Leading Experts Discuss the Protection of Adults in International Situations


On 7 December 2021, ELI organised the ‘ELI at 10: Protection of Adults in International Situations’ webinar, which aimed at presenting and discussing ELI’s recently completed Protection of Adults in International Situations project and recent developments in the field.

ELI President, Prof Dr Pascal Pichonnaz, welcomed participants and introduced the ELI and the project on the Protection of Adults in International Situations. He emphasised that disseminating the results of ELI projects is equally as important as the drafting process itself. He welcomed the opportunity of discussing the output of the above project with key stakeholders and the broader audience.

Pietro Franzina (ELI Project Co-Reporter; Professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milano), introduced the topic and the ELI Report on the Protection of Adults in International Situations, which provides an analysis and, where appropriate, proposals regarding further issues surrounding the application of the Hague Convention of 13 January 2000 on the International Protection of Adults or otherwise relevant to the protection of adults in international situations as well as a checklist for practitioners. He emphasised the fact that awareness about the problem has increased since the ELI Report was published in 2020.

Richard Frimston (ELI Project Co-Reporter; Consultant, Russell Cooke), presented an overview of measures proposed in the ELI Report. He stressed that powers of representations are the most important issue from the perspective of citizens and anything that can be done to facilitate their recognition at international level is helpful.

Adrián Vázquez Lázara (Member of the European Parliament; and chair of its Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI)) presented the European Parliament’s (EP) work on the protection of adults in international situations, as culminated in the EP Resolution of 1 June 2017 with recommendations to the Commission on the protection of vulnerable adults, and remarked on the developments that followed. He also discussed the dilemma between encouraging the ratification of the 2000 Hague Convention by EU Member States and the adoption of harmonised rules at EU level. Vázquez Lázara stressed that one of the main goals of the EP is to promote the ratification of this Convention not only within the EU but also beyond. This could be done, for instance, by making the ratification of the Hague Convention one of the requirements to be met as a prerequisite for the conclusion of certain trade deals between the EU and other countries. Vázquez Lázara continued to present the EP’s 2017 Resolution, the text of which went far beyond that of the Hague Convention, and the three main principles that the EP and JURI always defend. As another essential matter, he addressed the need to improve the justice system to equip those employed under it to better deal with cases involving vulnerable adults, referring to the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021–2027 that for the first time includes a provision of funds to train judges, lawyers and prosecutors about the challenges and obstacles experienced by people that often face discrimination or are in vulnerable situations.

Salla Saastamoinen (Director for Civil and Commercial Justice, DG JUST, European Commission) gave an overview of the European Commission’s current and possible future work on the protection of adults in international situations. She recalled that under the French Presidency of the Council in 2008, all EU Members States had already concluded that it was in their interests to ratify the Hague Convention, but only 10 of them have become signatories despite the efforts of the Commission, which has been promoting adhesion to it ever since. Furthermore, she stressed the importance of applying the principle of mutual trust and recognition between Member States, allowing for strong cross-border cooperation and the removal of barriers in the protection of vulnerable adults. Similarly as with other cross-border civil law matters, further facilitation of such situations could be achieved by limiting the grounds for non-recognition, increasing party autonomy, abolishing exequatur, and using multilingual standardised forms and digital tools. Saastamoinen informed those present that the Commission conducted a legal study, mapping the respective legislation of EU Members States and identifying room for improvement, and that it had launched a public consultation, ‘Call for evidence’, on the matter. It also plans a further impact assessment study, with a view to proposing EU legislation in the near future.

Philippe Lortie (First Secretary, Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH)) presented the HCCH’s work on the protection of adults in international situations in view of the Special Commission to be convened in 2022. He mentioned that the joint Conference between the HCCH and the Commission in 2018 generated a number of recommendations from over 130 participants representing States worldwide and will lead to the establishment of a Special Commission to review the application of the Hague Convention. A questionnaire was circulated to State parties and members to assess the practical operation of the Convention and a guide for its implementation which will also be publicly circulated for comments in 2022. In the light of HCCH’s work carried out so far in preparation for the Special Commission, Lortie also spoke about the issue of the EU considering both external action and the enactment of legislation in the field. He stressed that indeed only 10 EU Member States had ratified the Convention, but he accepted that this is because States are preoccupied with trying to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities first.

The last Speaker, Geraldo Ribeiro (Chair of the HCCH Working Group charged with drafting a practical handbook on the Hague Convention of 13 January 2000 on the International Protection of Adults), presented developments on the above. Among other things, he described the diverse composition of the Working Group (which is formed of professors, judges, members of central authorities, public prosecutors, lawyers and representatives of public and private organisations in the field of adult care), its working schedule (with the commencement of the project in April 2021), and its methodology. As one of the pivotal elements for the success of this Convention, he stressed the need for effective cooperation between all authorities and stakeholders.

The above interventions were followed by a lively Q&A session with participants.

ELI is grateful to Aneta Wiewiorowska, Member of the ELI Executive Committee, who chaired the webinar.

The recording of the webinar is available below.