In a complaint submitted today to the European Commission, the EU Rights Clinic has challenged France’s breach of EU law in its duty to issue residence documents to EU citizens.
The complaint points to the systematic failure of French municipal authorities to issue residence documentation to EU citizens. The complaint is being raised in view of the risks posed to the ability of British citizens to continue living in France after Brexit.
The complaint contains details of over 20 individuals lawfully residing in France who have been refused residence documents contrary to EU law. Under EU law, the national authorities are required to issue residence documentation to those EU citizens who request them. The documentation should be valid for five years or more. However, the individuals concerned were either wrongfully issued with a residence card valid or with a reduced period of time, or they were simply turned away.
The complaint reveals various practices among local municipalities, pointing to multiple interpretations of French rules and confusion among French officials. While France does not require its EU citizens to register, residence documents allow EU citizens to prove their lawful residence in the country and apply for permanent residence after five years.
This is particularly important in the context of Brexit, because British citizens run the risk of being refused residency after the UK leaves the EU if they cannot prove their lawful residence in an EU country. Additionally, British citizens are often told that their case will not be treated until after Brexit. However, EU law remains effective for as long as the United Kingdom remains a Member State of the EU.
Such failures also impact British citizens’ entitlement to access other public entities such as job centres and child benefit offices, as well as their ability to carry out administrative procedures such as registering a vehicle.
The EU Rights Clinic has demanded that the European Commission take robust enforcement action against France to ensure it complies fully with EU law. A petition will also be lodged in parallel before the European Parliament.
Read the Executive Summary of the complaint here
The EU Rights Clinic is a collaboration between ECAS and the University of Kent in Brussels. As part of the ACT for Free Movement project, funded by EPIM, the EU Rights Clinic is investigating cases of breaches of free movement rights in EU Member States.