New EU rules to ease acceptance of public documents backed by Legal Affairs MEPs 

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The Legal Affairs Committee approved on Thursday a deal struck by Parliament and Council negotiators on new EU rules to facilitate the free movement of citizens by simplifying procedures for proving the authenticity of certain public documents, such as birth or marriage certificates, in other EU member states. To avoid the need for translations, new rules would also introduce new multilingual EU forms to be attached to the public documents.

“The priority of Parliament was to defend the citizens' interest to ease their cross-border lives. I'm satisfied that this text will facilitate the free movement of citizens in the EU”, said the lead MEP Mady Delvaux (S&D, LU). “This Regulation is the first step of a longer process where the final goal would be to have common public documents within the EU”, she added.

The law would do away with administrative formalities such as the “legalisation” or “apostille” certification of certain public documents, such as those proving civil status, parenthood and nationality.  MEPs and the Council agreed to extend the scope so that documents on capacity to marry or to enter in a registered partnership, as well as documents certifying the absence of a criminal record, would also be accepted in other Member States without further formalities.

Furthermore, the rules would also cover documents required from citizens living in another Member State when they want to vote and/or stand as candidate in European elections or in municipal elections in the Member State where they reside.

New multilingual forms

To avoid the need to translate certain public documents and therefore to save both time and money for citizens moving to another EU country, the law would also introduce new multilingual EU forms to be attached to the public documents. Multilingual forms could be used when proving birth, whether a person is alive, death, marriage or registered partnership, including capacity to marry or to enter into a registered partnership and marital/registered partnership status, domicile and/or residence, or absence of a criminal record.

Legal Affairs MEPs won guarantees that the fee for obtaining a multilingual form will not exceed the production costs of the multilingual form or of the public document to which the form in attached, so as to keep the cost of multilingual forms to a minimum.

Obligation to provide information to citizens

To make sure citizens are aware of the simplified procedures and new multilingual forms, MEPs managed to ensure that the Commission and the Member States will be obliged to inform citizens of these new rules through websites and e-Justice Portal.

Review after 2 years: extending the scope of the new rules?

MEPs also ensured that the possibility of extending the new rules to cover public documents relating to the legal status and representation of a company, diplomas and other evidence of formal qualifications, and public documents attesting an officially recognized disability, will be assessed after the rules have been applied for 2 years. The report will also assess the appropriateness of establishing new multilingual forms in future.

Next steps

A deal on the new regulation, which lays down rules for proving the authenticity of public documents, but would not require member states to recognize their contents, was backed by the Legal Affairs Committee by 20 votes to 2.

The provisional deal with the Council still needs to be approved by the Council and Parliament as a whole.

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