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Parliamentary questions
6 February 2002
E-0210/02
WRITTEN QUESTION by Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE) to the Commission

 Subject:  Return home of corpses within the EU
 Answer(s) 

A growing number of Union citizens live in Member States other than their countries of origin. There are numerous reasons for this: many EU citizens, for example, work in another Member State, tourism is continuing to expand, and, in addition, more and more pensioners from northern Europe are settling permanently in the South. An inevitable consequence of greater migration and the rise of travel is that EU citizens are, to an ever-increasing extent, dying in parts of the EU outside their countries of origin.

However, at a time when the EU's single market area is operating more and more efficiently, absurd difficulties arise when a corpse is sent home from one Member State to another, resulting in needless costs and distressing delays for the relatives of the deceased person.

For example, a zinc coffin is not required when transporting a corpse (by road) from Strasbourg to Lyons (460 km) or from Ivalo to Helsinki (1 120 km), but has to be used when a corpse is transported from Strasbourg to Baden Baden (50 km). There are no logical hygiene or safety reasons for these differences.

At present, the return home of corpses from one country to another is regulated by the 1937 Berlin agreement and the Council of Europe Agreement on the Transfer of Corpses (concluded in Strasbourg in 1973). These agreements are now out of date because they are based on border policing of a kind no longer carried out, least of all in the Schengen countries.

Is the Commission aware of this unfortunate but unavoidable situation, which is occurring as the EU's internal market area is expanding and borders are opening up?

Would it be possible to lay down rules to govern the return home of corpses in the EU whereby a journey from one Member State to another would be as simple as a journey within the same Member State?

Original language of question: FIOJ C 160 E, 04/07/2002 (p. 179)
Last updated: 28 June 2002Legal notice