(LUXEMBOURG) – EU ministers gave final approval Wednesday to consular protection for unrepresented EU citizens in third countries by simplifying the issuing of safe and widely accepted emergency travel documents.
Since 1996, EU citizens who have their passports stolen or lose them while travelling abroad can obtain emergency travel documents from embassies or consulates of EU Member States other than their own. Lost or stolen passports make up more than 60% of the cases of consular assistance provided to EU citizens. However, the old format did not meet modern security standards such as up-to-date printing techniques or protection against copying by means of security holograms.
The directive updates the rules, format and security features of the EU emergency travel document (ETD). It simplifies the formalities for unrepresented EU citizens in third countries whose passport or travel document has been lost, stolen or destroyed, to ensure that they are provided with an emergency travel document by another member state, to enable them to travel home. The directive therefore allows unrepresented EU citizens to exercise their right to consular protection in an easier and more effective way.
The directive also seeks to ensure consistency between the specific conditions and procedures for issuing EU ETDs, and the general rules on coordination and cooperation measures to facilitate consular protection of unrepresented EU citizens in third countries.
An emergency travel document is a single-journey document, which allows the bearer to return home or, exceptionally, to another destination, in the event they do not have access to their regular travel document, for example, because it was stolen or lost. Unrepresented citizens should be able to apply for an EU ETD at the embassy or consulate of any EU member state. The member state assisting the citizen would then check with the member state of the person concerned to confirm their nationality and identity. These consultations between member states should be carried out as quickly as possible, generally within 5 days.
The ETD document issued should be valid for the period required to make the journey and, except in exceptional circumstances, for no more than 15 calendar days. It will have a uniform format (consisting of a form and a sticker), contain all necessary information and meet high technical standards to avoid counterfeiting and falsification, including recognizable security features. To strengthen security, the recipients of such a document should return it to the authorities once they have arrived home safely.
The directive will now be signed and published in the official journal of the European Union, and will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication.
The Commission will then adopt implementing acts containing additional technical specifications for EU ETDs. Member states will have 2 years to adopt these additional technical specifications, as well as any legislation and provisions needed to comply with the directive. They will then start applying the agreed measures 36 months after adoption of the technical specifications.