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Debate on recognition of rights and access to justice at EU

Met dank overgenomen van Portugees voorzitterschap Europese Unie 1e helft 2021, gepubliceerd op vrijdag 26 maart 2021.

Minister of Justice Francisca Van Dunem will be taking part in the Conference on “Protecting Vulnerable Adults across Europe - The way forward”, next tuesday (30 March) in the Centro Cultural de Belém (Lisbon), as part of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The aim of the event, with participation from Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency, as well as Mário Belo Morgado, Portuguese Deputy Minister of Justice, and Lucília Gago, Portuguese General Prosecutor, is to discuss and identify the lines of action for the future on what is one of the priorities of the Portuguese government for justice during its Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The different analyses and interventions will help to reflect on the current status of the protection of vulnerable adults in the European Union and on the need for legislative approximation measures and mutual recognition of rules in the area of judicial cooperation in civil matters, as well as the exercise of rights in criminal proceedings.

A significant number of adults in a generally ageing European population are now facing limitations due to a disability or insufficiency of their personal faculties. Eurostat predicts that one fifth of the population of the European Union will have some kind of disability by 2050.

These vulnerable adults are faced with challenges and difficulties in the protection of their rights, in the defence of their interests and in access to justice.

In addition, the free movement of people in the European Union means these people are very often faced with additional difficulties in terms of language, representation or access to the judicial system. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the difficulties that this segment of the population is faced with.

Since 2008, several appeals have been made for EU Member States to ratify the 2000 Hague Convention on International Protection of Adults and different initiatives have been introduced to improve the application of this instrument of civil law. However, the overall situation in the Union is still far from satisfactory and the need to adopt European legislation to remove these difficulties and permit full exercise of rights through mutual recognition of legal decisions must be addressed.

In the area of criminal law, it is also important to look at vulnerable adults who are suspects, defendants, witnesses, but also victims, and at the exercise of their rights in the procedural arena. As recognised in the new EU Strategy on Victims' Rights 2020-25, ways to reinforce the protection of adults in situations of vulnerability have to be found.

In Portugal, the legislation on “adults with support needs” and on victim status has provided a response to some of these needs. The Portuguese government has also established the protection of vulnerable adults as one of its priorities in the framework of Portuguese Presidency.

Further information and the programme are available here.

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