The afterglow of the EVS congress 2016

Leuven formed previous Thursday and Friday the splendid location for the meeting of the European registrars. Colleagues from 15 different countries came to the beautiful University Hall, where a strong and varied program unfolded. The guided tours in the city center, the visit to the European Parliament and the reception on the Leuven town hall were a lot appreciated. Moreover the conference was an excellent occasion for exchange of information among each other.

Don t seek complexity
This was without doubt the central theme of the first conference day. Gerard-René de Groot and Patrick Wautelet pointed out that states must take into account the justified expectations of citizens. The state is for instance itself responsible to seek a solution when it delivers first for many years a passport to a person, before noting afterwards that he or she doesn’t have the nationality any more. Don’t make it complex when straightforward solutions exist. Jinske Verhellen and Susanne Gösll continued: make no mix of migration legislation and family law, keep it logical and please don’t get lost in complexity.

The afternoon started strong with professor Jo Shaw who outlined the European citizenship as a political entity. Stephan Matyk of the European Commission presented the Apostille Regulation, which is important for all registrars because it will abolish the legalisation of public document in the EU. So the first demand of the EVS declaration of Leuven, which was presented by Beate Anefeld, is realised!

The congress day finished with the special situation of stateless persons. A film about Nusret from Montenegro who lost his Serbian nationality made this very clear indeed. Valeriia Cherednichenko of the UNHCR stressed on the importance of birth registration: without a birth certificate a person’s rights are denied.

Europe is a feeling
Friday afternoon professor Walter Pintens explored the topic family law and European identity. His well documented speech formed the highlight of the meeting. To guarantee the rights of the European citizens for free movement, the substantive family law must be harmonised. The creation of an European private international law cannot achieve the same results.

The harmonisation is not that difficult as sometimes is said. In most countries family law is already modernised in the past 30 years. The differences today are rather political than cultural. Professor Pintens concluded therefore with a strong call for brave politicians, who like the founding fathers of the European Union work for further integration by strengthening the European identity. Or with the words of the singer Bono: “Europe should not only be an idea, Europe should also be a feeling”.

Belgian Minister of Justice addressed the conference
It was an honour for the EVS to greet the minister of justice Koen Geens. He confirmed the pro-European commitments of Belgium. Geens brought a positive message, stating that Europe has already become a reality, certainly to young people. He indicated at the same time – typical for a Belgian – the strength of pragmatism: Europe will only make progress when it comes from underneath and – important today – when there is a crisis. Vice president of the EVS, Simon Rijsdijk, thanked the minister and called upon the registrars to excellent in professional expertise.

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