CITIZENSHIP OF THE UNION
YOUR STATUS, RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS AS A CITIZEN OF THE UNION
Union citizenship complements national citizenship, but does not replace it.
It comprises a number of rights and obligations in addition to those arising from citizenship of a Member State.
The status of citizens of the Union shall include for every citizen of the Union
- the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States (Article 21 TFEU),
- the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament and in municipal elections in the Member State in which he or she resides (Article 22(1) TFEU), subject to the same conditions as nationals of that State
- the right to diplomatic protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of any Member State in a (non-EU) third country;
- the right to petition the European Parliament and the right to apply to the Ombudsman, appointed by the European Parliament, to identify instances of maladministration by the Union's institutions and bodies (both under Article 24 TFEU),
- the right to write to any institution or body of the Union in one of the languages of the Member States and to have an answer in the same language (Article 24(4) TFEU),
- the right of access to European Parliament, Council and Commis- sion documents, subject to certain conditions (Article 15(3) TFEU)
The most important right associated with EU citizenship is the freedom of movement for workers. It is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the EU and is a principle enshrined in Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The free movement of persons enables citizens of the 27 EU countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland to take up employment in one of these countries without a work permit.
The free movement of workers also applies to family members of citizens of the above-mentioned countries, even if the family members come from third countries.
Within the framework of the free movement of workers, you are entitled to
- seek employment in another country
- to work there without the need for a work permit,
- to live there for that purpose,
- to stay there even after the employment relationship has ended,
- be treated in the same way as nationals of the host country as regards access to employment, education and training, trade unions, housing and all other social and tax benefits and working conditions.
The free movement of workers can be claimed by the following persons or groups of persons:
- Job seekers, i.e. EU citizens who move to another EU country to look for a job, if certain conditions are met,
- EU citizens working in another EU country,
- EU citizens returning to their country of origin after having worked abroad,
- family members of the above-mentioned persons.
Slightly different rules may apply to persons wishing to become self-employed, students, pensioners and other inactive persons.
As an EU national, you are in principle entitled to equal treatment with regard to
- working conditions,
- access to vocational training,
- occupational pensions and
The principle of equal treatment covers several areas, according to the EU's Directive on the Free Movement of Workers:
- access to education, vocational schools and further training,
- access to housing, including social housing, or facilitation of home ownership,
- social and tax benefits, including supplementary living benefits if
your income is too low.
The right to equal treatment means for jobseekers:
You are entitled to the same support from the public employment services as nationals of the host country. However, restrictions apply to subsistence benefits.
As an employee, you are entitled to the same benefits as German nationals from your first day of work:
- Access to education, vocational schools and further training,
- access to housing, including social housing, or facilities for the purchase of residential property,
- social and tax benefits, including supplementary living benefits if your income is too low.
In the workplace, you must also be treated in the same way as your colleagues who are German nationals. This applies in particular to:
- Pay, dismissal, and other employment and working conditions,
- health and safety at work,
- the right to be a member of a trade union, to elect its administrative
board or to be elected to an administrative post in a trade union.
In principle, employers may require German language skills from applicants from other member states. However, the language requirements must be appropriate and necessary for the job in question. In particular, German language skills may not be used as a pretext to discriminate against EU citizens in the application process or to exclude them from the application process. In certain cases and for certain jobs, it may be justified to require very good language skills. However, it is unacceptable to require applicants to be "native speakers".
If you go to live or work in another EU country, you should not suffer any disadvantages as a result. This also concerns your social security. That's why there are European rules that protect your social security rights. The rules apply in the 27 EU countries as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The legal rules in detail are based on 4 principles:
- You are always subject to the social security system of a single country. This means that you only pay social security contributions in that country.
- You have the same rights and obligations as nationals of that country.
- The periods of insurance, employment and residence you have completed in other countries are taken into account for your social security entitlements.
- If you are entitled to cash benefits in one country, you will receive them even if you do not live in that country.
You have a legal right to have these principles respected in your employment relationship. You can enforce these rights in court.
Practice shows that EU citizens, regardless of how long they have lived in Germany, are often affected by discrimination. For example, in employment, when looking for a place to live or when applying for benefits and educational opportunities. Discrimination occurs despite the existing laws on equal legal treatment of EU citizens. It is therefore all the more important to know the legal basis for defending oneself against discrimination.
According to a scientific definition, discrimination refers to any form of disadvantage or degradation, either as an individual or as a group. In European Community law, discrimination is the opposite of equal treatment. Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights contains a prohibition of discrimination.
Discrimination can occur in many forms:
- Direct discrimination occurs when one person is treated less favourably than another in a comparable situation because of a stated ground. Example: When a person is not hired or promoted because they belong to an ethnic minority.
- Indirect discrimination occurs when a practice, policy or regulation that applies to everyone has a negative impact on a particular group. For example, implementing rules that re disadvantageous to part-time workers may indirectly discriminate against women, as most part-time workers are women.
- Harassment is unwanted behaviour, bullying or other actions that lead to a hostile work environment. Example: When supervisors or colleagues tell jokes to a gay colleague about their sexual orientation.
- An instruction to discriminate is when someone tells others to discriminate against another person. For example, when an employer tells a temporary employment agency to only look for workers under the age of 40.
- Victimisation occurs when supervisors or colleagues react with reprisals in response to a complaint of discrimination. For example, when someone has been dismissed or denied a promotion because they have filed a discrimination complaint against their supervisors.
The legal prohibition of discrimination in relation to EU nationals includes legal standards such as the principle of equal treatment and states in essence:
- Discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, disability, ethnic or racial origin, religion or belief, or sexual orientation is prohibited throughout the EU in both the public and private sectors.
- Accordingly, as an EU national, you must be treated in the same way as your colleagues who are nationals of the country concerned in terms of employment rights, social benefits and access to public employment services.
If you have been discriminated against, you can turn to several national bodies. These include the national equality body of the Confederation (Gleichbehandlungsstelle des Bundes). Similarly, you can also turn to organisations such as trade unions, non-governmental organisations and lawyers for help and advice.
You also have the right to lodge a complaint via the European Commission's website if you want to resolve problems with a public authority regarding your EU rights. You can do this by using the complaint form for reporting a breach of EU law.
CONTACT POINTS AND ADVICE ON SITE
In the event of discrimination, the Saxony-Anhalt Anti-Discrimination Agency is there to help you. It is the central and independent point of contact and counselling for people who have experienced disadvantages in various areas of life. The Anti-Discrimination Agency offers qualified counselling and support for people who have been discriminated against on the basis of
- ethnic origin
- religion or belief
- sexual identity
have been discriminated against.
The Anti-Discrimination Office listens and looks for possible solutions together with the person seeking advice and accompanies them in further steps. The counselling is free of charge and confidential.