Crime victims who are granted protection from their aggressors in one EU Member State will be able to get similar protection if they move to another, under new rules adopted by Parliament on Tuesday. The European Protection Order aims to protect victims of, for instance, gender violence, harassment, abduction, stalking or attempted murder. Member States will have three years to transpose this directive into national law.
Measures to protect crime victims from aggressors already exist in all EU Member States but at present they cease to apply if the victim moves to another country. The European Protection Order (EPO) directive, already agreed with national governments, will enable anyone protected under criminal law in one EU state to apply for similar protection if they move to another.
"In a nutshell, we will facilitate the movement of victims and we will hamper the movement of their aggressors. Today we have taken an important step forward to protect those who most deserve it", said Women's Rights Committee rapporteur Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio (EPP, ES). "Protection will know no borders. There are thousands of victims who will now be able to live in peace", added Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Carmen Romero López (S&D, ES).
MEPs sought from the outset to make it clearer that the rules should cover all victims of crime, not just victims of gender violence. Most protection measures are granted to female victims of gender violence but an EPO can cover victims of either sex and other crimes too.
The rules will apply to victims or possible victims who need protection "against a criminal act of another person which may, in any way, endanger his life, physical, psychological and sexual integrity […] as well as his dignity or personal liberty". Such acts could include harassment, abduction, stalking and "other forms of indirect coercion".
Keeping aggressors away
Once a person is granted protection in one Member State under domestic criminal law, s/he may request an EPO to extend this protection to another EU country to which s/he decides to move (or already moved). It will be up to the Member State of origin to issue the EPO and forward it to the other country.
An EPO may only be issued if the aggressor is banned by the initial country from places where the protected person resides or which s/he visits, or if restrictions are imposed on contact or approaches by the aggressor to the protected person.
Protecting victims' relatives
Thanks to MEPs, an EPO may also be requested to safeguard relatives of a beneficiary of a European Protection Order.
New legislation to cover civil matters
The EPO in criminal matters will be complemented by separate legislation for civil matters. To that end, the Commission proposed in May 2011 a regulation on mutual recognition of protection afforded by civil law, which will also be co-decided by Parliament and Council. The combination of the two instruments (the EPO directive and this regulation) should cover the broadest possible range of protection measures for victims issued in the Member States.
The EPO directive was an initiative originally requested by 12 Member States and promoted by the EU's Spanish Presidency (first half of 2010).
The UK has opted-in, but Ireland and Denmark are not taking part.
Procedure: Co-decision (2nd reading)