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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 15:25 GMT
Calls for EU-wide divorce rules
Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman says the law must be harmonised across Europe
The EU must streamline family law across member states' borders, constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman has said.

Speaking in Brussels, Ms Harman said closer co-operation between the EU's legal systems is vital.

Almost one in five divorces in Europe now involves couples who come from different countries.

Ms Harman urged the EU Commission to propose rules which could work despite differences in countries' legal codes.

She said it was important "not just for couples living in separate countries, but above all for their children".

Ms Harman wants see the system streamlined to ease the trauma of divorce for all those involved.

'Family justice'

"It's important family justice works across different European countries, not just for couples living in separate countries, but above all for their children," she said.

"It is essential the commission brings forward proposals in family justice which can work despite the differences in family law around Europe, and on which we can all agree."

Ms Harman was speaking on a day of meetings with commission officials in Brussels.

There are around 875,000 divorces in the EU each year, of which 19%, or 170,000, involve an international element, commission figures show.

Lady (Catherine) Meyer, the founder of Pact, (Parents and Children Abducted Together) said little had changed since she set up the organisation 10 years ago.

She started Pact to help others after fighting a long legal battle with her former husband after he took their sons to his native Germany.

Dealing with different legal systems in different countries added to the distress of separation from her sons, she said.

Lady Meyer, who is now married to UK ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, said: "You are sitting in London - you can have a list of German lawyers but can you communicate with them? Will their English be good enough?" she said.

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