Fourteen EU member states earlier this week (12 July) used a pioneering cooperation law to press ahead with plans to simplify divorce rules for couples of different nationalities.
European Union governments gave the 14 states the go-ahead on Monday, a moment described as "historic" by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.
Couples in these countries will be able to choose which country's law applies to their divorce, helping them avoid potentially long and expensive proceedings. The countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.
It is the first time the EU has used an "enhanced cooperation" clause, foreseen in the treaties and that allows a group of at least nine countries to take joint steps in an area where they cannot secure the agreement of all 27 member states.
"Today's vote is historic. I am very proud that the Council [of EU governments] took the brave decision to use this legislative tool for the first time. Painful experiences for international couples and their children will soon be made easier," said Commissioner Reding.
The 14 countries had been frustrated with the failure to make progress with Commission proposals on divorce in 2006. The European Parliament and EU justice ministers have already backed the moves on which the 14 have agreed.
The Commission said there were more than one million divorces in the EU in 2007, of which 140,000 – 13% – involved couples of different nationalities. According to the agreement, if a couple cannot agree which country's law should apply to their divorce, judges will have a common formula to decide on their behalf.
(EURACTIV with Reuters.)