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What Rights?
As EU citizens we all have rights. If we vote to leave the EU we will lose these rights. Perhaps we should know what they are? Use your search box. It’s easy to find out about your rights and you may be surprised at what you learn.
I spoke with a certain grandmother recently about the EU. She had her very compliant, under 5, grandson by the hand. Grandma was in a combative mood, and in an odd way, I think she was enjoying herself. The child made not a peep. I could empathise. If I were a child in the grip of that hand, I’d have kept quiet too!

I said, it bothered me that children and young people, having EU citizen rights as a part of their natural birth-right, could have those rights snatched away from them, as a result of the forthcoming referendum and never have any say in the matter themselves. They would be like children caught up in an acrimonious divorce, powerless to influence the course of events, yet affected all the rest of their lives by its final outcome. She simply snapped back “What rights?”

Was she really saying she didn’t know, or was she implying they were so worthless it didn’t make any difference, or was she just saying she didn’t care? Actually, I don’t think she cared all that much. Maybe she thought that children and rights did not share the same space, who knows? I felt so sorry for him.

Well, though I doubt she will be likely to read this, here’s a taste and a starting point concerning our EU citizen rights –

(All quotes in italics are taken from

“What rights do you have as an EU citizen?

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union entails the right:
  • To non-discrimination on the basis of nationality when the Treaty applies
  • To move and reside freely within the EU
  • To vote for and stand as a candidate in European Parliament and municipal elections
  • To be protected by the diplomatic and consular authorities of any other EU country
  • To petition the European Parliament and complain to the European Ombudsman
  • To contact and receive a response from any EU institution in one of the EU's official languages
  • To access European Parliament, European Commission and Council documents under certain conditions”
There’s more to follow, with links to actually begin the process of exercising those rights, directly. All you have to do is go and look. I dug a little deeper, because I had thought that a service which my daughter might urgently have needed, was by special arrangement, but actually it turns out that it would have been her EU citizen’s right, pure and simple and not an act of grace.

“Consular protection rights of EU citizens

Any EU citizen in a non-EU country where his/her own national state has no representation is entitled to protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of any other EU state.

EU citizens are entitled to protection under the same conditions as the nationals of that country.

What kind of assistance is provided?

When an EU citizen seeks such help, he/she must produce a passport or identity card as proof of nationality. If these documents have been stolen or lost, the embassy may accept any other proof.

Diplomatic and consular representations giving protection have to treat a person seeking help as if he/she were a national of the EU country they represent.

The protection offered by embassies/consulates of other EU countries includes:
  • assistance in cases of death;
  • assistance in cases of serious accident or illness;
  • assistance in cases of arrest or detention;
  • assistance to victims of violent crime;
  • the relief and repatriation of distressed Union citizens.”
A lot of young adults travel great distances to risky places, on a shoestring budget, these days. Trips involving Thailand are well known. My own daughter offered to teach English in Kyrgyzstan. It’s an ex-Soviet republic just over the border from Xinjiang Uyghur, a province of the Chinese People’s Republic in Central Asia. At the time Britain had no embassy in Kyrgyzstan.

It was tough at times but thankfully, not tough enough to require consular assistance. Had an emergency occurred, the German embassy would have come to her rescue. Most professional Germans can speak English and she has quite a lot of German herself, so that was a great comfort to us as parents. While researching this, I learned that it would actually have been her absolute right, as an EU citizen, to receive the protection of Germany’s Ambassador in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, just as if she were a natural born German citizen. That, I find amazing and so very heart warming.

The right to move and reside freely

“Citizens of the EU and their family members have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the EU, subject to certain conditions. This right is conferred directly on every EU citizen by Article 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. As specified in directive 2004/38, the following rules apply:
  • Article 6: EU citizens can reside on the territory of another EU country for up to three months without any conditions other than the requirement to hold a valid identity card or passport;
  • Article 7: To reside in another EU country for more than three months, EU citizens are required to meet certain conditions depending on their status (i.e. worker, student, etc.) and may also be required to meet certain administrative formalities;
  • Article 16: EU citizens can acquire the right to permanent residence in another EU country after legally residing there for a continuous period of five years;
  • Article 3: The family members of EU citizens have the right to accompany or join them in another EU country, subject to certain conditions.
EU citizenship and the right to free movement are regularly taken into consideration in the judgments of the Court of Justice.”

This, on the other hand, is interesting in another way. Do you remember how we are often told about how we are being flooded by immigrants from Eastern Europe and have no control over the situation? Well, here we find out that EU rights do not mean that all of Bulgaria can just dump themselves in the UK, drawn by housing and handouts, as if they would want to! As a matter of fact Spain is a more generous host than we are. They have excellent healthcare and sunshine and siestas too. This is very much appreciated by new British residents in Spain. No, there are in fact conditions built into the system already, to regulate uncontrolled migration inside the EU. Why do we not hear this? The Refugee crisis is a separate issue.

It works both ways, because as noted above, plenty of Britons live and work in other EU countries today. However, if you’re lucky, or unlucky enough to be just hanging around somewhere else, without having a valid reason to be there, clearly questions will eventually need to be answered. Perhaps more detail is needed here but it is plain at least that, free movement and residence within the EU is not an automatic and unconditional right, as the right-wing press would like us to believe. The Government of every EU state wants to ensure that the people who live, and not just holiday in their country, are law abiding and productive citizens.

However, this is the MK website, not an EU information site. Why not take a look for yourself. We should all make sure of one thing at least, that we learn what our real EU rights actually are, before we go and casually throw them all away.
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Published on 4th May 2016.

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