NEWS

Relocation made easier

A new European Union directive, approved by the Council of Ministers in Brussels earlier this week, will make it easier for European Union citizens to relocate to other countries within the EU but will complicate such a move for those with spouses from non-EU states or those in partnerships which are not legally recognized. The new measures will facilitate the procedures for EU citizens wanting to move to another country within the union, chiefly by eliminating the need for them to obtain a residence card (to be replaced by registration with their new municipal authority). After a period of five years of residence, citizens will automatically receive a permanent residence permit, subject to no further conditions, according to the provisions of the new directive. The new directive also aims «to define more clearly the situation of family members and make it easier for them to exercise their right of freedom of movement and residence.» It is also designed to «restrict the scope for refusing or terminating residence on grounds of public policy, public security and public health, and to ensure strong protection against expulsion for minors and people having resided for a long period of time on the territory of the host member state.» (The Geneva headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a press release, charging that the new EU rules discriminate against certain categories of refugees, and quoted its Europe Bureau Director Raymond Hall as saying that the reference to public policy in the final provision «is a very vague term that could be easily used to keep families apart without any real justification.)» The impact of the new directorate on refugees was not clarified by sources in Brussels who did note, however, that complications would arise in the case of EU citizens married to non-EU nationals who want to reside in an EU state. According to the same source, similar problems could be faced by those in partnerships whose legality is not recognized by the country in which they plan to reside – such as unmarried or gay couples. An original proposal by the European Commission for all forms of partnerships to be recognized on an equal level was rejected by several EU states, including Greece. Greece’s Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos was among those who refused to accept the legality of gay marriages and other forms of «unconventional partnerships.» The directorate allows each state the freedom to determine what it deems to be a «legal couple.»