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Lithuania

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1) REFERENCES

Commission Opinion [COM(1997)2007 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(1998)706 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(1999)507 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2000)707 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2001)700 final - SEC(2001) 1750 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2002)700 final - SEC(2002) 1406 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2003)675 final - SEC(2003) 1204 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Treaty of Accession to the European Union [Official Journal L 236 of 23.09.2003]

2) SUMMARY

In its Opinion of July 1997 the European Commission took the view that, even though the necessary structures had been created in the field of justice and home affairs, it was difficult to assess their impact and effectiveness. Progress had been made in important areas such as asylum law but, given the scale of the problems facing Lithuania, a significant, sustained effort was still needed. Lastly, the short-term priorities for Lithuania in the Accession Partnership were to make a greater effort to fight corruption and organised crime and to improve border controls and the reception of refugees.
The November 1998 Report noted that little progress had been made on border controls or in the fight against organised crime. No assessment could be made of progress on the reception of refugees as no information was available. In other sectors, however, progress had been made. Lithuania should pay more attention to justice and home affairs issues, step up border controls and improve the effectiveness of forces fighting organised crime.
The Commission's evaluation as set out in its October 1999 Report was more positive than previous reports. Lithuania had made rapid progress in adopting Community law in the area of justice and home affairs. Results were particularly impressive with regard to legislation and institutional capacity in the fields of immigration, asylum and border control. However, further improvement was required in training, the installation of equipment and the coordination of various agencies and initiatives. The report recommended setting up closer operational links with European Union (EU) countries.
In its November 2000 Report the Commission noted that Lithuania had made progress in nearly all areas of justice and internal affairs. New legislative measures had been adopted with regard to the right to asylum, border control and data protection. From an administrative point of view, the police and customs had been restructured. However, the Commission urged Lithuania to improve coordination between the institutions involved in the fight against corruption and organised crime.
In the November 2001 Report the Commission notes that progress has been made in aligning JHA legislation on Community law since the previous year's report. Remarkable advances have been made on external border controls.
The October 2002 Report stresses the significant progress achieved in terms of legislative alignment, with Lithuania well on the way to finalisation. Progress has also been made in terms of administrative capacity but further effort is still needed in this area.
In the November 2003 Report the Commission called on Lithuania to adopt and implement the necessary legislation relating to migration, asylum, police cooperation and the fight against organised crime, the fight against fraud and corruption and money-laundering. Technical and organisational preparations need boosting to introduce Eurodac and Dublin II and provide adequate external border officials.
The Treaty of Accession was signed on 16 April 2003 and accession took place on 1 May 2004.

COMMUNITY ACQUIS

Free movement of persons

The principle of free movement and the right to residence of all European citizens is provided for by Article 14 (former Article 7a) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty), as well as by the provisions on European citizenship (Article 18, former Article 8a). Among the matters of common interest to the Member States, the Maastricht Treaty included asylum policy, the crossing of the external borders of the Union and immigration policy. The Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force on 1 May 1999, incorporated these into the EC Treaty (Articles 61 to 69). Free movement of persons is a key element of an " area of freedom, security and justice ".

At the same time, common rules are being laid down relating to checks at the external borders of the Union, visas, asylum and immigration policies.

Member States already apply common rules in these areas under the Schengen agreements. These intergovernmental agreements have been incorporated into the European Union following the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty and now form part of the Community acquis to be adopted by the applicant countries. However, most of the Schengen acquis will not be applied to the new Member States as soon as they join but later, once this has been specifically decided by the Council. This is the aim of the plan of action for adopting the Schengen criteria on the basis of a realistic timetable for implementing the Schengen Agreement.

The binding rules which new Member States must have in place as soon as they join include some of the rules on visas, the rules governing external borders and migration, asylum, police cooperation, the fight against organised crime, terrorism, fraud, corruption, drug trafficking, customs cooperation and legal instruments relating to human rights. As regards such issues as border control, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, money laundering, organised crime, police and legal cooperation, data protection and mutual recognition of court judgments, the new Member States should be administratively capable of dealing with them. It is also crucially important to organise the judiciary and the police in an independent, reliable and effective manner.

Asylum policy

European asylum policy, a matter of common interest since the Maastricht Treaty, has been a Community as well as a national responsibility since the Amsterdam Treaty came into force in 1999.

At the Tampere European Council in October 1999, the European Union leaders decided on a two-stage strategy, with the second stage being aimed at setting up a common European asylum system based on a common asylum procedure and equal asylum status valid throughout the European Union. The first stage - laying down minimum rules - should be operational by 1 May 2004.

Much has been achieved, including:

Negotiations are still under way regarding certain aspects, such as the proposed directive on refugee status and the procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status.

