Nine of the 27 European Union countries are to agree an international divorce law after Sweden blocked an EU-wide deal, in a move that could set a precedent for small groups to cooperate, diplomats said.
The move could pave the way for pioneer groups in other areas if the European Union is unable to overcome Ireland's "No" vote to the Lisbon Treaty.
The Lisbon Treaty, rejected by Irish voters in a referendum last month, is designed to streamline decision-making and provide the bloc with a permanent EU president and a foreign policy supremo. It cannot come into force until it has been ratified by all 27 member states.
Sweden has for two years opposed an EU proposal to allow a couple from different nationalities to decide which country's law to apply to their divorce. Sweden prefers its own divorce law.
EU family laws need unanimous agreement from member states for approval.
Rather than abandon the draft, nine countries -- France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Luxembourg and Romania -- decided to go ahead with a so-called "enhanced cooperation," diplomats said.
They will announce the move at a meeting of the bloc's justice ministers in Brussels on Friday and will need a qualified majority of EU states to authorise them to go ahead.
EU treaties allow pioneer groups, except on issues which have military or defence implications, but the clause has never been used before.
"The enhanced cooperation is a very sensitive issue because it has never been implemented, it allows several member states to go forward faster than others, and it is not necessarily the image we want to give of the EU," a French diplomat said.
France holds the rotating six-month EU presidency.
Around 170,000 international marriages end in divorce in the European Union each year but there are no common rules dictating which country's laws to apply. Spouses sometimes rush to court in their country of origin to try to get the law on their side.
Marriage and divorce laws differ widely across the 27-nation EU, from the liberal Nordic nations to Catholic Poland and Ireland. Malta prohibits divorce.
Last Mod: 24 Temmuz 2008, 14:49