Friday, 5 November 2010

EU citizens and European law – Introduction by Alain Lamassoure MEP

One of the better moves of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of France’s presidency of the Council of the European Union was to ask Alain Lamassoure MEP to make some practical proposals for improving the effective application of Community law for ordinary people.

The report is dated 8 June 2008, and Lamassoure handed it over to Sarkozy 27 June 2008, just a few days before the beginning of the six month French Council presidency.

The English web page of the European Commission’s Directorate-General Justice recently linked only to the French original, so I decided to look for other language versions in order to make the report accessible to a greater number of people.

Despite time wasted on some inconclusive searches, we only have to go Lamassoure’s own web page to find the report in French, German and English. If there are translations into other languages, someone could be kind enough to indicate where they can be found. However, here are the direct links to the three language versions:

Alain LAMASSOURE, Député européen: LE CITOYEN ET L’APPLICATION DU DROIT COMMUNAUTAIRE Rapport au Président de la République (8 juin 2008 ; 188 pages)

Alain LAMASSOURE, Mitglied des Europäischen Parlaments: DER BÜRGER UND DIE ANWENDUNG DES GEMEINSCHAFTSRECHTS Bericht an den Staatspräsidenten( 8. Juni 2008)

Alain LAMASSOURE, Member of the European Parliament: THE CITIZEN AND THE APPLICATION OF COMMUNITY LAW Report to the President of the Republic (8th June 2008)

EU citizen and application of EU law

The Lisbon Treaty is in force since 1 December 2009, so I am going to use the expression ‘EU law’ instead of the now outdated ‘Community law’, if possible. I will use the English language version of the report, since it is convenient for the Grahnlaw blog and a majority of its readers.

In the introduction to his mission, Lamassoure referred to what he called an ‘undulating legal landscape on the continental scale’. While sedentary people may be little aware of this, the nomads in our society – i.e. those businesses and people whose living space goes beyond their national borders – are the first to suffer from it, said Lamassoure (page 4).

The main aim of the report was to make sure that EU law benefits European citizens as our legislators intend it (page 5).

Citizens’ rights in a nutshell

On page 8 Lamassoure reminds us of the main Treaty provisions from the Treaty of Rome to the newly signed Treaty of Lisbon, which lay the foundation for the rights of EU citizens, at least in principle:

“Within the scope of application of the Treaties, and without prejudice to any special provisions contained therein, any discrimination on grounds of nationality shall be prohibited.”

“Citizenship of the Union is hereby established. Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall complement and not replace national citizenship.”

“Every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.”

“The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured.”

“Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.”

In real life

From the noble principles Lamassoure proceeds to a more problematic reality, describing the low level of workers’ mobility, the lack of data about and political interest in cross-border marriages, fragmented consumer markets (including online shopping) despite the common currency, and the low level of knowledge about European Union citizenship and the rights that go with it (page 8-11).

Lamassoure compares the current exercise of electoral and civil rights with the absence of a real common market for goods before the Single European Act in 1985 (page 11-12).

Basis and overview

Lamassoure correctly points out that simplification measures have started with businesses before individual citizens. His report is not the first attempt to improve the human side of the European Union, but his overview across different sectors is a good starting point when we begin to look more closely at issues concerning EU citizens in cross-border situations and in different roles, as voters, consumers, workers, mobile persons, in family relationships etc.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. According to the Atlantic Initiative association, at, today's transatlantic agenda is global: from climate change to failed states, from terrorism to the financial crisis, Europe and America must develop common policy to face new global challenges. Worth remembering and following ahead of the EU-US summit in Lisbon 20 November 2010.