The European Union repatriated 600,000 European citizens from third countries during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the European Commission’s report on consular protection that reviews the situation in the face of crises such as the coronavirus, but also in the conflict in Ukraine or the fall of Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban.
“Thanks to EU cooperation, 600,000 people stranded abroad were able to return to the EU in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. EU rules on consular protection gave a lifeline to our citizens in times of need and showed true solidarity between EU member states,” European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in a statement.
This European policy allows EU citizens abroad to request consular assistance from any other EU member state, in case their own country is not represented there.
In the same vein, the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, has appreciated that the EU-27 work hand in hand in the face of situations such as the pandemic or the invasion of Ukraine, highlighting the benefits of a common external action in the EU.
“When it comes to providing consular assistance, the 130 EU delegations play a crucial role alongside the embassies and consulates of the Member States,” added the head of EU diplomacy.
Despite the success of consular policy during these crises, the report points out that there is a need to simplify the current rules to facilitate consular protection, including improving the exchange of information between Member States and the coordination of communication, as well as clarifying the situation of vulnerable persons, such as pregnant women, unaccompanied minors or persons with disabilities.
The report calls for empowering EU delegations to interact more directly with EU citizens in some cases, at the request of Member States, with the aim of making consular protection more efficient.