90% of open free movement cases solved thanks to an action by the Commission

The free movement of persons between EU Member States is considered by 48% of European citizens, as the most important citizens’ right. Indeed, they make 1.25 billion journeys as tourists within the EU every year.

The European Commission is strongly committed to the effective enforcement of the EU free movement rules in all Member States. This is why the Commission is taking a firm stance to tackle problems with Member States’ transposition of the EU’s Free Movement Directive of 2004 (2004/38/EC) so that European citizens fully benefit from their rights. Several events last year had highlighted important problems with the respect of procedural and substantive guarantees under the EU’s Free Movement Directive (see MEMO/10/384; SPEECH/10/428; IP/10/1207; MEMO/10/502). The Commission therefore took action to ensure that all 27 Member States fully comply with the EU’s free movement rights.

One year on, thanks to continued political pressure, the Commission has achieved concrete results: 16 Member States have either fully addressed the Commission’s concerns or have drafted amending legislation to ensure full compliance with the Directive. For the remaining Member States, the Commission has started or is considering infringement proceedings under the EU Treaties.

“The right to free movement is one of the most cherished rights of EU citizens,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. “I want to ensure that all EU citizens can effectively enjoy their free movement rights. Last summer’s events were a wake-up call for Europe. The Commission will not hesitate to speak out if Member States do not properly apply this fundamental right, notably the procedural safeguards that protect EU citizens from facing arbitrary or disproportionate expulsion. I am now satisfied that a majority of Member States have fully implemented the EU free movement rules. I expect the remaining countries to do so quickly. The European Commission will remain very vigilant until all Member States fully address the Commission’s legal concerns.”

Since summer 2010, a total of 786 issues were identified by the Commission and raised in bilateral meetings with Member States. The Commission made clear that if problems were not resolved, Treaty infringement proceedings would be inevitable. As a result, 711 issues (around 90%) were solved through dialogue and/or presentation by Member States of draft amended laws. Only 75 issues currently remain outstanding and are now the subject of infringement proceedings. In the French case, the government adopted the legislative amendments required by the Commission to ensure compliance with the Free Movement Directive on 16 June, including the safeguards that protect EU citizens against arbitrary expulsions or discriminatory treatment. The Commission continues to work with the remaining countries to tackle outstanding issues, such as entry and residence for family members, residence cards for third-country nationals and safeguards against expulsions.

In times of economic difficulty, some Member States may feel tempted to take discriminatory measures affecting EU citizens or their family members. However, the EU’s Free Movement Directive provides sufficient safeguards to ensure that citizens’ exercise of their right to free movement does not disproportionately burden a Member State’s budget. There is thus no scope for unilateral national action in this respect.

The Commission is committed to removing the remaining hurdles that EU citizens face when exercising their rights, as set out in the first-ever EU Citizenship Report published in October 2010. Businesses and citizens have reaped huge rewards as the EU has steadily broken down internal barriers to goods, services and people. Between 2004 and 2007, the boost to labour mobility from new countries joining the EU increased the EU’s gross domestic product by around €40 billion. The EU must build on these achievements so that everyone – from tourists and students to workers and small business owners – can truly benefit from a European area of freedom, security and justice.

On 25 August 2010, Vice-President Reding said of the situation of the free movement rights of EU citizens: “It is clear that those who break the law need to face the consequences. It is equally clear that nobody should face expulsion just for being Roma.” (see MEMO/10/384).

State of transposition of the EU’s Free Movement Directive
By the end of 2010, Portugal and Finland had addressed the Commission’s concerns through bilateral dialogue, providing sufficient clarifications on issues raised or adopting legislation ensuring conformity with the Directive. 14 Member States (Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) have since submitted draft amending legislation including precise calendars for its swift adoption and entry into force to ensure full compliance with the Free Movement Directive. The Commission is looking into these as well as into the details of planned or recently adopted measures in Denmark and the Netherlands to ensure full compliance with EU law. Regarding unresolved problems with the remaining Member States, infringement proceedings were launched over the period from March to June 2011 against Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Malta, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden, Poland and the United Kingdom. The free movement situation in Belgium is under analysis by the Commission.

Key problems of incomplete or incorrect transposition and implementation concern three main issues: the entry and residence of family members, including partners; issuance of visas and residence cards for third-country national family members, and safeguards against expulsions.

Next steps
The Commission will follow closely how the Member States which announced the adoption of draft legislation are delivering on their commitments. During 2012, the Commission will evaluate the transposition and application of the Directive’s provisions in all Member States. This will provide information for a report in 2013 on the application of the Free Movement Directive, which will be submitted to the European Parliament and to the Council.

State of play of Roma integration
On 5 April 2011, the Commission proposed an EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP/11/400, MEMO/11/216). The Framework will help guide national Roma policies and mobilise funds available at EU level to support integration efforts. It focuses on four pillars: access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing. Member States should set individual national Roma integration goals that reflect each of their population sizes and the current status of their integration policies. EU funding and a strong legal framework to combat discrimination are available to support national efforts. Upon adoption of the EU Framework, Vice-President Reding said: “Most important to me is that Member States help ensure that all Roma children complete at least primary school.”

Over the past year, the Commission has continued to work closely together with Member States to facilitate the use of structural funds – in particular the European Social Fund in support of Roma inclusion. Bilateral seminars have taken place in Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania that have allowed the exchange of good practices and expertise about successful ESF projects.

On 24 June 2011, the European Council endorsed the European Commission’s EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP/11/789). All 27 national governments now have until the end of 2011 to submit their national Roma integration strategies to the Commission. The Commission, assisted by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, will then assess these plans and report back next spring.

This summer, the ‘Colorful but Colorblind’ project – a European Union co-funded project aimed at countering Roma stereotypes through film – won an award from the US-based Society of Professional Journalists (see IP/11/978).

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