In a drive by the European Commission to cut red tape the European Parliament held a vote to stop the use of apostilles on some public documents. To reduce bureaucracy and administration costs ministers voted in favour of these measures.
Under The Hague Convention a document from one country being used in another country currently needs an apostille certificate before it will be recognised. This applies to all EU member states and means that many public documents must be legalised with the apostille.
On 4 February 2014 a vote was held by the European Parliament to stop the process of ‘stamping’ documents being used in another member state. An overwhelming majority of 573 for, 62 against and 44 abstentions voted to reduce administrative procedures which includes the issue of an apostille on public documents.
What does this mean?
In the short term there will be no immediate change. European laws have to be adopted by the Council of Ministers using the ‘ordinary legislative procedure’ which will take time. Until the law is passed all public documents will need the apostille when being used in another member state.
When the regulations are finally implemented it will mean that many ‘public documents’ like birth certificates , marriage certificates, civil ceremony certificates and death certificates will be recognised without further certification or legalisation.
To simplify the recognition of documents across borders the EU plans to implement standard document formats. This will change the look of many traditional UK documents. When a member state has reason to doubt the authenticity of a document they will be able to check the document for fraud with Internal Market Information System.
The changes will only affect about 20 public documents initially. Many other documents will still need to be checked and certified with the apostille. Documents being used outside of the EU will still need the apostille in most circumstances. When a country is not a member of The Hague Convention documents may also need further attestation at the embassy.
The new measures will save EU citizens millions of Euros every year in administrative costs. It will also save time when as documents will not need to be processed with government offices. This change will be welcome news for many EU citizens looking to marry abroad, register births or move between countries.