Recognition of parenthood in the EU: no discrimination against children’s rights

MEPs propose to limit the possibility for EU countries to refuse to recognise parenthood established in another member state based on public policy concerns.

With 14 votes against 4 and no abstentions, the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) adopted its opinion on draft legislation facilitating the recognition of parenthood across the EU. Its aim is to maintain and strengthen children’s fundamental rights, both minors and adults, increase legal certainty and reduce costs and red tape.

Parenthood established nationally, recognised across EU

The draft law enables parenthood as established in one EU country to be recognised in order to ensure that children enjoy the same rights under national law in another member state, particularly for custody, maintenance or succession rights. While parenthood would continue to be established nationally, so member states would not be obliged to change their family law to e.g. accept surrogacy, it would have to be recognised as such in all EU countries irrespective of how the child was conceived, born or the type of family it has.

MEPs agreed that the exception, included in the proposal, allowing countries not to recognise parenthood if manifestly incompatible with their public policy, should not lead to discrimination e.g. against children of same sex parents. They backed the proposed list of grounds for refusal to ensure that public policy reasons can only be used exceptionally and that each case should be considered individually. In addition, they propose that, for cases where national authorities oppose recognition, the established parenthood should stand until all national and EU legal remedies are exhausted and a final decision on the exception has been delivered.

European Certificate of Parenthood and digital access

The new rules would specify which court and law apply in cross-border parenthood disputes and introduce a European Parenthood Certificate (EPC), available in all EU official languages, to facilitate the recognition of parenthood. Although it would not replace national documents, it could be used in their stead. MEPs want it to be available in both paper and electronic format and to be issued within two weeks of the request being made.

Finally, MEPs want to facilitate communication with authorities via a European electronic access point and propose to use videoconferencing in legal proceedings.


Rapporteur Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques (S&D, PT) said: “Currently, a family might be subject to different laws in different member states to determine the parenthood of a child. This means that children may lose their parents, legally speaking, when entering another member state. This puts them at significant risk, as they do not have guaranteed access to rights related to succession, maintenance and education. The current legal landscape affects rainbow families in particular, as unfortunately not all EU countries recognise the parent-child relation of LGBTIQ+ families. This is an unacceptable status quo. With this vote, the Parliament stands behind the Commission in its aim of ensuring that if you are a parent in one member state, you are a parent in all member states.”

Next steps

After Parliament’s plenary votes on the file, the final decision on the legislation will be taken by member states, as family law falls under national powers.


Two million children may currently face a situation in which their parents are not recognised as such in another member state. While EU law already requires parenthood to be recognised under a child’s EU rights, this is not the case for the child’s rights under national law. Parliament called for cross-border recognition of adoptions in 2017 and in its 2022 resolution welcomed the Commission’s initiative. The Commission proposal for a regulationaims to close the existing loopholes and ensure that all children in the EU can enjoy the same rights.