The Government have decided to opt in to the European Commission’s proposals for Council decisions authorising the acceptance by certain member states of the accession of named countries to the 1980 Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, in the interests of the EU. The acceptances are as follows:
Austria, Cyprus, Croatia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and the United Kingdom to accept Dominican Republic;
Austria, Luxembourg and Romania to accept Belarus and Uzbekistan;
Austria to accept Ecuador and Ukraine;
Austria and Romania to accept Honduras.
The UK has already accepted Belarus, Uzbekistan, Ecuador, Ukraine and Honduras and therefore these Council decisions do not instruct the UK to take any action.
All EU member states are party to the 1980 Hague Convention, the primary civil law international instrument which provides a mechanism to seek the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained children to their country of habitual residence.
When a country wishes to accede to the convention, it is necessary for an existing contracting state to accept that country’s accession before the convention can apply between them. It is the European Commission’s view that there is exclusive competence on the EU for all matters relating to the 1980 convention and that therefore member states must be authorised by the EU to accept accessions by third countries and must do so collectively through Council decisions.
Although not anticipated in the proposals, the Government believe that the UK opt in under the protocol to title V of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union applies and it has therefore asserted its right to choose whether to opt in and have decided that it is in the UK’s best interests to do so.
The Government believe that the wider significance of these proposals for external competence mean that it is in the UK’s interests to participate fully in these negotiations, including having the ability to vote. These proposals must be agreed by unanimity within the EU Council.