Same-sex couples denied EU right to freedom of movement

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Gay and lesbian couples who have legal same-sex marriages or unions are being denied their rights to move and reside freely within the EU.

Yesterday the European Commission adopted a report on the application of Directive 2004/38 on the right of EU citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

The Directive lays down simple administrative formalities and gives to EU citizens and their families a right of permanent residence after five years of residence in the host Member State.

The Directive also extends family reunification rights to registered partners under certain conditions.

Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, said:

“Free movement of persons constitutes one of the fundamental freedoms of the internal market, to the benefit of EU citizens, of the Member States and of the competitiveness of European economy.

“Flaws in the implementation of EU law in this field might result in a breach of the principles laying at the very core basis of the European construction.

“This is why the Commission will step up its efforts to ensure that EU citizens and their families effectively and fully enjoy their rights under the Directive.

“The Commission will use fully its powers under the Treaty to achieve this result, launching infringement proceedings when necessary, providing guidance to the Member States and ensuring that EU citizens are informed of their rights.”

When challenged by journalists about gay and lesbian EU citizens, Commissioner Barrot said:

“If a union is recognised in one member state, then another member should in principle accept that union.”

14 EU member states do not give full residence and entry rights to gay and lesbian couples.

They are: Latvia, Slovenia, Estonia, Malta, Cyprus, Ireland, Germany, Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Family law remains a matter for the member states and not the EU. At present some EU nations, such as Spain and Belgium allow gay marriages.

The UK has same-sex partnerships, a system that will be introduced in the Republic of Ireland.

Other nations such as France have registration systems that give gay and lesbian couples some rights.

The French pacte civil de solidarité (PACS) is fully recognised in Britain, but France does not recognise UK partnerships.

The UK and French governments are currently negotiating a solution.

Any EU-wide agreement on the issue of same-sex recognition would require a consensus among the 27 member states.

Given that politicians in Latvia, Poland and Lithuania are openly homophobic, such an agreement seems unlikely.

The issue of cross-border recognition was raised in the European Parliament last month.

A declaration has been tabled on the issue. If it is signed by more than 50% of MEPs it will be adopted as a resolution.

It calls for “member states with existing same-sex partnership legislation to recognise the arrangements of other member states that have also made provisions for same-sex partnerships,” and for “guidelines for such mutual recognition by member states with existing same-sex partnership legislation.”

Resolutions are formally adopted by the European Parliament and forwarded to the Commission, Council and member state governments for consideration.

So far less than 10% of MEPs have signed up.