According to the Stockholm Programme, natural persons moving around the EU should have the same level of protection in all Member States (MS), within the common area of freedom, security and justice. The principle of mutual recognition has recently been applied to protection measures in criminal matters. The EP and Council are now asked to agree on a new legal framework bringing in the same principle for protection measures in civil matters.
Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has adopted several criminal justice measures protecting victims’ rights (Article 82(2)(c) TFEU). These include the 2012 Directive on minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime and the 2011 Directive on the European Protection Order (EPO). The latter extends protection orders adopted under national criminal law to other Member States, to protect persons against acts endangering their life or physical, psychological and sexual integrity, as well as human dignity and personal liberty. In order also to allow the mutual recognition of national measures adopted under civil and administrative law (Art. 81 TFEU), the Commission proposed a draft Regulation in this field, which has been under negotiation between the European Parliament (EP) and Council.
Draft Regulation on protection in civil matters
The draft Regulation complements the EPO Directive, providing for the recognition of all protection measures which are not sanctioned by national criminal law. Moreover, the nature of a protection measure cannot be altered in the MemberState required to recognise a measure imposed in another MS. The proposed Regulation would provide for a European certificate containing essential information to enable faster and easier recognition of protection measures when the person who has been granted protection moves to or travels through other EU Member States. The Regulation would not interfere with the general regime of recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and parental responsibilities (the so-called Brussels II Regulation).
The protection and preventive measures covered would include obligations or prohibitions imposed on the person causing a risk to the protected person, such as: entering places where the protected person resides, works or visits; contact in any form with the protected person, including by phone, electronic or ordinary mail. The Regulation would apply to all victims. Although protection measures often deal with gender based violence, they are not only for victims of this type of violence.
After negotiations with the Council in trilogue, the EP’s rapporteurs Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, Bulgaria) and Antonio López-Istúriz White (EPP, Spain) submitted a compromise covering all these aspects to the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM). The EP in particular put forward amendments in order to strengthen the protection measures. They proposed the possibility to request the multilingual certificate online and to waive the cost of the recognition procedure for victims.
In March 2013, the compromise was endorsed jointly (JURI and FEMM) under Rule 51, with 32 votes in favour and 2 abstentions. If adopted, the Regulation will impose on Member States the obligation to inform the public of its national rules and procedures and about the authorities competent for recognition and enforcement. This Regulation would come into force for cross-border cases with effect from January 2015 (at the same time as the EPO Directive). MS will have to collect comparable statistics on access to the rights covered by the Regulation.