Civil law in Europe: expecting fundamental changes

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Legal practitioners have to find innovative solutions to resolve newly appeared situations in the European life: i.e. in accessing a foreign law, addressing administrative procedures in another EU states, facing unknown foreign legal situations, etc.

     Since the 1999-European Summit in Tampere, the area of “freedom, security and justice” was established in the EU-wide civil law which made the work of judges and legal practitioners considerably easier; although the EU citizens still face a number of legal-type difficulties.

     Civil law‘s issues are numerous in the EU-27: people born in one state and grow up in another, settling down and often starting a family, running businesses and share assets, as well as dealing with complex aspects of marriages, divorces and property located abroad.
EU-wide notaries are increasingly dealing with these issues as life in the EU-27 becoming “international”.

     Civil lawyers as well as solicitors in the states (if a person is expatriated) are becoming quite active and busy: suffice it to say that there are about 53 thousand notaries in the EU states.
The EU institutions have to find resolute and often innovative solutions to resolve new difficulties, accessing a foreign law, addressing administrative procedures in different EU states and dealing with unexpected legal situations, etc.

     For example, in family life, marriage no longer represents the obvious type of conjugal union (on average, there are about 3 marriages per year per 1,000 inhabitants in the EU-27 and the number of divorces in increasing as never before, with an average of 1.9 divorces per year per 1,000 inhabitants.
What was once universal (the woman who gives birth is the mother) is no longer self-evident, noted L. Leguil in the Robert Schuman’s policy paper; there are strong East/West divisions among the EU states on a fundamental question: what does it mean to be a parent?

     Registered partnerships appeared in the 1990s: e.g. the Civil Solidarity Pact was introduced in 1999 in France; in some EU states such partnerships are reserved for same-sex couples, while in others they are open to both sexes. Presently, all EU states except six countries (Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) legally acknowledge registered partnerships.

     Source: Leguil L. Policy paper –European issues nr. 677, 18.07.2023. How to make legal life easier for European citizens? In:

     Cross-border divorces in international marriages also pose problems to notary to resolve such issues as: the law applicable and the competent jurisdiction of two parameters that include considerable difficulties as to the child custody, alimony and compensatory payments.
The European regulation (2010) adopted “enhanced cooperation in the area of the law applicable to divorce and legal separation”, which ended the “race to court” by allowing spouses to choose the law that is pertinent to their divorce or legal separation.


     The EU regulation (adopted in 2012 and applying from 2015) also provides common rules in conflict of law and jurisdiction for settlement of international estates by introducing the European proof of the status of the heir, the so-called European Certificate of Succession, ECS. The regulation is universal and applies in all EU states except Denmark and Ireland.
However, the ECS is rarely used; practitioners still prefer to use better understood national documents. But the idea is good and the EU should suggest a simplified form, as the current ECS is incredibly long and complicated, as well as the creation of national ECS-registers and their EU-wide interconnections.

    More on the ECS in:

Several other issues need Commission attention: hence at the next European Parliament elections in June 2024 the citizens shall be fully aware of the difficulties they encountered in the EU-27 in exercising their rights. The new MEPs shall convey the right messages to the new European Commission in drafting new laws which will help EU citizens to fully exercise their rights.



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