Sunday, 7 November 2010

Towards a citizens’ EU? Lamassoure report and French presidency

The free movement of persons is a fine principle, but in his 2008 report Alain Lamassoure MEP described the problems mobile EU citizens faced in real life with regard to cross-border healthcare, social security, the recognition of diplomas and professional qualifications, car registration and exports, fragmented consumer markets and consumer protection standards, and family and inheritance law, to name just a few.

In a nutshell, Lamassoure concluded that (page 32-33):

In practical terms, citizens need security and legal simplicity just as businesses do…Laws are not made for their authors, nor for the philosophers – but for their subjects, in the sense of the people who have to abide by the law. There are cases where abuses of subsidiarity are more to be feared than abuses of uniformity.

Referring to Eurobarometer opinion polls, Lamassoure stated that more than 9 out of 10 people want judicial cooperation in civil matters, particularly in family matters (page 44).

Based on the problems, needs and opinions, Lamassoure entered into a lengthy discussion about the relative merits of directly applicable regulations versus directives transposed into national legislation, including the quality of transposition and infringement procedures (page 48-55).

After discussing the adoption and transposition of European laws, Lamassoure turned to the citizen facing the national administrations (from page 56). He presented the various EU information channels and advisory services, often little known among the public. Thereafter he gave examples of bewildering administrative practices, with cross-border workers in some areas especially frustrated. There is a gap between European case law and legal acts on the one hand, and application on the ground on the other hand. Further, he discussed problems related to legal remedies.

It is somewhat depressing to see how complex and intractable the every day problems can be for mobile Europeans.

The report was requested by the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and drafted by a French member of the European Parliament, Alain Lamassoure, ahead of the French presidency of the Council of the European Union, so many of the proposals for improvement are directed at the French government preparing to chair the European Council and the different Council configurations. But Lamassoure’s broad canvas includes a considerable number of suggestions for the EU institutions and the member states.

The report is a natural introduction to the various issues concerning EU citizens in cross-border situations, and it serves as the basis for evaluating later EU actions and laws intended to improve their situation.

The report exists in at least three language versions, the French original, a German translation and the English translation we have used here:

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)

Where did it lead, if anywhere?


French EU Council presidency

President Nicolas Sarkozy and French public opinion seemed to be in unison with regard to the need to protect French (and EU citizens) from the “threats” of globalisation, but it is hard to see traces of the Lamassoure report or active but mundane efforts to improve the rights of ordinary EU citizens in the work of the French presidency of the Council of the European Union.

At least, this is the impression I get from the midterm review of the French EU Council presidency written by two outside experts:

Christian Lequesne and Olivier Rozenberg: The French Presidency of 2008: The Unexpected Agenda (Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies Sieps 2008:3op; 57 pages)

Is this a lopsided view?


Ralf Grahn



P.S. Bit more complicated… is a very human blog, where rose22joh writes about British and European politics, parenting, faith and life, none of them easy to combine; this makes for interesting reading.