Since 1 May 2018, rules on enhanced consular protection of citizens of the countries of the European Union shall become effective, the European Commission announced. The rules apply to community citizens in third countries where there is no representation of their homeland.

Advanced consular protection is provided for in cases of accident, serious illness, arrest or detention, loss of passport, evacuation or when they are victims of crime. In these cases, individuals will be treated as nationals of the country in whose representation they have sought assistance.

This puts an end to the concerns about what happens if your country has no diplomatic or consular representation in the country in which you are located.

Almost 7 million European citizens travel or live outside the EU in countries where their own Member State has no embassy or consulate. Under EU law as an unrepresented Union citizen, each person is entitled to assistance from the embassy or consulate of any other EU country under the same conditions as its citizens. However, they must prove that they are EU citizens through a passport or identity card, and if their documents are lost, their identity will be confirmed by the country of origin of European citizens.

In the case of Bulgarian citizens, once they are presented to the foreign embassy, it will send an enquiry to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sofia, if the aid seekers are really Bulgarian citizens and, they must receive assistance. Similarly, Bulgarian diplomats must assist citizens from the other 27 MS in places where their governments are not represented.

It is important to specify the costs of procedures. All the assistance provided shall be paid by the person requesting assistance. If they are unable to do so on the ground, they will have to sign a document obliging them to repay their obligation when they return home.

Currently, Bulgaria has 81 embassies and 15 consulates around the world. Of these, 55 embassies and 11 consulates are outside the European Union. There are only four countries outside the EU where all 28 Member States have their own embassies: the US, Russia, China and India, and in these countries the new rules will not work.