European Parliament Consents to the Enhanced Co-Operation Procedure

Yesterday I blogged about the attempt by 12 member states the use the Enhanced Co-Operation Procedure in the area of divorce. This morning the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee voted to accept a report by MEP Tadeusz Zwiefka (EPP/PL) to allow the procedure to be used by the 12 countries.

The draft recommendation can be read here (PDF)

The Parliament has requested that the ordinary legislative procedure be used when it comes to the final regulation. We will see what the Council decides.

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A European Divorce


Tomorrow the European Parliaments Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs will hear about the state of play on the first use of the Enhanced Co-Operation Procedure. 12 member states are proposing new rules in regards to Divorce and when it is of a trans-national nature.

To me this is a perfect use of the Enhanced Co-operation procedure as it can mean couples can choose the law that suits them most. For example a German married to Italian but living in Spain, have the choice to choose between German, Italian and Spanish law when it comes to their case. It also means that these rules will have no bearings on Malta, where divorce is illegal, and Ireland, where divorce is a long wait.

The 12 member states who want this are:

  • France
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Austria
  • Hungary
  • Slovenia
  • Luxembourg
  • Romania
  • Bulgaria
  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Latvia

Greece was initially on board but withdrew.

Under the current rules 9 member states are the minimum required to use the enhanced co-operation procedure. No member state can veto the use of procedure (except in the area of Foreign Affairs).

It will be interesting to see this in action.

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This is a “momentous” piece of Legislation

Marriage by jcoterhals on Flickr
Image by jcoterhals on Flickr

Last night I attended the GLEN briefing on the Civil Partnership Bill, hosted by the Cork Gay Project and It was a very interesting meeting and I certainly learned a lot! We were given a 3 booklets on the Bill and I am currently working my way through them and they are fascinating. The speakers were Eoin Collins, Director of Policy Change at Glen and Dr Fergus Ryan, head of Law at DIT.

A few things struck me last night during the talks by the speakers. One of those was what they called this bill. They called it “momentous”, “profound”, “substantive” and “the biggest change to family law”. A few other things that caught me were that we must “accept progress along the way” (that’s directed at you Marriage Activists) and that we need to focus on “whats in the Bill” (I got flashbacks to the Lisbon Campaign when that was said).

We are going to get this bill whether we like it or not. But this bill will do a lot for Gay and Lesbian Couples (or same-sex couples as they are called). The bill will confer rights and obligations that are equivalent to marriage. It will help to equal the playing field between same-sex couples and opposite sex couples, who at the moment, even if unmarried are better protected under Irish Law.

Just a quick note, remember that the Civil Partnership scheme in the Bill only applies to same-sex couples, while the presumptive cohabitation scheme will apply to both same-sex and opposite sex couples.

So a quick did you know about the Bill.

Did you know you don’t need to be Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual to enter into a Civil Partnership?Under the bill at it stands the Civil Partnership must be between two people of the same sex and not related (ie: Father and son, or brothers etc)

Did you know you have to take vows under the bill? Under the bill a Civil Partnership Ceremony must take place in public in front of two witnesses and vows must be said.

Did you know Divorce (dissolution) is easier for a Civil Partner? Under the bill to get a dissolution you must be living separatelyfor two out of previous three years. To get a Divorce under marriage you need to living separately for four of the previous five years. There is also no clean break in a Gay Divorce, just like in a Straight Divorce.

There are a few distinctions without a difference between Marriage and Civil Partnerships but legally there is not a whole heap of difference.

But Tax, Social Welfare and Immigration aren’t dealt with in the Bill!

And rightly so. If Tax and Social Welfare were dealt with in this bill it would have to be certified as a money bill. This means the Seanad would have only 21 days to look at the bill and the Dáil can over rule it a lot easier. It is important that the bill is being dealt in the way that is. Provision will be made under the Finance Bill and Social Welfare Bill to make changes.

As for immigration, there is a bill dealing with immigration currently before the Oireachtas. This can easily amended to provide for Same-sex couples.

What is wrong with the Bill?

The bill does have a number of deficiencies. It does not deal with children adequately nor does it deal with citizenship. These can be remedied through the stages of the bill in the Oireachtas and Senators David Norris and Ivana Bacik have committed themselves to putting an amendment on Children forward.

What is right with the bill?

The bill will give more rights in the following ares:

  • Shared Home
  • Visitation Rights
  • Succession
  • Maintenance
  • Equality (introduction of Civil Status)
  • Domestic Violence
  • Right to sue for Wrongful Death
  • Pensions
  • Ethics
  • Tenancy

The bill will amend over 130 pieces of legislation. It will allow the law to play a role when people need it most, on illness, separation and death.

This bill is needed now. It would be cruel to dismiss it for something that we might get further down the line. That is the problem we don’t know when, we don’t how, and we think a referendum will be needed. Could you imagine the COIR posters if there was a referendum on Gay Marriage??

This is one of the biggest reforms of family law to be undertaken in Ireland. Hopefully this bill will start a train of reform in Irish Family Law, which is sorely needed!

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EU justice ministers to discuss Constitution


Justice and interior ministers of the European Union are to discuss a framework for talks on reviving the EU Constitution during three days of talks in Germany which are due to begin later today.

The talks in Dresden are the first major ministerial gathering of the new EU of 27 states.

Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the union, has asked member states to nominate interlocutors for consideration of each country’s position on the Constitution.

The treaty was rejected by voters in the Netherlands and France in 2005 but has been ratified by two-thirds of the countries in EU.

Police co-operation and the fight against illegal immigration are also expected to be high on the agenda at the talks.

The German Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, has said he would like to see a treaty on police co-operation agreed.

Mr Schaeuble has also highlighted the idea of ‘circular migration’, a method for minimising the so-called brain drain from poor countries of origin by promoting the return of professionals after a period in the West.

‘We are all fully convinced of the need to closely co-operate with the countries of origin and transit,’ he said. ‘We must also fight this terrible situation that people are dragged on to boats which are not fit to travel into the Mediterranean sea.’

Other topics on the agenda for EU justice ministers include the possibility of harmonising divorce laws as well as the problem of violent video games.

Woo! about time discussions were restarted on it!