Defending citizens' free movement rights

ECAS started off as an advice service for NGOs but quickly became open to citizens as well. This came about as a result of its hotlines:  to test visible and hidden barriers to free movement of people, Schengen within the EU and recently visa facilitation for neighbouring and applicant countries.

The hotlines influenced the Commission's approach resulting in Europe Directlink.png and the creation of a single free phone number (0800 67891011).  A call centre provides first level information, whilst more difficult questions are sent to the citizens' signpost service (CSS) run by ECAS for DG markt.  This consists of a management team and over 50 legal experts answering 9000 eligible questions per year since 2002. The service gives free and independent legal advice, but does not intervene and solve problems.  For that, there is a close link to Solvitlink.png.  This system - information from advice to problem solving is called the cascade system.

The EU has made progress towards a one-stop shop, but it's a virtual one. What is often lacking is access for citizens to more direct face-to-face personal advice when they have more serious problems.  Claire Damilano, ECAS legal office, helps with issues for members or "friends of ECAS" which often concern groups, such as frontier workers on the border between Belgium and France, Dutch pensioners paying twice for health care, cases of parental child abduction across borders or EU citizens in France who risked losing their social security entitlements.

Example of cases (download here )

In carrying out this more indepth activity, ECAS benefits from pro bono support from Freshfields, Bruckhaus and Deringer, giving citizens the first class support a large company has.

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