Fabian Demicoli

EESC approves slashing red tape in the recognition of public documents across EU borders

 In
its Opinion approved yesterday in its Plenary Session of 10th and 11th July the
European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) supported EU citizens and
businesses by voting in favour of doing away with bureaucratic rubber-stamping
still necessary for the recognition of public documents across EU borders. The
Opinion was adopted with 96 votes in favour, 2 votes against and 2 abstentions.

The
Opinion was presented during the same Plenary by GRTU's Director General and
EESC employers representative Vincent Farrugia, as rapporteur general on the
opinion. Being rapporteur general implied that the opinion did not go to the
Section but went directly to Plenary. In drafting his report Mr Farrugia was
supported by two co-drafters from the other two groups and an expert.

The
Opinion was presented on the Commission's proposal for a Regulation on
promoting the free movement of citizens and businesses by simplifying the
acceptance of certain public documents in the European Union COM(2013) 228
final. This followed the Eurobarometer 2010 survey which revealed that 73% of EU
citizens demanded action to facilitate free movement of public documents in the
EU. The proposal is in fact a key initiative of the European Year of Citizens
2013.

Amongst
the documents affected are civil status records such as birth, death, name,
marriage, registered partnership, parenthood and adoption as well as other
public documents concerning residence, citizenship, nationality, real estate
& intellectual property rights, proving the absence of a criminal record,
public documents of EU businesses, their legal status and representation. The
proposal will have no impact on the recognition of the content or the effects
of the documents concerned.

It
is estimated that such an initiative will have a tremendous impact. It will
affect the over 12 million European citizens working, studying or living in an
EU Member State (MS) other than their country of origin and the 7 million SMEs
that are involved in cross-border trade, have instruments abroad or
subcontracts with companies in another MS. It is estimated that the combined
savings on legislation and Apostilles (currently required for around 1.4
million documents) along with certified copies and certified translations could
be up to €330 million per year.

The
aims of the proposal are to:

Reducing practical difficulties caused by identified
administrative formalities – cutting red tape, costs and delays, rubber-
stamping – Removal of legal and apostille requirements for acceptance of
documents

Reduce translation costs – Do away with requirement for certified
translations with a simple translation of adequate quality being deemed
sufficient. Multilingual standard forms made available

Simplifying the fragmented legal framework of circulated public
documentation with Member States

Ensuring a more effective level of detection of fraud and forgery of
public documentation

Eliminating risks of discrimination among Union citizens and
businesses

  •  

 

The EESC has welcomed the proposal and further outlines that
the Internal Market Information System (IMIS) is an important vehicle that
should be exploited more aggressively for citizens to exercise their
fundamental rights. The EESC also stated that future simplification exercises
with regard to public documents should target important public documents such
as those related to intra- EU mobility of workers or vulnerable persons such as
persons with disabilities.

Most importantly however the new regulation should provide
citizens and businesses with the maximum degree of certainty with regards to
the extent that public documents presented are exempted from all forms of
legislation or similar formality. Therefore the EESC specified that Member
States having reasonable doubts as to the authentication of public documents
should only be limited to 3 cases: the authenticity of the signature, the
capacity in which the person signing the document has acted or the identity of
the seal or stamp. The EESC requests that should a Member State make an
official request based on reasonable doubt, it is to explicitly inform the
person or business of the reasons why such request is being made. In addition
to this the EESC also requested that should the Internal Market Information
System (IMIS) stabilise, the maximum period for a response under the
administrative cooperation mechanism should be reduced to two weeks and not one
month as was proposed by the EU Commission. In addition to this the EESC is
further asking for extra accountability through benchmarking on a yearly basis.

This is the fourth report drafted by GRTU's Director General
and accepted as EESC Opinion aimed at improving the functioning of the single
market and the removal of obstacles within the single market for citizens and
businesses.

 

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