The European Commission adopted new proposals on March 2 bringing more legal clarity for international couples as the issue of property ownership has been costly and problematic in case of death or divorce, because of parallel and possibly conflicting legal frameworks between EU Member States.
As the European Council concluded on December 2015 that unanimity of a 2011 proposal was not possible, 17 Member States that wanted to take a step forward in family law requested that the European Commission come forward with a proposal which will authorise the establishment of enhanced cooperation between these countries on property rules for international couples, covering both marriages and registered partnerships. The proposal contains solutions similar to those presented in the 2011 proposals, taking into account discussions in the Council and the European Parliament until the end of 2015.
“I wish we had been able to take this forward with all Member States as the Commission had proposed, but today’s proposals mean we can help at least some of the people concerned to manage at the most difficult times.” said Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, underlining that this proposal “is about giving certainty to thousands of European couples” whether married or in registered partnerships.
“In case of divorce or death of a partner, the lives of 16 million international couples can become even more difficult through burdensome administrative procedures and unclear legal situations”, added EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourová, estimating that international couples concerned will save around €400 million a year of extra costs.
The proposals that were agreed from the 17 Member States, namely Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden, concern jurisdiction rules, rules on applicable law and enforcement of judgements between Member States.
The 11 Member States that do not participate represents 33% of the population. For these countries, national laws, including rules on private international law, will continue to apply to cross-border situations dealing with matrimonial property regimes and the property consequences of registered partnerships. Nevertheless, these Member States are free to join enhanced cooperation if they wish.