Press Releases

ECJ Decision on the Istanbul Convention: a missed opportunity

[Brussels, 6 October 2021] The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) regrets the absence of a clear direction in the opinion by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) on the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention and renews its call to the European Commission for a strong Directive to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women and girls.

Today, the ECJ published its long awaited responses to the European Parliament’s inquiries on the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention, to date the most comprehensive international treaty to prevent and combat violence against women and girls.

Awaited since the submission of the inquiries in 2019, the ECJ opinion could play an important role in clarifying the next steps to overcome the political blockage in the Council of the EU for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention (IC), and further define its legal basis. In particular, the opinion was also meant to look into the possibility to split the IC in two and allow the ratifying countries to only choose a part of it.

As already expected, the ECJ followed the General Advocates Hogan opinion and clarified in their opinion that:

  1. Even if the EU has signed the Convention, the Council can wait for common agreement between member states before deciding whether and to what extent the EU accedes to the Convention. EWL welcomes the Court’s clarification that a qualified majority is to be exercised in the final decision-making. However, the opinion states that: “nothing precludes the Council from extending its discussions in order to achieve closer cooperation between the Member States and the EU institutions in the conclusion process, which may involve waiting for a ‘common accord’.”
  2. The appropriate legal basis is linked to judicial cooperation in criminal matters (Article 82(2) TFEU and Article 84 TFEU), asylum and non-refoulement (Article 78(2) TFEU) and the obligations of the institutions and public administration of the European Union (Article 336 TFEU). Eurocrimes Article 83(1) of the TFEU is out of scope, since it does not mention violence against women and girls specifically (yet).
  3. The selective participation in a single measure - judicial cooperation but not asylum and non-refoulement - by certain EU member states is not possible in this agreement, unless there is an objective need.

The EWL regrets that this decision means the accession to the Istanbul Convention can remain blocked in the Council again for an indefinite period of time, and this despite the fact that a qualified majority would be sufficient to proceed with the ratification. This further confirms theour view outlined in EWL’s recent analysis that the European Commission must swifly act and propose a horizontal EU Directive on violence against women and girls which would include all provisions of the Istanbul Convention.

The EWL also believes that the ECJ opinion confirms the need to include violence against women and girls to the list of Eurocrimes in Art.83(1) TFEU. This is necessary to ensure EU actions to combat and prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG) are grounded in the treaty and do not risk being jeopardised by a piecemeal approach and legal objections.

Réka Sáfrány, EWL President said “The ECJ confirmed today that the Council can continue to block the crucial EU accession to the Istanbul Convention. Therefore, we urge the European Commission to come forward with a strong legislative proposal that includes the gold standards of the Istanbul Convention and proposes adding violence against women and girls to the list of Eurocrimes in Art.83(1).

We need a strong EU law that addresses all forms of violence against women and girls, including online violence and sexual exploitation. During the Covid-19 pandemic, cases of violence against women and girls alarmingly surged. This threatens the security of half of the EU population, affecting over 250 million women and girls. We must eradicate VAWG now, there is no more time to wait.”


Read EWL’s recent comprehensive analysis of the Istanbul Convention state of play.

Claire Fourçans, Policy and Campaigns Director EWL

For media enquiries:
Adriana Paradiso, Communications & Media Coordinator EWL
+32 465576876

Latest video

EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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