The recovery of maintenance claims from persons living in another EU member state are to be simplified and accelerated as European ministers for justice reached a political agreement on a new regulation on 24 October.
The growing number of separated couples and single-parent families, together with increasing mobility in the EU, has resulted in a rise in the number of cross-border disputes concerning maintenance claims. The creditors are most often children who need the payments to cover their basic necessities and the costs related to their school education. Currently, many entitled beneficiaries do not receive payment from a parent living elsewhere in the Union simply because the procedures for obtaining maintenance are too long, complicated and costly.
Once adopted, the text agreed by ministers will simplify life for maintenance creditors: a decision taken at a local court in one member state will be automatically recognised and enforced in another member state with no further formalities.
The text provides for free legal aid for all procedures involving parental maintenance obligations towards a child under 21. Furthermore, a system of administrative cooperation between Member States' central authorities will enable the persons concerned to receive practical assistance, in particular through information sharing (locating the debtor).
These improvements will make for a legal environment which is in line with the legitimate expectations of maintenance creditors. They should be able to obtain easily, quickly and generally free of charge, an enforcement order which will help them obtain regular payment of the amounts due.
As maintenance obligations fall under family law, the Council will have to take a unanimous decision on the regulation after consulting the European Parliament and hopes to see its final adoption before the end of the year.
Electronic exchange of criminal records
At their meeting on 24 October 2008 in Luxembourg, EU justice ministers reached agreement on the establishment of a European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). The computerised system will facilitate the exchange of information extracted from criminal records between member states, which have different languages and different legal orders.
The relevant Council decision defines the elements of a standardised format allowing information to be exchanged in a uniform, electronic manner. Member states will be required to use the codes specified in the decision's two annexes to identify the criminal offences and penalties, such as 1600 00 for "theft offences" and 8000 for "financial penalty". This will ensure that the information can be easily understood by the receiving authority.
ECRIS will allow for the application of a framework decision approved by the Council in June 2007. This decision, which is expected to be formally adopted by the end of the year, aims to ensure that any conviction handed down in one member state against a national of another member state is transmitted as soon as possible to the criminal record in the home country of the convicted person. At present, national courts often pass sentences solely on the basis of the convictions that appear in their national register, without any knowledge of previous convictions in other member states.
Six member states – Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic – have already embarked on a pilot project for an electronic exchange between their national criminal record registers.
Council press release (fr) (pdf)
Council webcast of press conference
Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 27 and 28 October
Economic and Financial Affairs Council, 4 November