2 April 2019

New EU regulation on public documents - the end of apostilles in EU

In mid-February, a new regulation on public documents in the European Union (No. 2016/1191) entered into effect, aimed to promote the free movement of persons within the EU by simplifying the requirements for presenting certain public documents, since it exempts some public documents from the legalisation requirement (i.e. certifying the authenticity of a signature or the identity of the seal or stamp) and from authentication via an apostille. It also introduces multilingual forms.

Aneta Mohylová
Hana Čermáková

The situation in the EU has so far been relatively unclear because of various international multilateral or bilateral agreements in force. For example, if a foreign national (an EU citizen) wanted to become a statutory representative in a limited liability company in the Czech Republic, such a foreign national had to prove that they had not been subject to any criminal prosecution, which required meeting various requirements depending on the foreign national’s citizenship and registered place of residence. This led to relatively absurd situations with German citizens having to submit an extract from the Criminal Register along with a translation into Czech and an apostille (which usually took several days or weeks to obtain, all the while incurring substantial expenses), and, Austrian citizens, based on a bilateral international treaty between the Czech Republic and Austria, only having to present a similar document without an apostille.

The new regulation’s objective is to enhance transparency in this respect, at least partially. Legalisation and apostillation will not be required for certain public documents (listed in the regulation) on a civil status issued by a body of one EU member state to be used by a body of another EU member state. These rules will apply both to document originals and their verified copies but not to copies of verified copies.

The regulation also simplifies the translation of public documents, as it introduces multilingual standard forms, aimed to replace public document translations with these forms. Nevertheless, administrative bodies are still left with the option to decide that a translation is necessary where information in the multilingual form is insufficient. It will therefore always be necessary to verify with the appropriate administrative body that the use of a multilingual form for a specific public document is adequate.

In our opinion, the regulation simplifies and enhances the transparency of using public documents to some extent; however, the regulation does not deal with many other situations, such as obtaining an extract from the Commercial Register when carrying out cross-border business operations. However, it is positive that the regulation already takes into account simplifications planned for 2021 regarding the authentication of a wider scope of public documents relating to, among other things, the legal status and representation of corporations and documents certifying the achieved qualification. According to the regulation, a direct electronic system for handing over public documents between member states should also be created to prevent any fraudulent behaviour.

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