Consular protection for European Union citizens abroad

When living or travelling outside the EU, you might sometimes need help from your embassy or consulate, e.g. in case you have lost all your belongings or have been victim of a crime. But what happens if your country has no diplomatic or consular representation in the country where you are?

Under EU law, as an “unrepresented EU citizen”, you’re entitled to help from any other EU Member State’s embassy or consulate – under the same conditions as this EU country helps its own nationals. Any EU citizen in a non-EU country where his/her own national state has no representation is entitled to protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of any other EU country. EU citizens in such a situation are entitled to protection under the same conditions as the nationals of that EU country.

What kind of assistance is provided?

When an EU citizen in such a situation seeks help from the embassy or consulate of another EU country, he/she must produce a passport or identity card as proof of nationality. If these documents have been stolen or lost, the embassy may accept any other proof. Diplomatic and consular representations giving protection have to treat a person seeking help as if he/she were a national of the EU country they represent.

The protection typically offered by embassies/consulates of EU countries includes:

  •     assistance in cases of death
  •     assistance in cases of serious accident or illness;
  •     assistance in cases of arrest or detention;
  •     assistance to victims of violent crime;
  •     the relief and repatriation of distressed Union citizens.

What is the European Commission doing in this area?

On 20 April 2015 the EU Member States adopted the Directive on consular protection for European citizens living or travelling outside the EU. The Directive clarifies when and how EU citizens in distress in a country outside the EU have the right to receive assistance from other EU countries’ embassies or consulates. The aim is to ease cooperation between consular authorities and strengthen European citizens’ right to consular protection.

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