At times EU citizens may run into difficulties in exercising or asserting their rights as EU citizens. Problems may arise, for example, concerning voting rights, car registration, recognition of qualifications, cross-border transfer of welfare entitlements, customs and taxation issues, establishment of a company, or setting oneself up as self-employed in another Member State. In such instances, if your rights are infringed, there are a number of places where you can seek assistance.
The Petitions Committee of the European Parliament
The European Parliament's Petitions Committee examines complaints by EU citizens about breaches or infringements of EU law. Some of the most common issues of complaint are the environment, social affairs, free movement, recognition of qualification discrimination. Petitions can be sent online, or in the form of a letter, setting out your complaint. Copies of any supporting or background documents should also be enclosed.
The EU Ombudsman
The EU Ombudsman examines complaints by EU citizens against EU institutions and bodies. A complaint must be made within two years of the date when you got to know the facts on which your complaint is based, and you must already have contacted the institution or body concerned, for example by a letter. The European Ombudsman cannot deal with complaints about national or local authorities, since such complaints fall within the remit of the national Ombudsmen in EU Member States.
European Citizens' Initiative
As of 1 April 2012, EU citizens have a brand new tool allowing them to participate in shaping EU policy. Put in place by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Citizens' Initiative allows 1 million citizens from at least a quarter of the EU Member States to ask the European Commission to propose legislation in areas that fall within its competence. The organisers of a citizens' initiative - a citizens' committee composed of at least 7 EU citizens, resident in at least 7 different Member States - will have 1 year to collect the necessary support. Signatures must be certified by the competent authorities in each Member States. The Commission will then have 3 months to examine the initiative and decide how to act on it.
Court of Justice of the European Union
The Court of Justice interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries. It also settles legal disputes between EU governments and EU institutions. Individuals, companies or organisations can also bring cases before the Court if they feel their rights have been infringed by an EU institution.
European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS)
The position of European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) was created in 2001. The responsibility of the EDPS is to make sure that all EU institutions and bodies respect people's right to privacy when processing their personal data.
If you have reason to believe that your right to privacy has been infringed by an EU institution or body, you should firstly address the people responsible for the processing. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you should contact the relevant data protection officer (the names can be found on the EDPS website). You can also complain to the European Data Protection Supervisor, who will investigate your complaint and let you know as soon as possible whether he agrees with it and, if, so, how the situation is being put right. For example, he can order the institution or body concerned to correct, block, erase or destroy any of your personal data that has been unlawfully processed.