Senior EU notary: European integration to continue ‘with or without Brexit’

José Manuel García Collantes [Gobierno de Castilla La Mancha/ Flickr]

President of the Council of the Notariats of the European Union (CNUE) José Manuel García Collantes told EURACTIV Spain that the European project is on track and that free movement and integration will continue “with or without Brexit”.

José Manuel García Collantes is president of the Council of the Notariats of the European Union, a nonprofit organisation of notaries from the 22 EU member states that are based on Latin civil law. The Council contributes actively to the decision-making processes of the institutions and assists in the training of notaries in European law.

He spoke to EURACTIV Spain’s Catalina Guerrero.

García Collantes thinks that this year will be one of open questions for Europe, following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, a surge in populism and other uncertainties related to crucial elections in 2017.

The president of the CNUE, who recently renewed his one-year mandate, said that “we do not know what will happen but we do know that integration of European citizens will continue, there is no stopping it. As a result, notaries have to be there in order to build and continue building this Europe that relates to citizens’ private lives”.

He added that “no one can stop this, Spaniards will continue going to live in Germany, the Germans in Belgium and Poland, etc. There’s a twofold challenge here: consolidating this Europe of the citizens, with the European institutions or without the European institutions”.

In the event that other member states follow the UK out the door, something García Collantes hopes will not happen, he remains convinced that the building of a citizens’ Europe will continue, albeit under “more difficult” conditions as a result of “political barriers”. But he insisted it will continue because “the movement of people will continue”.

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The Spaniard added that “Europe exists, Europe is a reality and it’s a good, positive reality.

“Europe does exist and the movement of people is unstoppable now.”

The CNUE platform represents more than 40,000 notaries across Europe and its objective, explained its president, is the “rapprochement of all European Union citizens by means of the law, as there are huge numbers of couples and binational marriages between citizens that are from one country but live in another, who buy property there, who die in a country other than their own and who have assets within a cross-border framework. That’s where notaries have to provide service and care”.

More specifically, in relation to the European institutions, CNUE is backing a digitalisation of company law and regulations relating to changing the headquarters of a company within the EU. It’s a proposal the organisation has put huge importance on.

García Collantes also indicated that an amendment being looked at by the European Parliament on its fourth money laundering directive is also significant for the notary profession.

He explained that Spain is “quite advanced” in this field, as 12 years ago it set up “an enormous database” within its Council of Notaries, in which all legal transactions are listed. This allows money laundering, tax evasion and the financing of terrorism to be tracked down more easily.

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It’s a model that the CNUE wants to promote to the other member states and one of the organisation’s objectives for the year is to transpose Spain’s way of doing things to the wider EU, under a single database. If that proves to be too tall an order, García Collantes conceded that it would be enough if other countries “set up databases like the Spanish version, which is proving to be highly effective”.

He explained that talks he has had in Brussels have shown an eagerness to copy the Spanish model but acknowledged that it is not an easy task, due to the complexity of the database.

Although Europe has shifted away from being “a Europe of merchants” to one of citizens, the world of business is still “crucial” within the EU and the masses of directives that have built up since 1968 need to be taken into account.

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There are still issues to be solved, the Spaniard explained, including one that he has prioritised; namely, resolving “the transfer of a headquarters from one country to another or divergence between the actual HQ, where facilities and administration are located, and the official domicile, where can be in another country due to favourable tax conditions or whatever.”

This is set to be the focus, along with legal protection of consumers, of the 4th European Notarial Congress to be held in Santiago de Compostela between 5 and 7 October, under the Spanish presidency of the CNUE.

The aim of the event is to be able to present the European institutions with shared conclusions that could form the basis of future legislation on civil and commercial law.

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