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Union citizenship

We are all citizens of the Union

Photo: A group of children in front of a colourful building

As a citizen of an EU country, every citizen is automatically a citizen of the Union. In addition to the national citizen's rights, they therefore also enjoy a series of other privileges, which are respected by the 28 EU countries, and which are guaranteed by the EU treaties. There are as yet no duties associated with Union citizenship.

Where are these rights written down?

Union citizenship was first anchored in 1992, in the Maastricht Treaty, article 17 of the EC Treaty, and has since applied to all citizens of the EU. Since 1 December 2009, Union citizenship has been governed by article 20 of the Lisbon Treaty on the functioning of the European Union.

What rights do I have as an EU citizen?

Union citizenship is associated with the following rights:

  • Freedom of movement and residence within the entire EU, as well as the right to economic activity (freedom of trade)
  • Equal treatment for all EU citizens, without discrimination on grounds of nationality (prohibition on discrimination)
  • Active and passive voting rights in municipal and European Parliament elections, irrespective of residence within the EU (voting rights)
  • In non-EU countries that do not have consular representation from your country, you have the same right to support from the embassy or consulate of any other EU country as do its own citizens (diplomatic and consular protection)
  • Entitlement to petition the European Parliament in the event of problems, and to submit complaints to the European ombudsman (petition and complaint rights)
  • Entitlement to make suggestions for new EU regulations through citizen initiatives, together with other EU citizens.
  • Right to communicate with the EU in any official language of the European Union, and to receive an answer in the same language

What effects does Union citizenship have in Essen?

Essen's population (570,725 residents as of September 2012) is colourful. Many people living in Essen have Polish, Greek, Italian and Spanish nationality. They all come from countries that are members of the EU, and as such are permitted to participate in influencing their lives in Essen through the municipal elections.
The largest proportion of non-German residents are however people of Turkish descent (22,506). As Turkey is not yet a member of the EU, though, these residents are not permitted to vote in Essen. They do not receive the other rights of Union citizens, either.

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