Immigration policy

Immigration policy, a matter of common interest since the Maastricht Treaty and a Community responsibility since the Amsterdam Treaty, is currently being drawn up. Article 63 of the EC Treaty states that the Council is to adopt, within a period of five years after the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam (i.e. by 1 May 2004):

  • measures relating to conditions of entry and residence and to procedures in Member States issuing long-term visas and residence permits, including those for the purpose of family reunion;
  • measures defining the rights and conditions under which nationals of third countries who are legally resident in a Member State may reside in other Member States.

As regards "legal immigration", the Conclusions of the Tampere European Council state that the European Union should:

  • approximate national legislations on the conditions for admission and residence of third-country nationals;
  • ensure fair treatment of third-country nationals who reside legally on the territory of its Member States;
  • step up its efforts to ensure the integration of immigrants.

As regards "illegal immigration", the Tampere European Council agreed in 1999 to combat illegal immigration and the organised crime which takes advantage of it. In February 2002 the "plan of action to fight illegal immigration" was adopted.

Judicial cooperation in civil matters

The main instruments to facilitate civil judicial cooperation have been drafted at international level (the Brussels and Rome Conventions, for example). The Maastricht Treaty was an important first step, providing a legal basis for judicial cooperation in civil matters between Member States and allowing the adoption of several conventions. Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which places judicial cooperation in civil matters at Community level, these conventions have been gradually replaced by regulations of which the most significant are:

  • the Regulation on the service in the Member States of documents in civil or commercial matters in the European Union;
  • the Regulation concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility.

In 1999 the Tampere European Council described the principle of mutual recognition as the cornerstone of the construction of the area of freedom, security and justice. Finally, the Nice treaty extended co-decision to judicial cooperation in all civil matters except family law.

Police, customs and judicial cooperation in criminal matters

The existing legislation in these fields stems mainly from the cooperation framework defined in Title VI of the European Union Treaty or the " third pillar ". The Amsterdam Treaty amended the legal provisions in the matter by creating a link with the " area of freedom, security and justice ". Now Title VI deals mainly with police cooperation, the fight against organised crime, the fight against drug trafficking, the fight against corruption and fraud, judicial cooperation in criminal matters and customs cooperation.

The objective of setting up an area of freedom, security and justice (set by the Amsterdam Treaty) should be achieved by:

  • closer cooperation between police forces and customs authorities through the European Police Office (Europol);
  • closer cooperation between judicial authorities including cooperation through the European Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust), which was set up by the Nice Treaty;
  • approximation, where necessary, of the rules on criminal matters in the Member States;
  • mutual recognition of decisions (European arrest warrant).

The existing legislation relating to justice and home affairs presupposes a high degree of specific cooperation between government departments as well as the preparation and effective application of rules and regulations. To this end, several programmes have been launched in recent years: Grotius II-Criminal, OISIN II, Stop II, Hippokrates and Falcone. All of these programmes have been taken on by AGIS, a single framework programme for co-financing projects submitted by promoters from Member States and the applicant countries in the fields of justice and home affairs.

The Europe Agreement and the White Paper on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the internal market

The Europe Agreement with Bulgaria includes provision for cooperation in the fight against drug abuse and money laundering.

The White Paper does not deal directly with third-pillar subjects, but reference is made to matters such as money laundering and freedom of movement of persons, which are closely related to justice and home affairs considerations.

EVALUATION

In 2003 the data protection was fully in place. The state data protection agency, an independent governmental organisation, is up and running. In February 2002 it approved a programme for the development of data protection (2002-04). In February 2001 Lithuania ratified the 1981 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data. In January 2002 Parliament adopted changes to the law on legal protection of personal data bringing it into line with the Convention and with Europol requirements.

Alignment of the legislation on visa policy is more or less complete. Future efforts should focus on implementation in toto of the new rules on visas, with particular reference to the standard model visa and the list of countries qualifying for exemption (positive list). Negotiations are in progress with thirteen countries. Lithuania has already signed visa-free agreements with the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Macau and Mexico (exclusively holders of diplomatic passports).

As regards border controls, following the entry into force of the new Border Guard Service Act, the former Border Police Department (Ministry of Justice) has been reorganised as the Border Guard Service under the aegis of the Ministry of the Interior. A vast training programme was conducted from July 2001 to May 2002. There is also progress to report on implementation of the strategic plan for development of the border-guard stations and infrastructure (2001-10) adopted in September 2001. The Government has also approved a strategic development plan on border crossings. Security has been stepped up along the country's eastern borders and crossing procedures at borders between the Baltic countries have been improved. Border agreements have been concluded with the Russian Federation. Lithuania is currently upgrading the equipment used at its land and sea borders, and checkpoints at future external borders are being reinforced. Major efforts are needed on the surveillance of illegal entry by small vessels from Kaliningrad.

Lithuania presented its Schengen action plan with a view to implementing the acquis in October 2001. It was updated in July 2002. Efforts must be pursued to remove internal borders. Legislation must be brought into line with Article 5 of the Schengen Agreement as to the conditions for the entry of foreign nationals. A sustained effort is needed on the separation of traffic in ports and airports. The country must continue its practical preparations with a view to participation in the Schengen information system (SIS II).

