The European Commission has allowed a group to launch a petition calling for permanent EU citizenship after Brexit.
The College of Commissioners decided to register a European Citizens’ Initiative [ECI] entitled ‘Permanent European Union Citizenship’.
The main objective of the proposed initiative is to guarantee that European citizenship and its associated rights cannot be lost once they have been attained.
The organisers cite in particular the context of Brexit and the future loss of EU citizenship and rights of UK citizens.
“The Commission’s decision to register the Initiative concerns only the legal admissibility of the proposal,” the European Commission said in a statement.
“The Commission has not analysed the substance at this stage.”
The registration of this Initiative will take place on July 23, 2018, starting a one-year process of collection of signatures of support by its organisers.
Should the initiative receive one million statements of support within one year, from at least seven different Member States, the Commission will have to react within three months.
The Commission can decide either to follow the request or not, and in both instances would be required to explain its reasoning.
Guy Verhofstadt, the head of the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group, welcomed the intiative.
“Many Brits are distraught their EU citizenship is being taken from them,” he said on Twitter.
“The decision by @EU_Commission to open a petition on this is important & deserves support.”
“The @Europarl_EN & I have repeatedly called for an examination on how to mitigate this loss.”
British nationals are expected to lose their EU citizenship after Brexit is in effect, either at the end of March 2019 or after the transition period in December 2020.
EU citizenship does not replace British nationality but is instead additional to national citizenship.
It grants specific rights such as the right to travel and live anywhere in the EU.
It also allows EU citizens to get diplomatic protection and consular help from any EU country wherever they are in the world, even if their own country does not have a local embassy.
The petition asks that people who wish to retain their EU citizenship after Brexit be allowed to do so.
European Citizens’ Initiatives were introduced with the Lisbon Treaty and launched as an agenda-setting tool in the hands of citizens in April 2012, upon the entry into force of the European Citizens’ Initiative Regulation which implements the Treaty provisions.
Once formally registered, a European Citizens’ Initiative allows one million citizens from at least one quarter of EU Member States to invite the European Commission to propose a legal act in areas where the Commission has the power to do so.
The conditions for admissibility, as foreseen by the European Citizens’ Initiative Regulation, are that the proposed action does not manifestly fall outside the framework of the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act, that it is not manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious and that it is not manifestly contrary to the values of the Union.