( dpa ) - Sweden on Saturday blocked efforts by the European Union to stop "divorce shopping" - a practice whereby separating spouses battle for the most favourable settlement in different EU courts.
"It is mainly Sweden that is opposing (the EU plans)," Franco Frattini, the EU commissioner in charge of the justice and security portfolio, said at an informal meeting of EU justice ministers in Slovenia.
Frattini said Sweden, which prides itself on having the best divorce laws in Europe, had expressed concern that the new rules might end up offering less protection to the most vulnerable spouse.
Each year more than 100,000 divorces, or one in five, involve couples from different EU member states. Frattini said that while Brussels did not wish to introduce a single EU-wide divorce law, member states needed to at least share a common set of principles and provide "some form of legal certainty."
While it usually takes just six months to obtain a divorce in some Nordic countries, separated Irish couples must spend at least four years apart before they become officially divorced.
And divorce is still illegal in Malta.
Moreover, Ireland and other Catholic countries which do not allow people of the same sex to marry are also concerned that common EU rules on divorce may end up forcing them to recognise such marriages.
The European Commission first unveiled plans to end "divorce shopping" in the summer of 2006.
Slovenian Justice Minister Lovro Sturm, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU until June, said Saturday that his government would work over the coming months to try and resolve the stalemate.
"Cross-border divorces within the EU (each year) amount to about 20 per cent of the total. This is a very high number and it is right for us to solve these cases. We want to give both spouses equal rights and we particularly want to protect the weakest partner," Sturm said.