A conference in Strasbourg has identified the continuing difficulties for gay couples moving within Europe.

Differences in how countries regard foreign marriages and civil partnerships mean gay couples face particular struggles to move freely in the European Union, Conference on Mutual Recognition of Same-sex Partnerships in Europe heard.

Freedom of movement is protected within EU, which has a binding directive on “the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.”

As well as migration problems, the higher costs of living as a gay couple in some member states, for inheritance, pensions and tax purposes, are seen as a barrier to movement.

Kees Waaldijk, professor of comparative sexual orientation law in the Netherlands, presented these issues as the first results of a survey among legal experts from 30 European countries.

In addition, the conference heard that a European citizen moving to a country that does not allow same-sex couples to marry or register as partners, would often find it difficult to get a residence permit for a same-sex spouse who was not themselves an EU citizen.

Gabi Calleja, Co-Chair of the Executive Board of ILGA-Europe said: “Currently, even the countries which legally recognise same-sex families and their children do not necessarily recognise similar families of same-sex couples from other EU countries.

“However, all EU countries automatically recognise each other’s different-sex marriages.

“ILGA-Europe considers this to be a case of direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and calls on the European Commission to remedy such discrimination by introducing legal measures to facilitate the mutual recognition of all civil status documents across the EU.”