Same sex couples will have their relationships “facilitated” across the European Union, according to new laws.

The reforms of residency requirements came into effect yesterday and state that gay couples can live anywhere in the European Union and have their rights legally protected, even in countries where there are no same sex partner laws.

European Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini warned governments, particularly in Eastern Europe, that the law is “immediately applicable.”

“This new provision will facilitate the situation of gay couples across Europe,” he said.

Gay couples will have to show they are in a long term relationship and anyone denied their rights can take the issue to a national or European court.

However, gay groups are warning that it doesn’t mean gay relationships will be recognised. This has been confirmed by Mr Frattini’s office, which said the directive requires member states to provide benefits.