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Living and Working in the EU

Living and working in the European Union.

EU Smart Borders - easier access and enhanced security
The EU needs a more modern and efficient management of traveller flows at its external borders. Today the European Commission adopted a Communication which sets out the main options for using new technologies to simplify life for foreigners frequently travelling to the EU and to better monitor third-country nationals crossing the borders.

New Visa Information System goes live - guide
The Visa Information System (VIS) started operations as from 08:00 CET today. Visa applications will now be processed much faster thanks to the use of biometrics (fingerprints and a digital facial image) which will facilitate the identification of visa holders and help to avoid identity theft. This new system will allow for a quick and effective exchange of data on short-stay visas among Schengen countries. The VIS will also reinforce the integrity of the system and strengthen trust among its member states. The first consular posts to be connected to the system are those in North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia).

Schengen - strengthening the area without internal border controls to guarantee free movement - guide
The European Commission has proposed to strengthen the Schengen area to guarantee free movement for the hundreds of thousands of EU citizens and third countries' nationals travelling within this territory every day. The Commission's proposals aim to put in place a more efficient and EU-based approach to Schengen cooperation. Particular challenges that may put the overall functioning of the Schengen area under strain need to be addressed in an effective and coordinated manner. The proposals provide for a stronger EU-based evaluation and monitoring system to verify and ensure the application of the Schengen rules, and for a more structured European decision-making mechanism that could allow for the temporary reintroduction of internal border controls in case of serious threat to public policy or internal security.

Right of access to a lawyer and communication with a family member - guide
European Commission to guarantee suspects' rights to speak with a lawyer, inform family of arrest

Security and Fundamental Rights
Calls for proposals for operating grants in the field of Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

EU framework for national Roma strategies - guide
Europe's 10-12 million Roma continue to face discrimination, exclusion and the denial of their rights, while governments lose out on increased revenue and productivity because potential talent could go wasted. Better economic and social integration is an imperative – but to be effective, concerted action is needed at all levels to address the multiple causes of exclusion. The European Commission is therefore today putting forward a European Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. This EU Framework will help guide national Roma policies and mobilise funds available at EU level to support inclusion efforts. The Framework focuses on four pillars: access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing. Member States should set individual national Roma integration goals in proportion to the population on their territory and depending on their starting point.

Annual report on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights - guide
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights has now been legally binding for over a year – primarily on the EU institutions (European Parliament, Council and the European Commission) when preparing new European laws, but also on national authorities if they are implementing EU law. As part of its efforts to make fundamental rights a reality for citizens in the EU, the European Commission is reporting for the first time on how the Charter is being applied. The Annual Report on the application of the Charter shows that fundamental rights are relevant across a wide range of policies – from data protection to immigration and asylum – and that public interest in the Charter runs high. However, the report also highlights that the Charter is frequently misunderstood. In 2010, the Commission received more than 4,000 letters from the general public regarding fundamental rights. Approximately three quarters of these concerned cases outside the remit of EU law. In addition, a recent survey by the European Ombudsman found that 72% of Europeans do not feel well informed about the Charter. Today's report is a first step in addressing these challenges, clarifying where the Charter applies and where it does not. This will ease citizens' access to justice. The report should help citizens determine where they need to turn when they believe that their fundamental rights have been violated by an EU institution or a national authority. The Annual Report is therefore part of the Commission's strategy to ensure that fundamental rights are effectively implemented so that people can rely on them in practice.

Roma and Travellers - European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
Some 10-12 million Roma and Travellers are currently living in the European Union. Almost all of the Roma and Travellers living in the European Union are EU citizens and have the same rights as any other EU citizen. The Roma make up the largest ethnic minority in the EU. Minorities have a specific mention in the Treaty of Lisbon and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Evidence has shown that they are more likely to face discrimination and social exclusion than majority populations. Some of the key findings of the Fundamental Rights Agency's research on the situation of Roma and Travellers in the EU are listed here.

