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Luxembourg, 4 June 2010

EU Justice Council: Statement by Vice-President Viviane Reding

Historical day for justice and citizens right in the EU

European citizens will benefit from improved fair trial rights, enjoy more legal certainty for international couples and a solid system for protecting human rights following today's meeting of EU Justice Ministers in Luxembourg.

Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner and Vice-President of the European Commission, said today’s decisions were "historic" and demonstrated how the EU can work effectively for its citizens.

"Just two months after the Commission proposed new procedural rights, enhanced cooperation to bring legal certainty to international couples, and a mandate to complete the EU's system of protecting human rights, we have delivered," Vice-President Reding said after the Justice Ministers meeting. "We can be proud about these concrete results for citizens. But we still have many more challenges ahead, including securing a legally sound and efficient procedure to protect victims of crime and violence, where further progress will be needed under the Belgium and Hungarian Presidencies."


The Justice Council also authorised 14 EU Member States to move ahead with a proposal to create legal certainty for bi-national couples and couples living abroad in the EU. There are around 122 million marriages in the EU of which around 16 million (13%) are considered international in the sense that the spouses have a different nationality, are living apart in different countries or are living together in a country other than their country of origin. In 2007 there were more than 1 million divorces in the EU 27 member states of which 140,000 (13%) had an international element.

The 14 countries participating in this "enhanced cooperation" proposed by the Commission are: Spain, Italy, Hungary, Luxembourg, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, France, Germany, Belgium, Latvia, Malta and Portugal. EU Justice Commissioner Reding said: "I welcome the strong support shown at the Council of Justice Ministers today for the Commission’s proposal to move ahead on creating greater legal certainty for international marriages in the EU. This is the first time in history that the EU makes use of enhanced cooperation. I will work with all Member States to ensure that as many of them as possible will in the end participate in this initiative. The more Member States join, the greater the legal certainty will be for international couples in Europe."


Today, the Justice Council authorised the Commission to negotiate EU's accession to European Convention on Human Rights. EU Justice Commissioner Reding said: "We are now equipped with a clear mandate to forge ahead and try to complete the talks to future consolidate respect for fundamental rights for Europe. This is direct proof that the Lisbon Treaty is delivering results for citizens."


Justice Ministers also agreed today on a proposed Directive on the right of interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. This Directive intends to secure that suspects are guaranteed the right to be informed and receive legal advice in their own language in criminal proceedings in all courts in the EU to ensure a fair trial. "The European Commission's active intervention in this legislative process ensured that EU law will guarantee fair trial rights as they are required by the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights. I am in particular grateful to the European Parliament that, throughout the negotiations, supported the Commission's approach, which was to reject sub-standard procedural rights. Instead, the Commission insisted on high standards to strengthen mutual trust between national courts and between our citizens. I call on all Member States not to wait until the last minute to implement these new rules but to do this swiftly. I will keep a very close eye on effective implementation in this important field. "


Following a controversial debate in Council on the proposed European Protection Order, Vice-President Reding said at a press conference that more work is needed to assure an efficient and legally sound measure that will genuinely help victims of violence. 

"It was very clear today that there is no qualified majority in the Council for this proposal in its present form. The Spanish Presidency didn’t receive a mandate from the Council to bring its proposal forward," Vice-President Reding said. "I regret that the Spanish Presidency did not make use of the compromise proposal presented by the Commission in today's meeting. This could have secured a good result still under the Spanish Presidency. Now, we need to go into another round of difficult negotiations."

As announced, the Commission will put forward a plan for comprehensive and legally sound measures for the protection of victims and the reinforcement of their rights in the first half of 2011, following a detailed impact assessment and stakeholder consultations.

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