European & International News

Ministers back Europe-wide protection of victims of violence

[Brussels, 02 May 2012] EU Justice ministers have agreed the legal framework for the European Protection Order (EPO), a bill to protect victims of crime when crossing European borders of particular importance to women victims of domestic violence. Negotiations for an EPO as a legal tool to combat widespread violence against women in the EU were first launched by the Spanish Presidency of the EU in 2009, with strong support from the EWL. The proposal for the European Protection Order was put on the agenda together with those for an EU-wide telephone helpline and a European Observatory on violence against women.

A first EPO was adopted in December 2011, aiming at streamlining judicial and legislative procedures for EU nationals in criminal law cases. The present EPO deals with civil law cases.

The EPO aims to protect victims of crime, more specifically, it is directed at “vulnerable” victims referring to for example victims of rape, gender based violence, harassment, trafficking or stalking as well as persons with disabilities and children.

Morten Bodskov, the Danish minister for justice who chaired the talks in Luxembourg on the 27 April stated that "The council agreed to have a greater defence of the victims of crime, there is an agreement on the framework for the set-up of victim’s protection." This would result in the same protection of victims in all EU states. The idea is that the victims would be given a certificate to show to the police when travelling or moving to other member states that would ensure them similar protection in all EU states. The Spanish EU Presidency estimated that some 100,000 of these certificates will be issued every year, most of them for female victims of male violence.

The Council agreement builds upon the European Commission’s first proposal of 18 May 2011. The regulation discussed on 27 April this year is a part of the EPO Directive which has gained much support from both Member States as well as the European Parliament.

Bulgarian MEP Antonyia Parvanova states that "Women are particularly exposed to hidden and unreported forms of violence, and while establishing minimum standards for the protection of all victims, it is essential that issues such as gender-based violence are recognised and properly addressed". Protection from violence is a basic human right and should accompany the freedom of movement in the EU.

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee and the Women’s Rights Committee will meet again in late May to vote on the Regulation.

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