Hearing on EU Citizenship
It is a great honour to be here today, speaking about EU citizenship, a subject which has been very dear to my heart since I joined the European Parliament in 2007. Because this is what the EU project is all about, about each and every one of you and it is about the sense of belonging to a community.
I come from one of the newer Member States, I am Romanian and I have experienced first hand how the desire to become part of the European community has changed my country for the better. And how being part of it has given birth to new opportunities, but new responsibilities as well. I will not talk about the benefits of it all, as you are experiencing them wherever you may live in the Union. What I would like to stress, today, is those few but important points, that still make ourlives, as Europeans, difficult.
As the rapporteur on the 2010 EU Citizenship Report and previously on the free movement of citizens, I have come across a large number of issues you have signalled to us from all corners of Europe.
First of all, on free movement – which must surely seem to everyone here as the number one fundamental right of any EU citizen. Unfortunately though, it has been 8 years since the entry into force of the Free Movement Directive and it is still to be fully implemented by all Member States. Most of the complaints we have heard focus on the right of entry, the right of residence for more than three months, the validity of residence permits and the rights of family members – all these rights that are supposed to ensure that every one of us can travel across Europe and live together with our family wherever we wish and afford. If you are tired of hearing that Member States should remove all barriers to the free movement of citizens – believe me, I am tired of saying it too! However, implementing legislation correctly is just a part of it all. More important is that citizens know and exercise their rights. This is why I salute the European Commission for declaring 2013 the “European Year of Citizens” and for organising this hearing today.
In this light, I would also like to mention the gross breaches to the rights and freedoms of EU citizens that are in today’s Europe not only unacceptable but shocking. You must surely know about the 2010 deportation by the French authorities of the Roma minorities. Mass expulsions are not only in breach of the Free Movement Directive, but contravene the basic values and principles underpinning the European Union. Under the Directive, restrictions to the freedom of movement and residence on grounds of public policy or public security can be imposed exclusively on the basis of personal conduct, without any discrimination on ethnic or national origin. It is high time that we take joint responsibility for the integration of Roma and other minorities in the European community. And this is also the responsibility of every single Member State. We won’t solve the problem by raising new frontiers among ourselves.
A second key issue is the recognition of civil status documents and their effects. Just to give you an example, documentation attesting same-sex partnerships is not recognised across the EU. This is not about recognising same-sex marriage if a country does not wish to, this is about recognising that if someone is married to a same-sex partner in one Member State, they should be recognised as married if they move to another Member State. EU countries have still to ensure freedom of movement of all EU citizens and their families, without discrimination on grounds of their sexual orientation or nationality. And this is also a fundamental EU right.
And, last but not least, is the free movement on the labour market, which has made numerous news headlines across the Union recently. At the end of this year, according to the accession agreements, citizens from Romania and Bulgaria will finally be able to exercise their full right to work in other Member States. It was high time to end this anachronic discrimination that created a second class of citizenship within the Union. And I want to make one single point about this: 1st of January 2014 is not about massive migration, but about bringing the situation of the already existing migrants into legality. Free movement is never really complete without the free movement on the labour market.