Academics and unmarried couples yesterday backed the government’s plans to introduce a cohabitation law in Greece that would give partners in a relationship the same rights as if they were married. The plans, revealed over the weekend, would represent quite an innovation in Greece, a country with one of the highest marriage rates in the European Union and where relatively few children are born out of wedlock. However, several unmarried couples that Kathimerini spoke to welcomed the initiative which, according to sources, would allow them to make their relationship official and legally binding by signing a simple notarial contract. The contract would remain in effect, thus ensuring full protection of both partners’ legal rights, until they get married or one marries someone else. Practically speaking, this means that if a couple jointly buy a property, there will be no complications with claims on the home should the couple split or one partner dies. The Justice Ministry’s plans have also received the support of Nikos Alivizatos, a University of Athens professor who was involved in drafting a similar proposal under the previous PASOK government which, however, never became law. Writing in Kathimerini, Alivizatos said that he believes the time is right for a cohabitation law to be passed in Greece. «Even though the number of married couples in Greece is, along with Ireland, one of the highest in the EU, the number of couples living together out of wedlock is increasing,» he said. «Marriage today is usually the culmination of a previous long-term relationship rather than the start of a new period in the life of the newlyweds,» he added. Recent statistics also back up the assertion that the institution of marriage is changing in Greece. In 1993, only 10 percent of marriages in Greece ended in divorce. But according to the most recent National Statistics Service figures, for 2005, that number had risen to 24 percent. Fifteen years ago, less than 2,500 births were registered outside wedlock. In 2005, that figure had risen to almost 5,500.