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Commission proposal to protect victims of domestic violence EU-wide will become law
Victims of violence, in particular domestic violence, will be able to count on EU-wide protection. Yesterday, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers reached a political agreement in principle on a proposal by the European Commission for an EU-wide protection order. The agreement – which comes after a trilogue meeting between the Commission and the two co-legislators (European Parliament, and the Council of Ministers) – means women who have suffered domestic violence will be able to rely on a restraining order obtained in their home country wherever they are in the EU. Such protection is in particular vital for many women in Europe: around one in five have suffered physical violence at least once in their life, according to surveys.
The draft regulation will now pass to the European Parliament and the Council to be formally finalised. The Commission proposed the Regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters as part of a package of measures to improve victims’ rights (see IP/11/585 and MEMO/11/310). The Victims Directive – which sets out minimum rights for crime victims wherever they are in the EU – is already in the European statute book (IP/12/1200). Both instruments will also complement the European Protection Order of 13 December 2011, which ensures free circulation of criminal law protection measures throughout Europe. Yesterday's agreement is a major step towards closing protection gaps for victims of domestic violence who want to exercise their right to free movement in the EU.
"Women who have suffered violence in their home do not want strategies – they want concrete rules they can rely on. With today's agreement on the European Protection Order this is exactly what we are delivering. The new rules will ensure that victims of domestic violence are protected Europe-wide," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU's Justice Commissioner. “I would like to thank the European Parliament for its strong and very vocal support for the Commission's proposal, and in particular the co-rapporteurs Mr Antonio López-Istúriz and Mrs Antonyia Parvanova. I hope that the Parliament and the Council will now swiftly adopt the European Protection Order to ensure victims of domestic violence can feel safe, no matter where they are in Europe.”
Next steps: Ministers in the Justice Council will discuss the draft regulation at their meeting on 8 March. It is then expected to pass to the European Parliament for a plenary vote in April, before being finalised at the Justice Council in June. Once the Regulation is adopted and published in the EU's Official Journal (the EU's Statute Book), the focus will move to implementation and ensuring that Members States put in place both, the Regulation and the Directive on victims' rights (IP/12/1200) so that victims of crime and victims of violence can benefit from protection in their everyday lives.
On 18 May 2011, the European Commission proposed a package of measures to ensure a minimum level of rights, support and protection for victims across the EU, no matter where they come from or live.
This included a proposal for a Regulation on mutual recognition of civil law protection measures. It will ensure that victims of violence (such as domestic violence) can still rely on restraint or protection orders issued against the perpetrator if they travel or move to another EU country and will complement the European Protection Order, adopted on 13 December 2011 and dealing with criminal law protection orders.
The second proposal, for a Directive on victims' rights, was adopted on 4 October 2012 by the Council of Ministers (IP/12/1066), after the European Parliament endorsed it with an overwhelming majority on 12 September 2012 (MEMO/12/659). The directive sets out minimum rights for victims, wherever they are in the EU. It will ensure that:
victims are treated with respect and police, prosecutors and judges are trained to properly deal with them;
victims get information on their rights and their case in a way they understand;
victim support exists in every Member State;
victims can participate in proceedings if they want and are helped to attend the trial;
vulnerable victims are identified – such as children, victims of rape, or those with disabilities – and are properly protected;
victims are protected while police investigate the crime and during court proceedings.
Member States now have three years to implement the provisions of the Directive into their national laws.
Up to 15% of the EU population may fall victim of a crime somewhere in the EU every year. The risk of being a victim is just as great when travelling abroad as it is at home. With Europeans making around 1.25 billion trips as tourists within the EU every year, some will inevitably become victims of crime in another country.
Minimum rules for victims are part of the EU's broader objective to build a European area of justice, so that people can rely on the same level of basic rights and have confidence in the justice system wherever they are in the EU.
For more information
European Commission – victims' rights
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU