The wide range of disasters that has recently hit third countries has shown that not even the Member States with the widest network of consular and diplomatic representation can ensure on their own the protection of their nationals located in the affected areas. The present paper addresses the question of whether the EU citizenship confers to the citizens of the Member States real benefits when they find themselves in distress outside of the Union’s borders. It critically assesses the legal nature, content and effects in the domestic legal orders of the least developed right recognised to the EU citizen: the right to protection abroad (Art. 20(2)(c) TFEU). The paper will demonstrate that the EU citizen has a clear, individual and directly effective right to receive non-discriminatory protection in third countries abroad from any of the Member States that is represented in loco. Nevertheless, since for the moment, the right to protection abroad is limited to an application of the principle of non-discrimination based on nationality, the paper will show that in practice, the effectiveness of the EU citizen’s right to protection abroad is hindered by the divergent regulatory frameworks of the Member States on consular and diplomatic protection of nationals, frameworks which have not, so far, been harmonised by a EU measure. The paper concludes by describing the new roles acquired by the Union after the Lisbon Treaty in the field of consular and diplomatic protection of citizens abroad and how this change influences the role of the Member States in a traditional State-like activity
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