Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Twelve EU states inch closer to common divorce rules

  • Half of EU's mixed nationality couples don't live happily ever after (Photo: European Commission)

Mixed nationality couples from twelve EU countries may get simpler and fairer divorce rules after MEPs in charge of legal affairs unanimously backed a first ever request for 'enhanced co-operation', a controversial solution allowing groups of countries to go their own way when they can't get consensus among all 27 EU states.

"We are giving couples more freedom and choice on their divorce, which is a difficult moment in their lives," Polish centre-right MEP Tadeusz Zwiefka said during the committee meeting on Tuesday (1 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The committee vote gives a positive signal to EU justice ministers, who are set to endorse the initiative on Friday in Luxembourg. A formal consent by the parliament's plenary is likely to follow later this month or in July.

Under the proposal, mixed couples or spouses living in different EU countries would be able to choose which country's law governs their divorce, so long there is a connection to that country, either by nationality or common residence.

Each year in the EU there are over 350,000 cross-border marriages and 170,000 divorces, representing 20 percent of all EU divorces. Germany, France and the UK are the countries with the highest rates of international divorces.

Some 60 percent of Europe's citizens expect the EU to play a role in facilitating cross-border divorces, a flash Eurobarometer survey on family law shows.

The member states behind the initiative are limited to Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and Spain, but others may join at any stage.

These countries decided to move ahead on their own after discussions among all 27 member states failed in 2008, due to differences between some of the more liberal Nordic countries and the conservative south, with Malta, for instance, not even recognising divorces, only legal separations.

Greece initially backed the proposal, but then withdrew in February this year after the new government in Athens decided not to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor.

If the initiative is implemented, it will be for the first time since the procedure of "enhanced co-operation" was enshrined in the EU treaty, back in 1997.

The Lisbon Treaty, which came into force in December, expanded EU the areas where this compromise solution can be applied, including to defence matters.

The prospect of member states clubbing together in interest groups and avoiding EU consensus led to fierce criticism when the procedure was taken up and expanded to foreign and security matters in the Treaty of Nice, which came into force in 2003.

Back in 2000, when the Treaty of Nice was being negotiated, current British deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, then a Liberal MEP, was one of the fiercest critics of "enhanced co-operation", warning that it could shake the very foundation of the European Union.

British Liberal MEP Andrew Duff, one of the veterans of the European Parliament, was also part of the negotiations back then and a critic of the procedure.

"It is a very good experiment that finally we had the courage to try it in family law – always a very sensitive area because of national and cultural predilections," he told this website.

But he warned that if this practice became "too extensive", the EU's internal "tensions of cohesion would begin to grow" although the practice of cooperation among certain member states has also been successful - such as in the eurozone or the border-free area also known as Schengen.

Asked if he saw Britain joining the divorce initiative at a later stage, Mr Duff said it was "always possible", but that in general, the UK took its time with jumping on board such projects.

EUobserver's latest video debate features MEPs Renate Weber, Nessa Childers and Tadeusz Zwiefka talking about the current situation for international couples filing for divorce in Europe.

EU parliament backs whistleblower law

MEPs backed an EU law to protect whistleblowers from retaliation in both the public and private sectors. EU states will have two years to transpose the directive.

EU commission to map gender recognition

The European Commission will start looking at how EU states determine genders - as part of an effort to make it easier for people to determine their own identities.

EU to propose scrapping summer time change

Based on the preliminary results of an online survey in which mostly Germans took part, the EU executive is proposing that the whole EU stops changing times in March and October.

Investigation

How to get around the EU posted workers directive

Some EU careworkers in Belgium receive around €400 a month - despite their carers paying €2,500 a month and paying for flights and accommodation. The answer lies in how firms can skirt the safeguards in the EU's posted workers directive.

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us