The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament approved last week (12 November) an informal agreement with the Council on the regulation which aims to simplify procedures for EU citizens regarding official documents. In many instances, if an EU citizen wants to file an official document issued in his home state in another EU state, he needs either an Apostille (official recognition of legal value) or a certified translation into the other state´s language, or both. In April 2013, the EC presented a proposal for a regulation that would simplify this with regard to civic official documents, such as birth and death certificates, certificates of domicile, marriage, parenthood, real estate or absence of criminal records, as well as some commerce-related ones, such as representation of a company or intellectual property rights certificates.
The EP adopted a very ambitious approach in the beginning. In its first reading position (February 2014), it proposed to widen the scope as much as possible, abolish all legalization procedures (Apostille), include also education certificates, and abolish the need for translation (or at least the costly certified translation). The Council was rather cautious. The final agreement is therefore less ambitious than the original EP draft. If the text is adopted as the EP committee agreed to it last week, the simplification would be as follows: Legal authentication (Apostille) for civic documents will not be needed – these include birth and death certificate, domicile, absence of criminal records and others. However, this regulation will not cover educational documents. The draft regulation asks the EC to conduct a review in due time and consider establishing a similar regime for educational documents, as well as to widen the scope to businesses (under the draft regulation, the simplification only applies to citizens). For some of the civic documents covered by the draft regulation, standardized forms will be established. Since these will be harmonized across the EU, the member states will not be allowed to ask citizens of other EU countries to provide translations of such documents (certified or otherwise). For other documents without standardized forms, although legal recognition would not be needed (Apostille), translation could be asked.
The Council will now vote on the informal agreement and thus adopt its position at first reading. If it passes, the draft will go back to the EP, where second reading will be initiated. Since the informal agreement would already be in place, the EP would only formally endorse the Council´s position. The procedure could be finalized late this year or early next year.
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