EU28 consulates must now offer protection to citizens of other member states


  Date Published: 05/01/2018

Maltese citizens overseas get broader consular protection as EU revamps its rules

Maltese citizens caught in a bind in a country without a Maltese embassy or consulate can now seek help at the embassy of any other EU state.

Revamped rules require member states to help EU citizens caught in difficult situations due to crime, illness, emergencies or death. They are the result of an EU directive agreed upon in 2015 and which came into force on Tuesday. 

The directive updates rules first introduced 20 years ago and which required EU states to issue emergency travel documents to citizens of other member states whose passport had been stolen, lost or destroyed while overseas. 

According to the directive, unrepresented EU citizens are entitled to receive consular protection under the same conditions as nationals of the consulate's country. 

Unrepresented citizens can seek help in cases of arrest or detention; being victims of crime; serious accident or injury; death; relief and repatriation during emergencies; and whenever they need an emergency travel document. 

To qualify, citizens must be in a country where their home nation is not diplomatically represented and must be able to prove that they are EU citizens. Family members of EU citizens are also entitled to seek help in such situations, provided they can prove their family relationship. 

Unrepresented citizens may be redirected to another member state's consulate if it is better placed to assist. If the assistance implies certain costs or fees, member states providing assistance can seek reimbursement, though they cannot charge more than they would charge one of their own citizens. 

If unrepresented citizens cannot afford costs, member states providing help can seek reimbursement from their home country. 

The revamped rules are especially useful to citizens of smaller member states such as Malta, which have a limited diplomatic presence overseas. 

According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry website, Malta has 27 embassies and consulates around the world, with just under half of those, 13, in non-EU member states. 

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This news item was originally published at the Times of Malta here. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

For more information please also visit the webpage of the European Commission on consular assistance here.