According to information received from citizens, UK civil partnerships are not recognised by the French authorities as equivalent to marriage, or even as equivalent to a PACS (French civil partnership). Furthermore, couples registered as civil partners in the UK cannot move to France and enter a PACS, as they need a ‘certificat de coutume’ stating that the partners are not already in a civil/married/PACS relationship in the UK. In the event of the death of one of the civil partners, the French authorities will tax the surviving partner at 60%, and he or she will have no rights under French law. If a French national wishes to enter into a PACS with a British national at the French embassy in London, the ‘certificat de coutume’ is not required even though they are already in a civil partnership with each other in the UK. Article 25 of the double taxation treaty between France and the UK also states that nationals in France and the UK should not be treated differently as regards tax if they are in the same situation.
Does the Commission not think that such a situation is an obstacle to free movement of citizens and their families and that these different requirements relating to the ‘certificat de coutume’ and to tax laws constitute discrimination based on sexual orientation? What will the Commission do to overcome this situation? Will it ask the Member States concerned to practise mutual recognition of such contracts in order to ensure free movement of EU citizens?
The Honourable Member draws the attention of the Commission to the difficulties on the non-recognition by the French authorities of the United Kingdom civil partnerships, as equivalent to marriage, or to PACS(1)
Mutual recognition in the area of family law is indeed a priority for the Commission. Currently, Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility(2)
(the Brussels II a Regulation) represents the main legal instrument dealing with mutual recognition in the area of family law. The Brussels II a Regulation provides for the mutual recognition of certain judgments relating to divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment.
However, there is no existing Community legislation providing for the recognition of marriages or same-sex civil partnerships across the European Union. Consequently, the Commission has no competence to examine whether there is discrimination between married couples and couples engaged in a civil partnership.
Differences perceived in some Member States, relating to the way they deal with civil partnerships concluded in other Member States, and their tax effects, are a consequence of a lack of unified rules on the recognition of marriages and civil partnerships in the European Union.
The European Community does not hold any power to adopt legislation on issues linked to civil status, which have a direct impact on the daily life of European citizens. As long as no additional powers are conferred on the Community, the Commission has no legal basis to act in this area.
However, a comparative study on civil status records has been launched by the Commission, to answer the need for mutual recognition of these records, caused by the increasing mobility of citizens within the European Union. This field is currently governed by national law and international conventions. The objective of this comparative study is to provide an overview of the national laws and practices in this field, to identify the practical problems encountered by citizens and indicate possible solutions to these problems. This extensive study is expected to be completed in the course of 2008. It will provide the Commission with a solid basis for assessing possible measures that could be taken at European Union level to improve the mutual recognition of civil status records. In order to redress the fact that the lack of mutual recognition result in adverse personal and financial consequences for the citizens concerned.