The European Union is a complex machine. It has powers exceeding those of national Member States in some areas, whereas in others it is only one of the different actors at the table. The history of European Integration has taught us that the European Union's competences become with time larger and larger, leading to an even stronger impact on our daily lives. Imagine that it all started with a community for coal and steel, only sixty years ago!
To read about the EU's competences, visit the European Commission's website
How does this steady enlargement of competences of the European Institutions relate to European Citizens? It is simple: over the years, the rights granted by European Citizenship have evolved and so have the procedures for European citizens to make sure these rights are correctly applied.
All these procedures are available for free, but they are not always easy to use. These rights are scattered and deciding whether to choose one over another or using them in combination can be very difficult.
This section of the one stop shop provides the answers to general questions relating to all five of the procedures. For answers relating to one of the procedures we refer to the specific FAQ you will find in each section. By having them all together you will have a better overview of which to choose or which to use together.
We also hope that this site will encourage greater use of these procedures as this chart demonstrates that they are currently grossly underused. Keep in mind that there are currently 495 million citizens within the EU!
A. These procedures may be used by any European citizen or person resident or having a registered office in the Union with the exception of the citizens' initiatives which is reserved, by article 11 paragraph 4 TEU, to European citizens. Access to these procedures is free and relatively easy. However, the procedures can be quite formal and lengthy.
A. As already mentioned sometimes the above procedures can be long and sometimes very formal. Although these are the five main ways of enforcing your rights through the official channels there are several different possibilities that may better fit your requirements. You could:
- If your problem is relatively simple or you do not want to take legal action but would like to get clarification an area of EU law or merely bring an issue to the attention of one of the institutions then you should consider writing to one of the institutions. You can write to a specific department or if you do not know which department is responsible then you can address your letter to the secretariat.
- Writing to your MEP may be a good idea if your complaint involves a regional or local issue as they will be well placed to understand and assess the situation. You can find out who your local MEP is through the European parliament website which should provide contact details.
- If your concern is more of a general enquiry rather than a complaint on a specific piece of law you can contact a Europe direct contact centre online, by telephone or in the local office. Again, if you are looking for information on your rights then after the Europa website this would be the best place to start.
- The Europa website provides the most basic information on the different aspects of the European Union and your rights as a citizen, so as mentioned it is a good idea to check the website as a first point of call. It also has a Freephone telephone number for queries and gives links to other advice services.
- The site is a wide to take part in a variety of consultations and discussions which are part of the European policy-making process. If you have an interest in a certain policy area or have an opinion on a proposed law then you can go onto this website and fill in a questionnaire on how the law should be formed.
- A local or National branch would usually be the Commission representation in your country. You can find the details or your local representation through the European Commissions website. It may be worth talking to a CSO about your case as they will be issue based and have more experience in the area.
A. As mentioned in the previous question there are several ways to enforce your rights or to find out more but figuring out which way will be best for you can be difficult. The best way to evaluate whether you should take a formal or informal route is to determine firstly, what you what like to get out of your query/complaint and secondly how much information can you provide to support it.
- In the event that you are looking to challenge a national law, enforce a European law or request the interference of an institution in an issue then the formal procedures are better suited to you.
- If you are searching for clarification, information or not really sure of what you want to achieve then it is best to first use one of the informal channels. The formal channels can be lengthy and complicated processes so it is worth learning more before you embark upon starting the process.
- The amount of information you can provide is fundamental to which route you should take and links to the previous point.
- If you know what law and which institution or national body you are complaining about then the formal procedures will be available, however if you aren't really sure of these details it is best to first undertake some research using the informal procedures.
A. As discussed in the question above, it depends on what you are looking for, so unfortunately there is no single answer. A good place to start is the Europa website which provides the basic information on the European Union and is a great way to start navigating your way around the workings of the EU. If you would like to find out more specifically about your right the Your Europe website provides basic information on your European rights in eight areas; travel, work, vehicles, residence, education and youth, health, family and shopping. This website can help you to understand your basic rights as an EU citizen.
If you would like to go into more detail or cannot find the right information on the above websites you may try looking behind the general information for the public. You could research information on European law and citizens' rights, look at information by Institutions or agency or search by activity or department of the Commission, parliamentary committee or Council Committee of experts. Please note, it is not mandatory to go into so much detail with your background research it is advisable to do so if you are not quite sure of your rights.
A. With each of the procedures it is more likely for your case to be successful if you contact other people with an interest or create a network to collectively take action. The more support behind an action the more likely it is to be taken up by the relevant institution. In the case of the Citizens Initiative, which is required to have a certain amount of support behind, the more people you have working with you the more chance you initiative has of gaining the 1 million signatures.
There are several ways in which it may be able possible to find these networks. If the issue is one of a local or regional nature then it will be a good idea to ask around locally and try to find out if any action may have already been started. If it is a national or cross border issue you can look for existing networks or interest groups; this is something that ECAS may be able to help with and in particular through the European Civil Society House.
A. If you require further information on any single enforcement method you can directly access the different procedures from our home page.