Informal relationships in the EU; co-habitation
According to Statistics Finland a cohabiting couple means:
"A cohabiting couple is defined as two spouseless adults of different sex aged 18 and over and occupying the same dwelling on a permanent basis, provided their age difference is less than 16 years and they are not siblings. In case the couple has a common child these specifications do not apply. Same-sex persons living together are not inferred as cohabiting couples. Only registered partnerships are recorded in the statistics."
In Finland around 25 % are cohabitants i.e. in an informal relationship. Taking into account the amount of people living in informal relationships, the Act on the Dissolution of the Household of Cohabiting Partners was way overdue when it was passed by Finnish parliament in April 2011. Sweden adopted a similar act in 1973.
Compared to the rest of Europe Finland is however a forerunner, since Finland and Sweden are the only states that have adopted specific legislation in this area. Other European countries have nonetheless acknowledged the fact that the numbers of cohabiting couples are increasing, and that there is a need for addressing the issue.
When attending a seminar on informal relationships in Germany last fall we had a colorful discussion about recent reforms on this issue. Hungary and Italy plus Malta are finding themselves in a transition period at the moment, and the result has so far been more and less successful.
But at least EU is moving toward accepting and acknowledging the fact that there are other types of relationships besides married couples. The goal is of course to move toward equal treatment of informal relationships in stead of having a mosaic of singular provisions. But as long as we are moving away from Napoleon's way of thinking we are moving in the right direction.
"Les concubines ignorent la loi, la loi ignore les concubines" (Napoleon).