Your rights as an EU citizen

Citizens of an EU Member State are automatically so called Union citizens as well. What does that mean? A current survey shows that many consumers know about this fact and also some of the attached rights - but not much of the details.


Free movement is one example of a catchword that is well-known among EU citizens. It is in fact so that you are free to travel and reside in EU Member States without the necessity of visa or something alike. However, this right is not without limits, but according to the Eurobarometer survey, only very few consumers are aware of the specifics.


The EU Commission provides detailed information on its respective website. A general overview is given in the following.


What does Union citizenship mean?


Every person that has a citizenship of one of the 28 EU Member States, automatically has the Union citizenship as well. The latter does not replace the other, but can be seen as a supplement.


Which rights are attached to the Union citizenship?


Union citizens have the right to...

  • to non-discrimination on the basis of nationality (for more information on this subject, please see the section "EU Services Directive".
  • 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 (for more information, please read the article "Help abroad: Equal treatment for EU citizens").
  • 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.

The Eurobarometer survey was, one the one hand, used to find out how much EU citizens know about the Union citizenship in general. On the other hand, a second survey focused on electoral rights. 26.555 citizens from all EU Member States were consulted in October 2015.


Findings of the general survey


The general knowledge about the Union citizenship and the attached rights has increased since the last survey was conducted in 2012. 87 percent said that they know the term which is an increase of six percent. 52 percent also said that they know what the term means. The majority was aware that you receive the Union citizenship automatically and supplementary and that you can't withdraw from it.


However, the findings show a significant deficit of information regarding possibilites to fight against a violation of their rights as Union citizens. 21 percent said that they are not informed at all and 51 percent stated to be not very well informed. Only three percent feel very well informed. Those results haven't changed much since 2012.

Findings of the survey about electoral rights


Respondents also see an information deficit regarding their rights to vote and participate as a candidat in European elections. The lack of information applies in several areas and therefore affects the turnout of elections:

  • 84 percent want to know more about how the elections influence their daily lives.
  • 83 percent wish to have more information about the programmes and objectives of the candidates and parties in the EU Parliament.
  • 82 percent lack information about the EU Parliament elections as such.
  • 77 percent don't feel informed about the candidates for President of the Commission.
  • 72 percents claim that political parties should display in all campaign materials the European political parties they are affiliated with.


Besides the criticism on lack of information, respondents also affirmed that voting is too complicated.


80 percent would like to receive individual letters explaining how to register and vote before the elections. 79 percent think that they should be automatically registered as voters as a result of registering as a resident, while 69 percent want to be able to register on the electoral roll online. 67 percent also want to vote electronically or online.


At the same time, respondents expressed their concerns about electronic, online-based or postal voting with regards to potential fraud, secrecy of the vote or that the process might become to difficult for some citizens.

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