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MEPs call for equal property rights for registered partners and married couples

International couples in registered partnerships should have the same right as married ones to choose which member state's national law will govern their property rights if the relationship ends, says Parliament in a resolution, voted on Tuesday, which recommends that draft legislation be amended to this end.

"The legal position of these couples can and must be improved" said lead MEP Alexandra Thein (ALDE, DE) after the vote. "International couples in registered partnerships face the same problems as married ones and so should have the same right to choose which country's law applies to their property. The Commission proposal would have treated them unequally and I am very pleased that we have removed this inequity", she added.

The draft legislation sets out rules for identifying which national law applies and which court has jurisdiction in property disputes pursuant to the ending of an international marriage or registered partnership. "International" here means couples of different nationalities, those living outside their home country, or those owning assets in different member states.

The draft rules proposed by Commission would automatically subject the property rights of registered partners to the law of the member state in which their partnership was registered. Married couples, by contrast, would be entitled to decide which member state's law applies to their joint property, provided that they have a close connection to that member state (i.e. habitual residence or nationality).

Parliament's resolution says that registered partners, like married couples, should be entitled to choose which member state's law will govern their property rights if their partnership ends, provided that they have a close connection to that member state. If registered partners were to choose a member state whose law does not recognize registered partnerships, then this choice would not be valid, stipulates the resolution.

The proposed new rules are gender neutral, and do not affect national laws on marriage or registered partnerships. These rules will not apply to the UK, Denmark or Ireland.

Parliament's recommendation was passed by a large majority. Parliament is being consulted before the Council of Ministers takes the final decision.