21 May 2001
European Commissioner for
Justice and Home Affairs
Rue de la Loi 200
Commission Proposal for a Directive on
[COM (2000) 624 final]
Dear Mr. Vitorino,
Christian churches and organisations have closely monitored the negotiations on the European Commission's proposal for a Directive on Family Reunification. As indicated on earlier occasions, we strongly welcomed the spirit of the Commission's proposal for a harmonised approach, because we regard family life as a fundamental right, and we are convinced that providing for third country nationals to live with their family contributes to social integration in European societies.
We had hoped that negotiations could have been finalised under the Swedish Presidency as intended. Now it seems that negotiations have not produced a break-through, apparently they are even moving backwards. Although we fully agree that family definitions used at national levels should apply to third country nationals as well, we are worried about a potential dilution of harmonisation if too many substantial decisions are left to the discretion of Member States.
In the negotiations, a combination of two different provisions raises our particular concern. It appears that conditions for family reunification as indicated in article 9 of the draft directive, particularly with reference of proving sufficient resources, may now be demanded to be proved for a time as long as two years after reunification. A lot of time is spent on the negotiations of these paragraphs, although it has apparently been decided already, that only the core family - spouses, parents and minor children - will immediately be covered by the directive, while other family members are left to the discretion of member states.
We could understand the conditions in article 9 for a wider family concept, as we are aware that Member States fear the possible financial burden. However, we can no longer understand these reservations put forward for the core family. To restrict the rights of the core family by formulating material conditions would in essence mean to interpret the international obligations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The European Convention of Human Rights as well as the European Social Charter as valid only for EU citizens. At the same time, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child would be disregarded. If this directive is decided in the restrictive form as it is discussed now, we fear that family right is a right only to the rich. Achievements of the past 50 years could be lost.
We believe that this is no longer in the intention of the original Commission's proposal. We are aware and we appreciate that you have invested time and energy in these negotiations. It seems that not all Member States are yet ready for a harmonised legislation, although they set a deadline in the Amsterdam Treaty and agreed on the guiding principles at the summit in Tampere 1999. We would therefore ask you to consider withdrawing the Commission's proposal for the time being.
With our best regards,
Felix Leinemann Doris
COMECE Secretariat General Secretary CCME
cc: Mrs. Maj-Inger Klingvall, Minister of Interior, Migration and Development, Sweden