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EU-wide domestic violence rules possible this year: Poland

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(SOPOT) - European Union nations may reach a deal later this year granting protection across the 27-member bloc to victims of domestic violence, Poland's justice minister said Tuesday.

"I'm convinced that this accord will be adopted under the Polish presidency," Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, whose country is at the helm of the EU until December 31, told reporters after talks with fellow ministers in the Baltic resort of Sopot.

EU justice chief Viviane Reding, who took part in the informal meeting, said she also believed the new rules could be finalised before 2012.

Some member states have expressed doubts about a new system proposed by Reding in May to ensure that victims of domestic violence in one country receive similar protection in any of the EU's other nations.

The planned measures include protection of a victim's identity, and restraining orders barring contact by the aggressor even if the victim moves to another EU member state.

The goal is to close legal loopholes that prevent one country's contact-ban from being applied elsewhere, putting the victim at renewed risk.

Spain drafted a set of regulations when it was in charge of the EU last year, but Reding blocked them on the grounds that they only covered aggressors in criminal cases.

She argued that was a problem because countries such as Germany, or her homeland Luxembourg, can deal with domestic violence as a civil offence.

Under a planned compromise, countries such as Spain that deal with domestic violence cases through the criminal justice system would uphold the decisions of other nations that do likewise.

But when a victim would be from Germany, for example, the country they had moved to would handle protection cases in the civil courts even if its own system allowed for a criminal prosecution.

Negotiators said that could still be a problem.

A Spanish perpetrator of domestic violence, for example would face jail time for failing to respect a restraining order at home but would only have to pay a fine if his victim moved to Germany and he went there to harass her.

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