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Matrimonial matters/matters of parental responsibility/ international child abduction (Brussels IIa)

EESC opinion: Matrimonial matters/matters of parental responsibility/ international child abduction (Brussels IIa)

Key points

The EESC:

  • welcomes the proposed changes to the procedure of returning an abducted child to make it more efficient. In the EESC's view, this could include the adoption of common minimum standards, including a uniform enforcement procedure. Better cooperation between central authorities is essential in cross-border proceedings and is in the best interest of the child;
  • welcomes that Member States should be obliged to concentrate jurisdiction in a limited number of courts and that the proposal introduces time limits, and allows only one appeal in return proceedings. It supports the idea that the court of origin could declare a decision provisionally enforceable even if this possibility does not exist in its national law and suggests that any child who is capable of forming his or her own views has the right to be heard. Minimum standards could help to avoid refusal of recognition, enforcement or "exequatur" of a decision handed down in another EU country;
  • supports the abolition of exequatur for all decisions and for authentic instruments and agreements on parental responsibility, however, safeguards should be maintained. The EESC supports that the court of the Member State of refuge can order urgent protective measures if required and proposes that the draft be amended to specify that placement in a foster family should, wherever possible, take precedence over institutional care, which should avoided;
  • The EESC advocates the establishment of free counselling arrangements for parents who come from a country other than the child's current country of residence. The EESC considers that there is a need for regulation in cases where one parent does not come from the European Union;
  • The EESC considers that the scope of application of the Brussels IIa Regulation needs to be clarified. Even if marriage is defined according to "national" criteria, Member States are required to comply with Article 21 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. The EESC proposes that compliance with Article 21 be mentioned in one of the recitals of the Regulation.