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With an EU Maltese Passport in Hand, Shielded by 27 Nations

With an EU Maltese Passport in Hand, Shielded by 27 Nations

 

Recently, the European Union website launched a special page celebrating the 30th anniversary of European Union citizenship. This anniversary serves as a reminder of the importance of the rights that come with the citizenship. Leveraging this special feature, this article will guide you to understand the true significance of attaining EU citizenship. Additionally, this article will delve into a detailed discussion of consular protection within the EU’s jurisdiction.



 

European Union citizenship is automatically conferred upon anyone holding nationality of an EU member state. Some rights and benefits stem from national law, which may vary from country to country. Other rights derive from EU law, and thus are uniform across all EU member states. As EU citizens, individuals have the right to live and move freely within the EU without being subjected to discrimination based on nationality.

 

Concept of EU Citizenship

The concept of European Union citizenship was formally introduced by the Maastricht Treaty signed by member states of the then-European Community in 1992. The treaty stipulated that “every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union,” thereby endowing EU citizens with a prestigious status and proud special rights.


 

The 27 countries of the European Union are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.


 

According to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), European Union citizens enjoy a range of rights in addition to those enjoyed as citizens of EU member states. These rights include: non-discrimination on the basis of nationality, the freedom to move and reside freely within the EU, the right to vote and stand as candidates in European Parliament and municipal elections when moving to another EU member state, consular protection when outside the EU, the ability to launch or support European Citizens’ Initiatives to request legislative proposals from the European Commission on issues relevant to them, the right to petition the European Parliament and complain to the European Ombudsman, and the ability to contact and receive a response from any EU institution in one of the official languages of the EU.

 

The unity of the European Union is also reflected in the passports of its member states. We can observe that all passports of EU member states adhere to common design standards, including a burgundy-colored cover and the inscription “European Union” in the respective national languages on the cover. Additionally, they employ the same security measures, all being biometric passports. As shown in the image, Malta, as one of the EU member states, also features the inscription “UNJONI EWROPEA” on its passport.


 

Consular Protection Privileges of EU Citizens

The EU treaties guarantee all EU citizens equal rights to consular protection when traveling or residing outside the EU. If an EU citizen requires assistance while abroad and their own country’s embassy or consulate cannot effectively provide aid (due to distance or absence of diplomatic representation), the citizen has the right to seek assistance from any other EU member state’s embassy or consulate. This can be done by presenting their passport or identity card. With an EU passport in hand, EU citizens enjoy protection from all 27 member states wherever they go.


 

The specific scope of consular protection is as follows:

  • Lost or stolen passport or identity card: The embassy can issue an emergency travel document – a one-way document designed to facilitate your return home.

  • Arrest or detention: Once contacted, the embassy may provide information about the local legal system or assist you in finding a lawyer.

  • Victim of a crime: Embassy staff may assist you and provide advice on the next steps.

  • Serious accident or illness: If you end up hospitalized, staff may help you contact your insurance company, family, or friends.

  • Relief and repatriation in emergencies: The embassy may be able to assist with evacuation, such as in cases of conflict, natural disasters, or civil unrest.

  • Death: Staff may help notify next of kin and assist you in registering the death.

 

Specific Examples of Consular Protection Outside the EU

 

1. Showing Warmth Amidst the Pandemic

Faced with the global pandemic, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic arm, collaborated closely with the European Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) to assist EU member states in repatriating EU citizens stranded abroad due to travel restrictions and other reasons. Within the first six months of the pandemic, over 590,000 EU citizens were brought back to Europe through commercial flights organized by member states, with approximately 60,000 EU citizens assisted in returning to Europe from various countries worldwide.


Source   EU citizens stranded abroad boarding the plane

 

2. Feeling Warmth Amidst Crisis

During the outbreak of conflict in Libya, the consulates of eight EU member states evacuated nearly 5,000 EU citizens from the area. Among them, Hungary organized flights from Tripoli (the capital of Libya) to transport 29 Romanians, 27 Hungarians, 20 Bulgarians, 8 Germans, and 6 Czechs. Subsequently, British nationals attempting to leave Libya also received assistance from the Hungarian embassy.


 

3. Remaining Calm After Attack

On Easter Sunday 2019, Sri Lanka experienced multiple bombings at churches and hotels, resulting in over 359 fatalities and around 500 injuries. Anders Holch Povlsen, Denmark’s richest man, and his wife lost three children in the attacks. EU member states swiftly coordinated efforts and established an EU service desk at Colombo Airport to provide practical guidance to EU citizens and assist in resolving various urgent issues.


 

4. Not Giving Up on Any EU Citizen

Bruno Van de Bossche, a Belgian tour operator, was a victim of a terrorist attack in the volatile Afar region of Ethiopia. Recounting the ordeal, he stated, “Around three in the morning at the camp, we were attacked by insurgents while in our sleeping bags. Five victims lost their lives, and we all suffered serious injuries.” The rescue operation was conducted by the German Embassy in Addis Ababa, and Bruno and other survivors were successfully evacuated with the assistance of the German embassy.


The extreme cases above further underscore the importance of consular assistance overseas and the unity and cohesion of EU member states in times of crisis. As a citizen of Malta, European Union citizenship not only grants global mobility but also provides tangible protection, serving as a solid backup for safety abroad. It can be said that with an EU Maltese passport in hand, protection from all 27 member states is assured.


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