Applying the codecision procedure to maintenance obligations
For parents raising their child alone, maintenance claims can be essential to covering the cost of day-to-day living. The European Commission has called on the Council to take a decision to apply the codecision procedure to measures relating to maintenance obligations. It considers that, while maintenance obligations are of an individual nature, they are primarily a pecuniary claim, an amount of money to be recovered.
Commission Communication of 15 December 2005 calling on the Council to provide for measures relating to maintenance obligations taken under Article 65 of the Treaty establishing the European Community to be governed by the procedure laid down in Article 251 of that Treaty [COM/2005/648].
The European Commission has called on the Council of the European Union to take a decision which would make it possible to apply the codecision procedure of Article 251 of the Treaty establishing the European Communities ("the EC Treaty") to measures relating to maintenance obligations, which require a unanimous vote in the Council.
Making Article 251 applicable to maintenance obligations
Under the second indent of Article 67(2) of the Treaty, the Council, acting unanimously after consulting the European Parliament, may take a decision providing for all or parts of the areas covered by Title IV of the Treaty to be governed by the procedure referred to in Article 251.
Recovering maintenance claims: primarily a pecuniary claim
Despite close links between maintenance and family relations, the European Commission considers that the recovery of a maintenance claim does not go to the heart of family relations, unlike a decision on visiting rights or custody. Such a decision has a direct effect on the personal relationship between children and parents and thus affects the equilibrium of the family relationship, which is heavily influenced by the Member States' differing legal and cultural traditions. A maintenance claim, on the other hand, is indeed a specific kind of claim but it remains a claim, an amount of money to be recovered. The recovery mechanisms that apply are the same as for any other pecuniary decision, such as an attachment on salaries and wages.
Moreover, if the codecision procedure applied in place of unanimity, it would be possible for rules specifically devoted to maintenance obligations to be subject to the same legislative procedure, with in particular the same prerogatives of the European Parliament, as applies to instruments such as the European enforcement order (EEO) Regulation, which established a common arrangement extending to maintenance claims like any other credit.
In view of the foregoing considerations, the Commission calls on the Council to decide that the procedure established by Article 251 of the Treaty is applicable to maintenance obligations with effect from 1 June 2006. Article 251 applies to opinions of the European Parliament received by the Council before that date on proposals concerning measures for which the Council takes a decision by the codecision procedure.
Adopting Community measures in civil matters
Since the Amsterdam Treaty entered into force on 1 May 1999, the European Community has been able to adopt measures in matters of judicial cooperation in civil matters with cross-border implications. The Council:
- decides on proposals from the Commission;
- acting unanimously after consulting the European Parliament, takes decisions providing for all or parts of the areas covered by this Title to be governed by the procedure referred to in Article 251 and adapting the provisions relating to the powers of the Court of Justice.
Denmark does not take part in the adoption of the decision. The United Kingdom and Ireland have notified their wish to take part in the adoption and application of the decision.
Under the second indent of Article 67(5) of the EC Treaty, as amended by the Treaty of Nice, in force since 1 February 2003, the measures provided for by Article 65 of the Treaty are to be adopted by the codecision procedure, with the exception of the aspects relating to family law.
Under the second indent of Article 67(2) of the Treaty, the Council, acting unanimously after consulting the European Parliament, is to take a decision providing for all or parts of the areas covered by Title IV of Part Three to be governed by the codecision procedure.
Judicial cooperation in civil matters has thus been governed by two separate procedures since the Treaty of Nice entered into force - the codecision procedure, which is now the standard procedure, and adoption by the Council, acting unanimously after consulting the European Parliament, which is the exceptional procedure for measures involving aspects relating to family law.