European Parliament adopts report on public documents

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The European Parliament adopted the report by Bernhard Rapkay MEP (Germany, S&D) on simplifying the acceptance of certain public documents in the European Union on Tuesday 4 February in plenary session. The European Commission, represented by Commissioner Viviane Reding, welcomed this result and called on the Member States to help move this project forward. In light of current negotiations with the Council, it seems unlikely that work will be completed under the current legislature.

On the same day, during a joint press release with the rapporteur, Ms Reding welcomed the report, saying it would “make life easier for millions of citizens and businesses in Europe”. Taking the example of the apostille that would affect 1.4 million public documents and certified translations used for 1.6 million documents, she estimated that the European Union could make savings of 360 million euros.

According to the report, the law would do away with administrative formalities such as the “legalisation” or “apostille” certification of certain public documents, such as those proving civil status, family relationship of intellectual property rights. MEPs want more documents to be covered by simplified procedures and propose for example that educational records, as well as tax and social insurance documents, should be included.

To avoid the need to translate public documents and to help public authorities, the law would introduce new multilingual EU forms which citizens could use instead of national ones to prove birth, death, marriage, registered partnership or the legal status and representation of a company. 

In addition to these five forms, MEPs amended the proposal to include a further eleven forms concerning name, descent (parents), adoption, non-married status, divorce, dissolution of a registered partnership, union citizenship and nationality, absence of a criminal record, residence, educational certificate, and disability.

In the event of reasonable doubt, the authorities would be able to check the authenticity of a document with the issuing authorities, using the existing Internal Market Information System (IMI).

Given the number of documents covered, the Notaries of Europe applaud the extensive work carried out by the Commission and the European Parliament. They will follow closely further work and discussions within the Council. In this perspective, they hope that the Member States will examine carefully the developments called for by the two institutions, evaluating them with regard to legal certainty, which is a pillar of the European economy.

The report is available at the following link: