A Brussels directive aimed at combatting violence against women violates the treaties the European Union is based on, a former commissioner has claimed. (EPA/JULIEN WARNAND)


Violence against women directive ‘violates’ EU treaties, says ex-Brussels commissioner


A Brussels directive aimed at combatting violence against women violates the treaties the European Union is based on, claims a former commissioner.

The European Commission is only requiring a majority of EU states to agree to the directive, when the directive should — in reality — require the approval of every member state, he says.

Tonio Borg — a law professor at the University of Malta who served as the EU’s health commissioner in 2013-14 — signed a letter criticising the current Commission’s move along with six other legal experts from across the EU.

The Commission’s basis for the decision is “perilous” and constitutes a “manipulation” of EU regulations, says the letter.

Brussels is “currently discussing a text that violates the European treaties,” reads the document, seen by Brussels Signal.

“Although the legal basis adopted requires an initial unanimous decision, this stage has not been respected and the European treaties have been exceeded,” it says.

The Commission’s efforts to pass the directive put the EU as a whole into jeopardy, say the authors.

The rules “being distorted in favour of the short term,” and “bypassing” the European treaties will erode trust in the union and fuel Euro-scepticism.

If the European institutions do not respect their obligations, “what legitimacy do they have to sanction Member States that do not respect theirs either?” ask the authors.

Directives mandating legal abortion be available to some female victims of violence also exceed the remit of the European Union, they claim.

Abortion is “outside the remit of the Commission or any other organ of the EU” and “solidly within the powers only of the Member States according to the much-lauded principle of subsidiarity”, they argue.

With inter-institutional negotiations on the directive entering its final hours, officials also struggle with the agreement’s elements dealing with legal consent to sex.

The European Council claims the issue of rape does not fall within the EU’s competencies, and the EU should attempt to alter its definition or treatment.

National representatives from France, the Czech Republic, and Poland share this view. Polish officials in particular express concerns EU-level changes could interfere with protections the country’s legal code give women.

Helena Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Equality, argues the EU is within its rights to adjust the legal treatment of rape across the union.