Wednesday

19th Feb 2020

Brussels and Madrid clash over domestic violence bill

  • Viviane Reding (l) said the Spanish proposal is not acceptable in its current form (Photo: Council of the European Union)

In a rare display of public disagreement with the EU presidency country, the European Commission on Friday (23 April) refused to back a legislative proposal providing EU-wide protection for victims of domestic violence.

Spain, currently chairing the EU, has been pushing for the creation of a "European protection order" allowing women subject to violence by their husbands or partners to enjoy the same legal protection anywhere in the 27 member states.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

But different legal traditions in dealing with gender violence have prompted several member states to raise doubts about the current proposal. While a woman in Spain can be granted protection if her partner has no criminal record or has only threatened her with acts of violence, the law is much more restrictive in Austria, for instance, where such orders are issued only in criminal investigations or for already convicted felons.

Madrid has argued that these discrepancies are all the more reason to have an EU-wide tool which is recognised in all member states.

"There are 8,000 Romanian women in Spain who have protection orders. They should be able to go back to their own country and enjoy the same level of protection. The same should also work for the 800 or so Germans. People move freely around Europe and should enjoy the same level of protection," Spanish justice minister Francisco Caamano said during a press briefing following the meeting with his 26 EU counterparts.

Mr Caamano and EU justice commissioner Vivian Reding had diverging views over the outcome of the meeting. While the Spanish politician said there was a "large majority" of member states in favour of Madrid's proposal, the commissioner bluntly contradicted him.

"There is no council agreement. A majority of member states have problems with the current proposal," she said.

The commission will not back the draft bill in its current form, said Ms Reding, noting that the proposal touches on both criminal and civil law, making it too complicated.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions," she said, warning against victimising individuals for a second time by creating legal uncertainty instead of helping them.

She threatened to take the Council of Ministers to the European Court of Justice if the proposal goes ahead.

Inter-institutional turf war may also explain why the two sides could not agree. Under the EU's new legal framework, the Lisbon Treaty, member states can bypass the commission in its right to table legislative proposals only in respect to criminal law. But by expanding the provisions of the protection order to civil matters, where only the executive can come up with draft legislation, the Spanish presidency stepped on the commission's toes.

Ms Reding promised to set up a working group based on the "preparatory work" done by the Spaniards and in January 2011 table a broad package on all victims' rights, not solely gender-related.

The Spanish presidency, after advertising this initiative as one of its flagship projects, will still try to reach a political agreement in June, which would then have to be ratified by the EU legislature.

"Victims can't wait another two to three years until we sort out the procedures," Mr Caamano said at the press conference.

Opinion

Istanbul Convention: clearing away the fog of misconceptions

On International Womens' Day, it is time to dispel some misconceptions, deliberate or otherwise, about the Istanbul Convention, which protects women from domestic violence - but has not yet been signed by every member state of the Council of Europe.

Exclusive

Balkan spies 'feed' EU's police database via Czechs

Western Balkan secret services have handed over more the 250 alerts on suspected foreign terrorist fighters since last summer - fed into the EU's police database by the Czech Republic, according to a confidential document seen by EUobserver.

New EU public prosecutor has four staff for 3,000 cases

Laura Kovesi who heads the new European Public Prosecutor's Office, tasked to tackle fraud linked to VAT, money laundering, and corruption across the EU, warned she is dangerously understaffed and underfunded.

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not ok, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

News in Brief

  1. EU unveils white paper on AI and data strategy
  2. Dutch court rules against Russia in €46bn Yukos case
  3. Britain to bar 'Polish plumber-type' migrants
  4. Greece seeks EU help to get back classical statues from UK
  5. HSBC to cut 35,000 jobs worldwide
  6. Regions chief appeals against cutting EU cohesion funds
  7. Verhofstadt criticises UK Brexit negotiator
  8. Turkish court acquits Gezi park activists

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not ok, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. EU leaders face major clash on rule of law budget link
  2. North Macedonia warns EU on 'dirtiest ever' election
  3. Western 'endarkenment' and the voodoo politics of Europe
  4. Warning of agricultural 'digital arms race' in EU
  5. Cayman Islands put on tax-haven blacklist after Brexit
  6. Boris' Brexit bluff? - UK will resist alignment to the end
  7. US still open to Kosovo-Serbia land swap
  8. EU countries enter final phase of budget talks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us