Clearer property rights for Europe's 16 million international couples - guide
What happens to your house if you get divorced and your spouse is of another nationality? What happens to a joint bank account if the spouse dies? What happens in such cases if you and your spouse have the same nationality, but you have property or a bank account abroad? In Europe, there are around 16 million international couples, and at least 650,000 of them face these questions every year when their marriage or partnership comes to an end. Citizens lose time and money figuring out which law applies to their case and which court is competent to help them. Legal divergences between the 27 EU Member States create an incentive for "forum shopping" or a "rush to the court." This happens when one spouse – usually the wealthier one – rushes to a court where he/she thinks the outcome will be the most beneficial. The European Commission is therefore proposing EU-wide rules to bring legal clarity to the property rights for married international couples and for registered partnerships with an international dimension. The two proposed Regulations would help identify which law applies to a couple's property rights and the responsible court. The Regulations also provide for rules for recognising and enforcing court judgments on a couple's property in all EU Member States through a single procedure. The proposals are the first deliverable of the Commission's October 2010 Citizenship Report, which outlined 25 major practical obstacles that Europeans still face in their daily lives. Today's proposals are the logical next step following the swift agreement last year on EU legislation to determine which country's rules apply in cross-border divorce cases.

EuroVoc, the EU's multilingual thesaurus
EuroVoc is a multilingual, multidisciplinary thesaurus covering the activities of the EU, the European Parliament in particular. It contains terms in 22 EU languages (Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish), plus Croatian and Serbian.

Public consultation on the Professional Qualifications Directive and a European Professional Card - guide
The European Commission on 7 January launched a public consultation on the Professional Qualifications Directive (Directive 2005/36/EC). The consultation is an opportunity for stakeholders to highlight areas of the Directive they feel could be simplified and made more user-friendly. It also seeks views on how to better integrate professionals working in the Single Market, and raises the option of a European Professional Card. This Directive is key to enabling professionals to take full advantage of the potential of the Single Market in finding a job or extending their business in another Member State. Updating this Directive is one of the actions set out in the Single Market Act adopted in October 2010 and follows Commission reports on how the Directive works in practice. The results of the Consultation will feed into an evaluation report and a Green Paper due this autumn. The Commission will come forward with a proposal for modernising the Directive in 2012. Stakeholders are invited to respond until 15 March 2011, and a public hearing is scheduled for 21 February 2011.

112 - Europe's single emergency number - guide
To mark "European 112 Day" on 11th February, the European Commission is urging EU Member States to step up their efforts to increase public awareness of the existence of 112, the number which can be used in all Member States to reach emergency services. An EU-wide survey released today shows around three out of four EU citizens still do not know this life-saving number. However, EU telecoms rules require Member States to make their citizens aware of the 112 number. To increase the protection of EU citizens, Member States are further required to improve the accuracy and reliability of caller location information under the new EU telecoms rules, which must be implemented into national law by 25 May this year.

Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings
To support efforts to fight human trafficking, Commissioner Malmström launched an anti-trafficking policy website on 21 December 2010. The website will become a one stop shop for practitioners as well as for academics, civil society and other interested persons. It will be a common gateway to information and contacts. The website includes EU policy and legislation, national information pages on all Member States and publications from a large number of organisations. A special section of the website is particularly aimed towards the public, with general information on human trafficking, interviews with people in the field and hotline number you can call if you are a victim of trafficking or if you want to report a crime. The principal language is English with abstracts in French and German to be available soon. Basic information for citizens will be available in all official languages.

EU Internal Security Strategy in Action - guide
The "EU Internal Security Strategy in Action" comprises 41 actions targeting the most urgent security threats facing Europe. They include a shared agenda to disrupt criminal and terrorist networks, to protect citizens, businesses and societies against cybercrime, to increase EU security by smarter border management, and to strengthen the Union's readiness and response to crises.

Missing children hotline 116 000 - guide
The European Commission today made a final call to 14 EU Member States to make the Europe-wide 116 000 hotline for missing children operational as soon as possible. The hotline provides a single number for missing children and their parents to call for help anywhere in the EU. Having the same hotline will help children and parents in trouble get help when away from home, such as during family holidays. In a report adopted today, the Commission takes stock of the situation in the Member States, proposes common minimum quality requirements for the service throughout the EU and gives Member States a last chance to make the hotline operational before considering legislative measures.

