “Legal Affairs - JURI”

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In June 2016, the co-legislators adopted a regulation aimed at promoting the free movement of citizens by simplifying the requirements for presenting certain public documents in the European Union.  It was published in the Official Journal of the EU (L 200) on 26 July 2016, as Regulation 2016/1191. It entered into force on 15 August 2016 and will apply from 16 February 2019.

The new rules, proposed by the Commission on 23 April 2013, are designed to simplify the requirements for cross-border use and acceptance of certain public documents in the European Union. The aim is thus to promote the free movement of citizens and a well-functioning single market for EU businesses.

Mutual recognition leaves the legal system of the Member States unchanged, but reduces the financial and bureaucratic burdens, as well as legal obstacles for citizens, families and businesses exercising their Treaty freedoms.

The European Parliament’s Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee adopted its first reading report on 10 January 2014 (rapporteur: Bernhard Rapkay, S&D, Germany). The JURI Committee proposed amendments to the Commission proposal aimed at:

  • extending the scope of the simplification of the acceptance of public documents to a larger number of categories, including identity documents, certificates relating to educational attainment or disability, and tax and social insurance;
  • obliging authorities to accept a certified or uncertified copy of a public document issued by the authorities of other Member States or by EU authorities, rather than only the original;
  • providing that, in cases when an uncertified copy of such a public document is submitted with a view to the entry of a legal fact, or legal transaction, in a public register, for the correctness of which public financial liability exists, the authority concerned may also require the original or a certified copy of that document to be submitted; in those cases, the choice would be at the discretion of the person submitting it, in cases where there is no reasonable doubt concerning the authenticity of the copy;
  • allowing, as a general rule, the acceptance of uncertified translations;
  • ensuring that authorities accept public documents submitted to them, when they have been issued by authorities of another Member State or by Union authorities without legalisation or an 'apostille' (an 'apostille' is an official document, issued by a competent public authority, that certifies that another document, e.g. issued by a notary or a civil status officer, has been duly issued; an apostille allows other countries – which are party to the 1961 Apostille Convention [Convention of 5.10.1961 abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents] – to accept such a document without additional legalisation by its own public authorities);
  • introducing multilingual standard forms of public documents.

On 4 February 2014, the Parliament adopted its first reading position on the proposal, which in general terms follows the JURI committee report.

In the light of the evolution of discussions in Council, the JURI  Committee took a decision on 20 January 2015 enabling Parliament to enter into early second reading negotiations (rapporteur: Mady Delvaux, S&D, Luxembourg).

The Council adopted a general approach on the draft regulation on 15 June 2015. In the course of its work on the proposal, the Council has reduced the scope of the proposal to cover only documents related to civil status.

The first trilogue meeting took place on 15 July 2015.

An agreement was reached between the European Parliament and the Council on a compromise package on 13 October 2015.

The Council adopted its position at first reading on 10 March 2016.

The European Parliament adopted the text at second reading on 9 June 2016.

The regulation, finally adopted on 6 July 2016, was published in the Official Journal on 2 July 2016 and has applied since 16 February 2019. As a regulation, it is directly applicable in all Member States and does not require the adoption of national implementing measueres. The new regulation promotes the free movement of citizens and businesses by simplifying the requirements and procedures for cross-border use of certain public documents in the EU, thereby contributing to the creation of a citizens’ Europe. It notably allows the documents covered by the new rules to circulate without requirement of legalisation or apostille. This means that a public document originating from one EU Member State is now recognised in another Member State without the need of additional documents certifying their authenticity, either issued by competent authortiies both in the Member State of origin and in the Member State of acceptance (legalisation) or only by a competent authority the Member State of issue (apostille, as provided by the 1961 Apostille Convention). In order to overcome language barriers, the regulation also establishes multilingual standard forms to be used as a translation aid attached to some of the public documents most frequently used in a cross-border context.


Further reading:

Author: Rafał Mańko, Members' Research Service,

As of 23/06/2022.