Enhanced cooperation to help international couples is in force

Member States are using the enhanced cooperation procedure to push forward with rules allowing international couples to select which country's law would apply to their divorce. The Regulation which applies this mechanism for the first time must now be approved by the participating 14 countries during an upcoming Council meeting before it can definitely enter into force.

The decision to apply enhanced cooperation to the development of new regulations for international marriages was taken by Council on 12 July 2010. The 14 participating countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain) will negotiate and then vote on the Commission proposal for a Regulation that contains the detailed rules that will apply to international divorces. These 14 countries must unanimously approve the Regulation and consult the European Parliament before it can enter into force.

The enhanced cooperation mechanism, a way to move forward

Under the EU Treaties, enhanced cooperation mechanism allows nine or more countries to move forward on a measure that is important, but blocked by a small minority of Member States. This new procedure, therefore, allows to a certain group of countries to move forward in regulating specific fields where reaching full agreements among all member states turn out to be too difficult.

In this particular case, the procedure applies to the 14 EU countries for now, but others can join at any time as long as they notify their decision to join the enhanced cooperation to the the Council and the Commission, as established in the Lisbon Treaty.

The mechanism will allow 14 EU countries to move forward with the Regulation proposed by the Commission in March 2010 in order to give couples legal certainty and prevent "rush to court" in divorces, avoiding emotionally and financially costly proceedings. The proposal aims to protect weaker partners during divorce disputes. International couples will be able to agree which law would apply to their divorce or legal separation. In case the couple cannot agree, judges would have a common formula for deciding which country's law applies. Couples would have more legal certainty, predictability and flexibility. This would help protect spouses and their children from complicated, lengthy and painful procedures.