Europe of the citizens

As citizen of an EU member state you are a citizen of the Union at the same time. Citizenship of the European Union complements the national citizenship but does not replace it.

Extensive rights arise from the citizenship of the European Union that European citizens can claim in all EU member states, including but not limited to the following rights:

  • the right of all Union citizens to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States
  • the general prohibition of discrimination on the basis of nationality, i.e. the right of equal treatment in all EU countries
  • the right to vote for and stand as a candidate in European Parliament and municipal elections in the member states where the person resides
  • the right to be protected by the diplomatic and consular authorities of any other EU country in third countries
  • the right to petition the European Parliament and the right to complain to the European Ombudsman
  • the right to participate in European citizens' initiatives
  • the right to contact and receive a response from any EU institution and to access documents of the Community institutions
  • In addition to that, all EU citizens and all people living in the EU can claim the general human and civil rights enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as well as economic and social rights in matters of application of EU law by the EU institutions or its implementation by national authorities.

The rights of European Union citizens are described and illustrated in the "Sie haben Recht" information brochure that was compiled by the Representation of the European Commission in Vienna, the Europe Direct regional offices and the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs on the occasion of the European Year of Citizens. In the brochure you will also find helpful links and details of the various points of contact in Austria. The brochure can be viewed online (Flash Player required), or downloaded (pdf, 12.7 MB).

Rights of co-determination and civic participation

Union citizenship provides many opportunities for democratic participation and contribution to EU legislation:

The Lisbon Treaty created the first tool of direct, democratic participation on a European level: the European citizens' initiative. One million signatories from a minimum of seven member states can call on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal in matters where the EU has competence to legislate. The scope of application of the European citizens' initiative is limited to the European Commission and the competences specified in the EU Treaties. If a European citizens' initiative reaches the required minimum number of one million signatories from at least one fourth of the member states, the initiative is heard in the European Parliament with the European Commission attending. The Commission has to adopt a formal response to the initiative within three months and take a decision with regard to the desired legislative initiative.

In addition, the European Commission grants access to many public consultations where EU citizens can pro-actively participate in the shaping of EU policy and comment on legislative proposals.

Options of filing complaints

If EU citizens feel that their rights as citizens of the EU have been violated, or if they want to file a complaint or want to refer to an issue of public interest, they can address the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament.

Another point of contact is the European Ombudsman, who can also be addressed with complaints about maladministration in the institutions and bodies of the European Union.