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Three more EU Member States back cross-border divorce law pact

28 May 2010, 14:27 CET
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Three more EU Member States back cross-border divorce law pact

Justice - Photo © James Steidl

(BRUSSELS) - Three more countries have signed up to new laws allowing couples who divorce but hail from different European countries to simplify a legal maze, the European Commission said on Friday.

Belgium, Germany and Latvia are the latest to throw their lot in under a post-Lisbon treaty system of "enhanced cooperation" that allows a group of countries within the 27-nation European Union to go their own way.

They join Austria, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia and Spain in agreeing to draw up a shared law settling how courts deal with divorce cases that cross their borders.

However, Greece, which was originally on board, has now withdrawn, Brussels added.

EU home and justice ministers will seek to broker a political deal at talks next week in Luxembourg that could potentially slash lawyers' fees for divorcees in these countries.

Couples would be able to choose which country's laws should govern their divorce, in a bid to clamp down on so-called 'divorce shopping', where nationality or the place where a marriage took place can give one spouse an unfair advantage.

But the 12 countries will need backing from others to go ahead, as a qualified majority vote is required to pass the proposal.

The principle of enhanced cooperation, which critics say would create a 'Europe within Europe', has been controversial.

Sweden has previously blocked attempts to harmonise divorce law across the 27 EU states, while Malta only permits legal separation, not full divorce.

Some 300,000 marriages between mixed-nationality couples are celebrated each year in the EU while around 140,000 divorces are announced.

Council of Justice and Home Affairs (JAI)


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