All Labour and Lib Dem MEPs have backed a written declaration on civil partnerships at the European Parliament. However, it did not attract enough support to move to the next stage.

In all 160 MEPs signed up.

If the declaration had been signed by more than 393, or 50%, of MEPs it would have been adopted as a resolution by the Parliament and forwarded to the Commission, Council and member state governments for consideration.

It called for “member states with existing same-sex partnership legislation to recognise the arrangements of other member states that have also made provisions for same-sex partnerships,” and for “guidelines for such mutual recognition by member states with existing same-sex partnership legislation.”

Sharon Bowles, the Lib Dem MEP who introduced the civil partnership initiative, said that a report endorsed by the European Parliament last week addresses many of the issues she was trying to raise.

The Report on the Situation of Fundamental Rights in the EU was complied by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

It calls for countries which already recognise gay marriage to also acknowledge it across different member states and for legislation to be drawn up to: “propose guidelines for mutual recognition of existing legislation between member states in order to guarantee that the right of free movement within the European Union for same-sex couples applies under conditions equal to those applicable to heterosexual couples.”

Click here to read the report.

“I am delighted with the inclusion of this important clause into Parliament’s report,” Ms Bowles said.

“This situation has been overlooked for too long, to the cost of too many ordinary people.

“As my own campaign for mutual recognition ends, this report is a highly appropriate response to an issue many of us feel very strongly about.

“One of the best things about the EU is the liberty it affords all of us to live and work wherever we like in Europe.

“This fundamental right should not be conditional on what kind of marital or civil partnership anyone chooses to enter.

“A huge part of the problem has been that many couples simply aren’t aware that their partnerships may not be recognised in other member states.

“Often they only find out after one dies, and a few weeks later the widowed partner finds a five-figure inheritance tax bill hitting the doormat.

“Hopefully with the publicity this issue has gained – and the resolution Parliament adopted – we can see an end to this situation in the near future.”

Claude Moraes, Labour MEP for London, said:

“We’ve seen a transformation of gay and lesbian rights in the UK in recent years – now we need to make sure that people can enjoy these rights around the world.

“Opposite-sex partnerships in EU countries are recognised in other member states, and so the same principle should apply to same-sex partnerships.”

Currently some EU nations, including Spain and Belgium, do allow gay marriage.

The UK has civil partnerships, which are also to be introduced in the Republic of Ireland.

The French pacte civil de solidarité (PACS) is recognised in Britain, despite civil partnerships not being recognised in France.

Currently gay and lesbian people who have legal unions or same sex marriages are being denied the right to move and live freely among EU member states.