Did you know that consular protection is one of the fundamental rights of EU citizens, associated with EU citizenship?

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    A consular help desk for EU citizens, Bali, Indonesia

    A consular help desk for EU citizens, Bali, Indonesia.

The consular protection of EU citizens

Consular protection is the help provided by a State to its citizens who are living or travelling outside of their home country when they are in need of assistance. Typically, consular protection can be provided in case of:

  • Loss of travel documents;
  • A serious accident or serious illness;
  • Relief and repatriation in case of an emergency;
  • Being a victim of crime;
  • Arrest or detention;
  • Death.

The responsibility to provide consular assistance to EU citizens lies with EU Member States. Yet, not every EU Member State has embassies or consulates in every State of the world. This means that some EU citizens are ‘unrepresented’, with no embassy or consulate from their Member State to effectively help them. So what happens to them if they are in need of assistance?

‘Unrepresented’ EU citizens are entitled to request help from the local embassy or consulate of any other EU Member State. The other EU Member State must assist ‘unrepresented’ EU citizens on the same conditions as their own nationals. This is particularly important in case of a consular crisis.

From an EU perspective, we talk about a consular crisis when the life, health or security of a large number of EU citizens in a third State are at risk or in danger. This can be the case because of a natural disaster or large accident, or due to growing political instability.

To facilitate the exercise of the right to consular protection, in 2015, the Council adopted Directive 2015/637, the ‘Consular Protection Directive’. The Directive aims at greater cooperation and coordination between consular authorities.

In 2019, the Council also adopted Directive 2019/997 on an EU Emergency Travel Document. It complements the Consular Protection Directive by making it easier for unrepresented citizens to be provided an emergency travel document to go back home by another EU Member State, when necessary. The new EU Emergency Travel Document will be available to citizens as of December 2025.

For more on the right to consular protection for EU citizens, read this factsheet.



The work of the EEAS, including EU Delegations

In line with the Consular Protection Directive, the EEAS and its EU Delegations around the world contribute to the implementation of the EU citizens’ right to consular protection in close cooperation with EU Member States.

In particular, they facilitate coordinated EU efforts on consular crisis preparedness and response, both locally in third countries and between EU capitals.

In that context, the EEAS works in closely with the European Commission (particularly DG ECHO-ERCC and DG JUST), and EU Member States (in particular crisis centres). The EEAS supports the Council Presidency on consular matters, including through active participation in the Council Working Party on Consular Affairs (COCON).

The EEAS also cooperates with other partners, including countries outside of the EU and international organisations.

For more on the EU’s work in the area of consular protection, visit also the dedicated pages on the European Commission and the Council websites.

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    EU-Canada Consular Dialogue

    During an EU-Canada Consular Dialogue

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What does this mean in practice?

You want to know how coordination and cooperation on consular matters between EU Member States and the EU can help EU citizens? Here are some examples.

The sudden mobility restrictions after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic left more than 600,000 EU citizens stranded abroad in early 2020. At that time, the EU and its Member States joined forces to organise their repatriation. For more information on the repatriation exercise, watch the video or visit this page.

Large numbers of EU citizens attending international events abroad can pose specific challenges. At the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the EU and its Member States worked together to make it easier for EU fans to receive assistance if needed, even if not all visiting EU fans had a local Embassy to turn to. For more information, read this article.

When the crisis erupted in Sudan in April 2023, there were about 1,700 EU citizens in the country. To bring them out of harm’s way, EU solidarity was in full speed. Thanks to great EU coordination, the EU Member States who led evacuations took on board other EU nationalities and citizens from other continents.  For more information, see here or read this article.

What can you do to help?

As an EU citizen, you can take simple steps to make consular protection more effective.

  • Follow the travel advice and instructions issued by your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For example, register your presence abroad, if applicable.
  • Check if your country is present in the country where you are travelling.
  • No embassy or consulate? Find one of another EU country on this platform or via the EU Delegations. Save their contact information.
  • Subscribe to a travel insurance.