No room for violence in the EU
For victims of violence, moving on EU territory presents some ‘traps’. A brand new piece of EU law goes some way towards providing them with reassurance
The European Union has recently established a mechanism to allow its Member States to automatically recognise each other’s ‘protection measures’, which are aimed at protecting victims of violence. Why did it do so? Because even if victims of violent behaviour manage to address the authorities of their own country and obtain protection, this does not ensure their safety when they exercise their right to freedom of movement and of residence as EU citizens. The answer to the relevant, quite often dramatic, challenges lies in the newly adopted Regulation (EU) No 606/2013 on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters.
The text is part of a laudable, broader EU agenda on the fight against violence, as it complements both Directive 2012/29/EU on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime and Directive 2011/99/EU on the European protection order.
What the EU has in mind
The Regulation at issue applies to measures adopted in civil matters within the EU, by a judicial (and on certain conditions, any other designated) national authority, to protect a person where there are serious grounds for considering that his/her life, physical or psychological integrity, personal liberty, security or sexual integrity are at risk. Among the examples quoted is the prevention of any form of violence in close relationships, such as physical violence, harassment, sexual aggression, stalking, intimidation or other forms of indirect coercion.
A fairly wide variety of such temporary and preventive protection measures exist in the EU Member States to curb the aforesaid threats: for instance, they can entail a prohibition on approaching the protected person closer than a prescribed distance, or of contact, in any form, with him/her, including by telephone, electronic or ordinary mail, fax or any other means.
It should be noted that the Regulation does not deal with the sanctions foreseen by each Member State in case of violation of a protection measure by the person causing the risk, which are still left to the law of each country.
The new mechanism of automatic recognition without any special procedure being required is supported by a suitable Certificate. This document is necessary - and not just optional - for the victim to be able to invoke the protection measure in another Member State.
Closing the circle around violence
With the present initiative, the Union makes its presence felt on the side of vulnerable persons all over Europe. These people often need the widest possible array of legal means at their disposal to find the courage to react to violence and victimisation and consistently seek protection.
The intolerable phenomenon of domestic violence - the object of incisive Church statements such as the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem - is arguably to be considered the gravest of those covered by the new EU text. However, the Regulation also extends its potential to certainly ‘virtual’, but surely not less terrifying, instances that take place on the Internet and social networks.
For many victims of such situations, to ‘move’, even for a considerable distance on the Union’s territory, can be a way to escape their environment and the related threats. However, moving from one EU Member State where they had obtained a certain ‘protection measure’, to another one meant - until now - the possible re-emergence of fear and insecurity, and a weakening of the shelter from violence and other menaces. In this sense, the Regulation plugs one more gap, even though this will have to be achieved with respect for the diversity of legal orders existing in the Union.
On a more general level, it is refreshing to see that the EU is able to ‘silently’ provide a very concrete contribution to the European Year of Citizens (2013), while going beyond the - most of the time shallow and monotonous - rhetoric devoted to EU citizenship.