Lithuania has made considerable progress in the field of immigration. It has already signed twenty-one readmission agreements with Member States and third countries, including the Russian Federation in 2003. In December 2001 the Government adopted rules regulating the issuance, replacement and repeal of permits for foreigners to reside in Lithuania. But the legislation is not in line with the acquis as regards the legal status of foreigners (new legislation is required) or the standard model residence permit and the mutual recognition of expulsion orders. The administrative structures are in place and are cooperating satisfactorily.

Legislative alignment in the field of asylum is well advanced. But the new legislation on the status of foreign residents referred to above is awaited as the solution to certain questions concerning the Dublin II Regulation and the minimum guarantees for asylum procedures (suspensory effect of appeals, principle of non-refoulement). A considerable effort is still needed for the establishment of national access points for the DubliNet and Eurodac networks.

As regards police cooperation and the fight against organised crime, alignment is virtually complete. A strategic plan for police activities for 2002-04 has been adopted. In July 2002 the Government adopted a resolution regarding the setting-up of national colleges, which makes provision inter alia for the establishment in 2004 of the College of Internal Affairs, which will be responsible for training police officers. The police, border police and customs departments have signed a cooperation agreement on the fight against crime. But attention will have to be paid to sound cooperation between the police and the judicial institutions. In June 2001 the police forces of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland signed a cooperation agreement with a view to combating organised crime more effectively. The country has started cooperation with Europol, but an agreement has still to be signed. The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (Palermo Convention) has been ratified, but not the protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition. A new programme for the control and prevention of prostitution and trafficking of human beings has been in place since January 2002.

Lithuania has developed its capacities for combating terrorism by implementing its national programme. It has ratified most of the relevant conventions, but has still to accede to the 2000 European Convention on mutual judicial assistance in criminal matters.

Despite encouraging progress in case detection, the need remains to intensify the implementation of the national programme to combat corruption. The new Code of Criminal Procedure that came into force recently, which gives the primary responsibility here to the Prosecution Service, requires changes to all the institutions involved.

In January 2002 Lithuania adopted the national anti-corruption programme comprising the national anti-corruption strategy and its action plans and started implementation. In May 2002 Parliament adopted the law on the prevention of corruption in the public and private sectors. Lithuania has also ratified the Council of Europe Civil Law Convention on Corruption, which entered into force in July 2002, but it still has to ratify the 1997 Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union.

In 2001 Lithuania adopted:

  • a new law on corruption;
  • a code of ethics for staff of the special investigations service;
  • a national anti-corruption strategy.

With a view to fighting fraud more effectively, Lithuania should continue inter alia to align its legislation on the 1995 Convention on the Protection of the Financial Interests of the European Communities and the Council Framework Decisions on protection of the euro against counterfeiting.

As regards drugs, an action plan for the implementation of the national control and prevention programme was introduced in January 2001. A new Inter-Ministerial Control Commission comprising representatives of various ministries (health, justice, interior, labour, social security, etc.) has been established with a view to coordinating targeted activities. Specialist departments have been set up within the Police Department (drugs division) and the Customs Department (control of drugs and precursors of narcotic substances division). Lithuania has established a national focal point for cooperation with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug addiction. It became operational in April 2002. In 2003 it established a new strategy for 2004-2008.

In the area of money laundering, the law on the financial investigation service was adopted in March 2002 providing the legal basis for conversion of the Tax Police Department into a new Financial Crime Investigation Service. The law amending the law on prevention of money laundering was also adopted in March 2002 ensuring alignment with the acquis. The legislation still needs amending to authorise the seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime. In 2003 a financial intelligence unit was set up in the Financial Crime Investigation Service.

In the area of customs cooperation, the Fraud Prevention and Investigation Service was reorganised in January 2002 to form the Customs Criminal Service. Interinstitutional cooperation and an integrated customs information service are in the process of being set up. But Lithuania must still accede to the Convention on mutual assistance and cooperation between customs administrations (Naples II) and the Convention on the use of information technology in the field of customs.

In the area of judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, the legislation is in the process of being brought into line with the acquis. The reform of the legal and court system is virtually complete. The Courts Act of 2002 did much to reinforce the independence of the courts and help them operate better. The new Code of Civil Procedure came into force on 1 January 2003, and the Criminal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Sentencing Code came into force on 1 May. And in March 2003 the Lithuanian Parliament amended the Constitution to boost the independence of the prosecution service.

Lithuania has ratified a number of international conventions, including:

  • the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, and the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons;
  • the Convention of 2 October 1973 on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations;
  • the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction;
  • the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children.

Lithuania has acceded to all the instruments on human rights which are part of the justice and home affairs acquis.

This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.

 
Last updated: 10.08.2005
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