Enforcing your rights
You may not know it, but there are several ways in which you can exercise your rights as a European Union citizen. Read more to find out.
If you need any advice about practical problems to do with exercising your rights in the European Union you can call a service called Europe Direct:
Call the toll-free number from anywhere in the EU during opening hours (9h00 - 18h30 CET on weekdays)
00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or call the standard number 00 32 22 99 96 96 from anywhere in the world (normal charges apply), or visit: www.ec.europa.eu/europedirect
Petitioning the European Parliament
You have the right to petition the European Parliament by sending a written request or complaint about any subject that the EU deals with and which affects you directly, such as:
- environmental matters, consumer protection,
- free movement of persons, goods and services, internal market,
- employment issues and social policy,
- recognition of professional qualifications, or
- any problem relating to the implementation of EU law.
The European Ombudsman
You have the right to make a complaint to the European Ombudsman about poor administration or wrong doing by the European institutions. The complaint could be about administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, lack of, or refusal to provide, information or unnecessary delay. For more information see: www.ombudsman.europa.eu
Your Human rights are set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and ultimately are protected by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The European Convention on Human Rights became part of UK law in 2000, as the Human Rights Act, allowing individuals to enforce their human rights through the domestic courts in the UK.
N.B. The European Court of Human Rights - which is linked to the Council of Europe - is not part of the European Union.
European Parliament committees
Two committees in the European Parliament are particularly concerned with citizens' rights.
European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs:
European Parliament's Committee on Petitions
Breaches of EU law - how to make a complaint
You can complain to the European Commission if you feel that a Member State has infringed Community law.
The national courts
Your rights under EU law can be enforced through the national courts.
The EU Court of Justice
There is an EU court, called the Court of Justice of the European Communities (also known as the European Court of Justice). Based in Luxembourg, the job of the European Court of Justice is to make sure that EU legislation is interpreted and applied in the same way in all EU countries, so that the law is equal for everyone.
The Court also makes sure that EU Member States and institutions do what the law requires. The court has the power to settle legal disputes between EU Member States, EU institutions, businesses and individuals.