What are my rights as an EU citizen?

As a citizen of the European Union, you have the right to freedom of movement and the freedom to obtain services across the European Community. This includes the right to medical treatment in any member state, providing you meet certain criteria.

What does that mean?

The essence of the right to freedom of movement is that the European Union is seen as a single community of member states, where land borders assume less importance. As a citizen of the European Union, you have the right to travel, live and work in any member state.

It also means that many people enjoy the right to obtain medical treatment in any member state, including hospital services, dental, ophthalmology and other treatments, and to be treated on the same basis that you would be in your home nation.

For example, under these arrangements, migrant workers who are formally resident in one country, can return to their country of origin to have medical treatment near their families or to have children; pensioners living abroad can choose to have medical treatment in that country; or individuals can avoid long waiting lists at home by choosing treatment in another European Union country with spare capacity.

How are these rights enforced?

As you might expect, with 27 different member states, these freedoms are not always uniformly applied. The European Court of Justice exists to arbitrate in cases where the existing national laws and practices conflict with the underlying principles of the internal market.

In the case of cross border healthcare, the application of the principles became so confused and legally challenged, that a formal Directive had to be created by the European Union to clarify the position for both citizens and member states.

Over the next few pages, we’ll explain what this means to you and how you can exercise your rights to cross border healthcare under the new European Directive on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.

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