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Do You Have to Say “I Do” to be Entitled? - Family Reunification in EU Law

Bourghardt, Lisa LU (2011) JURM01 20102
Department of Law
Abstract
One of the most remarkable changes in European family law systems is the development of new institutions that provide a legal status for unmarried couples. Over the last decade, this change has also been accompanied by a rapid evolution of social attitudes towards same-sex couples that has lead to legal recognition in many Member States of the EU. An area of EU law where such developments could have an impact is the field of family reunification. After an expansion of the Unions competence in matters concerning immigration of third-country nationals, a directive regulating family reunification between third-country nationals was adopted: Directive 2003/86/EC - the Family Reunification Directive. Do you have to be married to enjoy a right... (More)
One of the most remarkable changes in European family law systems is the development of new institutions that provide a legal status for unmarried couples. Over the last decade, this change has also been accompanied by a rapid evolution of social attitudes towards same-sex couples that has lead to legal recognition in many Member States of the EU. An area of EU law where such developments could have an impact is the field of family reunification. After an expansion of the Unions competence in matters concerning immigration of third-country nationals, a directive regulating family reunification between third-country nationals was adopted: Directive 2003/86/EC - the Family Reunification Directive. Do you have to be married to enjoy a right to family reunification under this directive or has the growing legal recognition of unmarried opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples been incorporated?

In the initial proposal from the Commission, spouses as well as unmarried couples, who could be of the same sex, were included. However, this proposal proved to be too controversial for some Member States and the drafting process became difficult and long. In the text that finally was adopted, only spouses is given a general right to family reunification. As for all other couples, it is for the Member States to decide whether or not to grant settlement rights for their partners.

The meaning of the word “spouse” is not further determined by the directive, but by looking at the ECJ’s jurisprudence it is clear that the term refers to a heterosexual couple joined in a legal marriage. Cases such as Reed, Grant, and D and Sweden v Council shows that the Court is not yet willing to expand this notion to adapt to the growing recognition of unmarried opposite-sex and same-sex couples. The Court has instead repeatedly held that such expansion is a question for the legislature.

An interpretation of the directive, in the light of the right to respect of family life does not seem to improve the situation for unmarried opposite-sex couples or same-sex couples. The right to family reunification under this fundamental right is very limited and far from a general one even for spouses. In fact, the protection under the Family Reunification Directive is more generous than under the ECHR. Nor does the prohibition of discrimination of sexual orientation seem to be of assistance as a same-sex union, e.g. a registered partnership, and a marriage is not found to be in a comparable situation according to the ECJ.

All in all, the Family Reunification Directive fails to respond to the growing legal recognition of unmarried opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples and does not afford any rights to the increasing number of people living in these kinds of relationships. In short, this means that you have to say “I do” to be entitled to family reunification under EU law. (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
En av de mest anmärkningsvärda förändringarna i Europas familjerätts-system är framväxten av rättsverkningar kopplat till samboskap. Denna utveckling har även under det senaste årtiondet följts av en snabb förändring av samhällsattityderna gentemot samkönade par vilket har lett till ökat rättsligt erkännande i många av EU:s medlemsländer. Ett område av EU-rätten som potentiellt skulle kunna påverkas av en sådana framsteg är regleringen av anhöriginvandring. Efter att ha utökat EU:s kompetens över invandring av tredjelandsmedborgare antogs ett direktiv som reglerar anhöriginvandring mellan tredjelandsmedborgare: Direktiv 2003/86 - familjeåterföreningsdirektivet. Måste man vara gift för att ha rätt till familjeåterförening under det... (More)
En av de mest anmärkningsvärda förändringarna i Europas familjerätts-system är framväxten av rättsverkningar kopplat till samboskap. Denna utveckling har även under det senaste årtiondet följts av en snabb förändring av samhällsattityderna gentemot samkönade par vilket har lett till ökat rättsligt erkännande i många av EU:s medlemsländer. Ett område av EU-rätten som potentiellt skulle kunna påverkas av en sådana framsteg är regleringen av anhöriginvandring. Efter att ha utökat EU:s kompetens över invandring av tredjelandsmedborgare antogs ett direktiv som reglerar anhöriginvandring mellan tredjelandsmedborgare: Direktiv 2003/86 - familjeåterföreningsdirektivet. Måste man vara gift för att ha rätt till familjeåterförening under det direktivet eller avspeglar den rättsakten även det ökade erkännandet av samboskap och samkönade par?

