European Protection Orders won’t function correctly nor safeguard victims until fully enforced by all member states, say MEPs in a report adopted on Thursday.
In a report assessing the implementation of the European Protection Order (EPO) Directive, approved in Plenary on Thursday (by 475 votes in favour, 51 against and 28 abstentions), MEPs express their concern that, since the Directive was transposed into national laws on January 2015, only 7 EPOs have been identified across member states, to be compared with the thousands of national protection orders issued in members states in recent years.
MEPs underline that the wide variety of protection orders across the member states and the different judicial systems (for instance, stalking is not recognised as a criminal offence across all EU countries) have created many obstacles for EPOs.
They also deplore that the Commission did not submit a report to Parliament and Council on the application of the Directive by 11 January 2016 and call on the Commission to meet its reporting obligations, to monitor the application of the Directive and to launch without delay infringement proceedings against member states that breach it.
More information, less bureaucracy
MEPs stress that victims of crime who have obtained or would consider obtaining a national protection order should be automatically and properly informed, both orally and in writing, of the possibility of requesting an EPO during criminal proceedings. They ask for a full list of competent authorities responsible for issuing, transmitting and receiving EPOs to be published and be made easily accessible. They also call on the Commission to coordinate programmes to initiate awareness-raising campaigns within the member states.
They add that the issuance of protection orders must be as fast, effective, efficient and automatic as possible, and that it should involve minimum bureaucracy.
Finally, MEPs urge member states to provide mandatory training courses for all public servants involved with EPOs and stress the need for regular training and courses for the police, the personnel of national competent authorities, legal practitioners, social workers, associations and NGOs dealing with victims of violence in all member states.
Co-rapporteur Soraya Post (S&D, SE) said: ‘‘The fact that only 7 EPOs have been issued, when over 100,000 women in EU are covered by national protective measures related to gender-based violence, is a sign that the Commission and member states have failed in their duties to protect their residents. Also #Metoo showed that the EU hasn’t taken violence against women seriously. We have to change the EU Agenda on Security so that it includes personal safety and prevention of gender-based violence as priorities and the EPO is one tool for this change.’’
Co-rapporteur Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio (PPE, ES) said: ‘‘In a EU without borders, victims of crime should feel safe in whatever member state they reside or move. The EPO is an instrument that guarantees that safety. With these latest improvements, the EPO will now be more accessible for victims of crime and will ultimately improve their lives. For example, victims of violence against women can move anywhere in the EU and bring along the protection order they need to feel safe from the perpetrator. This is another proof that the EU stands side by side with victims, always.”
The EPO Directive came into force on 11 January 2011 and member states had to implement the provisions of the Directive into their national laws by 11 January 2015. Ireland and Denmark are not bound by the EPO legislation.
Protection orders are meant to protect a person against an act that may endanger their life, physical or psychological integrity, dignity, personal liberty or sexual integrity. The aim is to avoid contacts between an offender or a potential offender and a victim or an individual at risk of being assaulted.
Although they could be applied to anyone in need of protection, in practice such measures are mostly applied to protect women in cases related to intimate or domestic violence, harassment, stalking or sexual assault.