EU consular protection: 600,000 people repatriated thanks to EU cooperation during pandemic

Today, the Commission published a report looking into the EU rules on consular protection, which gives the right to a EU citizens staying or traveling abroad to seek consular assistance from any other EU Member State, in case his or her own country is not represented there. The report finds that while EU cooperation was successful during the COVID19-pandemic, the Afghanistan crisis and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, improvements are necessary to ensure that EU rules are better fit for crises. High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell, said: Consular protection demonstrates to our citizens the benefits of our EU external action: during the COVID-19 pandemic or since Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine was unleashed, the EU and its Member States worked hand in hand to assist our citizens and bring them home. In providing consular assistance, the 130 EU Delegations play a crucial role alongside Member States’ embassies and consulates.” Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “Thanks to EU cooperation 600,000 people stuck abroad got back home in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. EU rules on consular protection gave a lifeline to our citizens in times of need and showed a true solidarity among EU Member States. This report takes stock of major recent events relevant and suggests a number of measures to further facilitate and strengthen the exercise of EU citizenship rights. During the COVID-19 pandemic, about 600,000 EU citizens affected by travel restrictions where brought home thanks to the close cooperation of the EU and Member States. Similar consular assistance was provided to EU citizens and their families following the crisis in Afghanistan and during Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. In this context, the local support of EU Delegations was essential, in particular in countries where only a few or no Member States were represented. Overall, the report notes that there is a need to streamline the current rules to facilitate the provision of consular protection. This includes improving information exchange between Member States and communication coordination as well as clarifying the situation of vulnerable people, such as pregnant women, unaccompanied minors or people with disabilities. Finally, while the primary obligation for providing consular protection remains with the Member States, the report notes that empowering EU Delegations to interact more directly with EU citizens in some cases, at Member States’ request, could also be considered. More information on Consular Protection can be found here and on this factsheet.