I det ursprungliga förslaget från kommissionen inkluderades både makar och ogifta par, vilka kunde vara samkönade. Detta förslag visade sig dock vara alltför kontroversiellt för vissa medlemsstater vilket ledde till att lagstiftningsprocessen blev svår och långdragen. I den skrivning som slutligen antogs är det endast makar som ges en generell rätt till familjeåterförening. Det är upp till medlemstaterna att själva besluta om den rätten vad det gäller övriga par.

Begreppet ”makar” definieras inte närmare i direktivet men från EU-domstolens praxis är det tydligt att det är det heterosexuella gifta paret som åsyftas. Reed, Grant och D och Sverige mot rådet är fall som visar att domstolen ännu inte är redo att vidga begreppet ”makar” och anpassa det till de ökande rättigheterna för samkönade par och sambor. EU-domstolen har istället vid upprepade tillfällen poängterat att en sådan anpassning måste ske genom lagstiftning.

Att tolka direktivet i ljuset av rätten till respekt för familjeliv verkar inte kunna förbättra situationen varken för heterosexuella par som lever i samboskap eller för samkönade par. Enligt denna grundläggande rättighet är rätten till familjeåterförening väldigt begränsad och långt ifrån ovillkorlig, även för makar. Familjeåterföreningsdirektivet ger i själva verket starkare skydd än vad Europakonventionen gör. Inte heller verkar förbudet mot diskriminering på grund av sexuell läggning kunna förbättra läget eftersom en samkönad relation, t.ex. ett registrerat partnerskap, inte är i en likvärdig situation med äktenskap enligt EU-domstolen.

Sammantaget så misslyckas familjeåterföreningsdirektivet att bemöta det växande rättsliga erkännandet av både heterosexuella och homosexuella ogifta par och ger inga rättigheter till de ökande antal människor som lever i dessa typer av relationer. Detta innebär att ett ”ja” i kyrkan eller i rådhuset är den enda vägen till en rätt till familjeåterförening inom EU-rätten. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Bourghardt, Lisa LU
supervisor
organization
course
JURM01 20102
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
family reunification, EU law, migration, Directive 2003/86, family life, sexual orientation, public international law
language
English
id
1784358
date added to LUP
2011-02-08 12:13:18
date last changed
2011-02-08 12:13:18
@misc{1784358,
  abstract     = {One of the most remarkable changes in European family law systems is the development of new institutions that provide a legal status for unmarried couples. Over the last decade, this change has also been accompanied by a rapid evolution of social attitudes towards same-sex couples that has lead to legal recognition in many Member States of the EU. An area of EU law where such developments could have an impact is the field of family reunification. After an expansion of the Unions competence in matters concerning immigration of third-country nationals, a directive regulating family reunification between third-country nationals was adopted: Directive 2003/86/EC - the Family Reunification Directive. Do you have to be married to enjoy a right to family reunification under this directive or has the growing legal recognition of unmarried opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples been incorporated?

In the initial proposal from the Commission, spouses as well as unmarried couples, who could be of the same sex, were included. However, this proposal proved to be too controversial for some Member States and the drafting process became difficult and long. In the text that finally was adopted, only spouses is given a general right to family reunification. As for all other couples, it is for the Member States to decide whether or not to grant settlement rights for their partners. 

The meaning of the word “spouse” is not further determined by the directive, but by looking at the ECJ’s jurisprudence it is clear that the term refers to a heterosexual couple joined in a legal marriage. Cases such as Reed, Grant, and D and Sweden v Council shows that the Court is not yet willing to expand this notion to adapt to the growing recognition of unmarried opposite-sex and same-sex couples. The Court has instead repeatedly held that such expansion is a question for the legislature. 
 
An interpretation of the directive, in the light of the right to respect of family life does not seem to improve the situation for unmarried opposite-sex couples or same-sex couples. The right to family reunification under this fundamental right is very limited and far from a general one even for spouses. In fact, the protection under the Family Reunification Directive is more generous than under the ECHR. Nor does the prohibition of discrimination of sexual orientation seem to be of assistance as a same-sex union, e.g. a registered partnership, and a marriage is not found to be in a comparable situation according to the ECJ.

All in all, the Family Reunification Directive fails to respond to the growing legal recognition of unmarried opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples and does not afford any rights to the increasing number of people living in these kinds of relationships. In short, this means that you have to say “I do” to be entitled to family reunification under EU law.},
  author       = {Bourghardt, Lisa},
  keyword      = {family reunification,EU law,migration,Directive 2003/86,family life,sexual orientation,public international law},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Do You Have to Say “I Do” to be Entitled? - Family Reunification in EU Law},
  year         = {2011},
}