New rules protecting victims of violence, especially those who have suffered domestic violence or stalking, entered into force on 11 January 2015. These new rules mean that restraining, protection and barring orders issued in one EU Member State will now be able to be made quickly and easily recognisable in any EU Member State by a process of simple certification. The hope is that this will mean that the safety of victims wherever in the EU they choose to travel.
An estimated 75 million people become victims of crime each year in the EU. An estimated one in three women in the EU becomes a victim of violence at some point in her life. Victims previously had to navigate a complex and burdensome procedure to guarantee their safety across EU border. This involved obtaining a separate certification of their order for every EU Member State that they planned to travel to.
Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, stated that “the new procedure will mean that women or men who suffer violence can have the protection they deserve and go on with their lives. They will be able to choose to live in another EU member state or to travel on holiday without fearing for their safety.”
The new mechanism consists of two separate instruments: the Regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters and the Directive on the European Protection Order. Together, the two instruments will ensure that all victims of violence have the possibility to get their protection orders recognised in any EU Member State. The mechanisms reflect the differences in the Member States’ national protection measures, which can be of civil, criminal or administrative nature. The rules together will ensure free circulation of the most common types of protection measures within the EU.
In terms of strengthening the rights of persons who fall victims to crime within the EU, these new rules that apply as of 11 January are set to complement the 2012 EU directive that sets out minimum standards for the rights, support and protection of victims across the EU, which becomes binding on all Member States on 16 November 2015.
The need for support and protection of victims is backed up by a report published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which concludes that more targeted victim support services are needed in the EU. Despite improvements, challenges remain for victim support services in many Member States. Specific suggestions for improvement include ensuring victims have access to targeted support services – including trauma support and counselling, removing bureaucratic hurdles for victims to legal aid, and ensuring people have information about their rights and the services available.
Rachel Cooper in Brussels