EU making sure Holocaust never happens again
The Holocaust, the genocide of some 11 million Europeans, including Jews, Romani and homosexuals during the Second World War, will forever remain in our minds and history books as one of the most horrific events of our world. Seeking to get a handle on the dispersed information available for Holocaust research across Europe and elsewhere is a key objective of European researchers. Enter the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) project, whose partners will consolidate existing Holocaust archives into a single online database.

European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 - guide
Most people take it for granted that they can hop on a bus to go shopping, surf the Internet or enjoy a television series. But for the 80 million Europeans with a disability, there may be major obstacles that put these activities out of reach. The European Commission today adopted a new strategy to break down these barriers. The plan outlines how the EU and national governments can empower people with disabilities so they can enjoy their rights. Specific measures over the next decade range from the mutual recognition of national disability cards, the promotion of standardisation to a more targeted use of public procurement and state aid rules. These measures will have substantial societal benefits, but should also produce a knock-on effect on Europe's economy. They could for example enhance the EU market for assisted devices and services, which already today has an estimated annual value of over €30 billion. The Commission will also consider whether to propose a "European Accessibility Act" by 2012 to further develop the Single Market for accessible products and services.

EU employment rights and work organisation - summaries of EU legislation
The European Union has minimum requirements in the field of labour rights and work organisation. These requirements concern collective redundancies, insolvency and the transfer of undertakings, the consultation and information of workers, working hours, equal treatment and pay, and posted workers. They have been supplemented by framework agreements between the European social partners. This has led to the introduction throughout the EU of the right to parental leave and leave for family reasons, and has facilitated part-time work and limited the use of successive fixed-term contracts. Lastly, the concept of corporate social responsibility encourages businesses to adopt good practices in the social field on a voluntary basis. The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions makes recommendations to the political decision-makers.

Costs and benefits of maternity and paternity leave - guide
Differing views about the costs and benefits of introducing 18 or 20 weeks of fully-paid maternity leave and two weeks of fully-paid paternity leave were voiced by MEPs and invited experts at a joint workshop held on 5 October by the European Parliament's Women's Right Committee and Employment Committee.

Commission statement - situation of the Roma and EU law on free movement of EU citizens
As announced earlier this month, the European Commission has today assessed recent developments in France and discussed the overall situation of the Roma and EU law on free movement of EU citizens.

Roma people living in the EU - guide
There are between 10 million and 12 million Roma in the European Union, in candidate countries and potential candidate countries in the Western Balkans. Roma people living in the EU are EU citizens and have the same rights as any other EU citizen. A significant number of Roma live in extreme marginalisation in both rural and urban areas and in very poor social-economic conditions. They are disproportionally affected by discrimination, violence, unemployment, poverty, bad housing and poor health standards.

EU to fast-track admission of third-country seasonal workers
The European Commission has proposed a fast-track procedure for admission of third-country seasonal workers. This would be based on common definitions and criteria, in particular the existence of a work contract or binding job offer.

EU to ease mobility of non-EU corporate employees
The proposed Directive of the European Commission covers third-country nationals who reside outside the EU territory and apply to be admitted to the territory of a Member State in the framework of an intra-corporate transfer. The new conditions of entry and residence aim at helping international companies to rely on mobility of third-country national intra-corporate transferees (ICTs).

Easier divorces for cross-border couples
European Union governments gave 14 EU countries the green light to push forward with rules allowing international couples to select which country's law would apply to their divorce. The new rules, which still must be approved, will allow couples to avoid emotionally and financially costly proceedings.

Future of pensions - guide
The European Commission has launched a Europe-wide public debate on how to ensure adequate, sustainable and safe pensions and how the EU can best support the national efforts. Ageing populations in all Member States have put existing retirement systems under massive strain and the financial and economic crisis has only increased this pressure. The consultation document, a Green paper, poses a series of questions inviting all interested parties to contribute views, opinions and ideas on confronting the pension challenge - one of the biggest facing Europe and most parts of the world today – and how the EU can contribute to the solutions.