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Estonia

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1) REFERENCES

Commission Opinion [COM(97) 2006 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(98) 705 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(1999) 504 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2000) 704 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM (2001) 700 final - SEC (2001) 1747 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2002) 700 final -SEC (2002) 1403 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2003) 675 final -SEC (2003) 1201 - 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 July 1997 Opinion the Commission considered that, although Estonia had made encouraging progress in this area, particularly with regard to border controls, it needed to make a major effort if it was to catch up with the European Union with regard to justice and home affairs in the medium term. The Commission called on Estonia to improve its handling of issues involving refugees and asylum-seekers and to crack down more efficiently on organised crime and money laundering.
The November 1998 Report noted that Estonia had made significant efforts in connection with immigration, border controls and asylum, although it still lacked implementing measures. Organisation of the police had also been the focus of considerable work. Sustained effort was still needed to tackle drugs and organised crime, in particular to adopt the appropriate national and international legal instruments in that connection. Estonia also needed to push ahead with combating corruption.
The October 1999 Report noted that Estonia had followed most of the recommendations of the 1998 Report. The re-organisation of the police was an important step forward, and it was followed by improved training and working conditions. Estonia also had to comply fully with the Community acquis regarding control of its eastern border, in particular through the development of infrastructure and equipment. Particular attention was required as regards drugs and corruption.
In the November 2000 Report, the Commission noted that significant progress had been made in justice and home affairs. Nevertheless, efforts should be continued to align Estonian legislation on the acquis in areas such as the fight against organised crime, drug trafficking, the fight against corruption among police officers and border checks.
The November 2001 Report noted that Estonia had made good progress in the justice and home affairs field.
In the October 2002 Report, the Commission recognised that Estonia had made further progress in the area of data protection, border controls, visas, migration as well as police and judicial cooperation. On the whole, harmonisation of the legislation was relatively well advanced and it was continuing.
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 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 frontiers 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), while making provision for a transitional period of five years before Community procedures would be applied to the full. In the long term " an area of freedom, security and justice " will be created without checks on persons at internal frontiers, irrespective of their nationality. At the same time, common rules must be laid down relating to checks on the external frontiers of the Union, visas, asylum and immigration policies. The action plan of the Council and the Commission of 3 December 1998 sets out a timetable for the measures to be adopted in order to achieve these objectives within five years.

Some Member States already apply common rules in these areas under the Schengen Agreements, the first of which was signed in 1985. These intergovernmental agreements have been incorporated into the European Union following the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty and now constitute part of the Community acquis to be adopted by the applicant countries.

Poland has stated that it wants to comply with the provisions of the Schengen Agreement. It has begun to prepare for this and has asked the Member States for assistance, in particular with regard to the strengthening of checks at the external frontiers.

Asylum policy

European asylum policy, a matter of common interest to the Member States since the Maastricht Treaty, is based mainly on instruments without legal force such as, for example, the London resolutions of 1992 on requests for asylum manifestly unfounded and the principle of "host third countries" or on international conventions such as the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees.

On 15 June 1990, under the Schengen Agreements, the Member States signed the Dublin Convention, which came into force on 1 September 1997, determining the State responsible for examining applications for asylum lodged in one of the Member States of the European Union. This matter had not been settled by the Geneva Convention but various implementing measures were subsequently adopted by the Committee that it set up.

In addition to the Council and Commission action plan of 3 December 1998, a comprehensive strategy is necessary. Hence the task force on asylum and migration set up by the Council.

Immigration policy

Immigration policy, a matter of common interest since the Maastricht Treaty, comes under intergovernmental cooperation in the field of home affairs but does not yet really exist as a European policy. No rules have been drafted relating to the entry into the Community and the right of residence of nationals of non-member countries. However, the action plan of 3 December 1998 does provide for the adoption of specific measures in this area.

Judicial cooperation in civil matters

Few measures have been adopted in the area of judicial cooperation in civil matters, an area in which the EU can act since the Maastricht Treaty. To date, the most important measure is the Convention on the service of documents in civil or commercial matters in the Member States of the European Union. Following the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty, there is now a proposal for a Regulation to replace this Convention. The main instruments to facilitate civil judicial cooperation have been drafted at international level (the Brussels and Rome Conventions, for example).

In addition, in December 1998, the Council and Commission action plan listed the objectives to be attained in the medium term (two years) and the longer term (five years) and set out the list of measures to be adopted for that purpose.

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 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, the first "Octopus" programme was financed by the European Commission and the Council of Europe between 1996 and 1998. The aim of "Octopus II" (1999-2000) is to facilitate the adoption of new legislative and constitutional measures by the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and also by some Newly Independent States along the lines of the rules in force in the EU by providing training and assistance for all persons responsible for the fight against corruption and organised crime. In addition, a pact to combat organised crime was signed by the EU and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe on 28 May 1998.

Within the Union, the Council and Commission action plan of 3 December 1998 sets out the various measures to be adopted in the short term (two years) and the medium term (five years) in order to establish a genuine area of freedom, security and justice. These measures include the setting up of the European Police Office (Europol), the organisation of relations between the Office and the judicial authorities of the Member States, the incorporation of the Schengen acquis relating to police and customs cooperation, and the organisation of the gathering and storage of the requisite information concerning transborder crime.

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

The Europe Agreement with Poland 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 first-pillar matters such as money laundering and freedom of movement of persons, which are closely related to justice and home affairs considerations.

EVALUATION

In November 2001, Estonia ratified the Convention for the protection of individuals with regard to the processing personal data, which came into force in March 2002, and aligned its relevant legislation, in particular as regards the use of personal data by the police. It remains to make a number of amendments to the rules governing the data-protection inspectorate set up in 1999.

Estonia has made remarkable progress on visa policy. It has now imposed the visa requirement for all countries whose nationals are subject to it in the EU. With regard to administrative capacity, Estonia has made progress by setting up a new online national visa register, which enables foreign representations in Estonia to process all visa applications, but it has yet to equip all its diplomatic and consular missions with the means of detecting false or forged documents.
With a view to accession, Estonia must still align with the European Union list of countries whose nationals are exempt from visa requirements, in particular by concluding visa exemption agreements with 17 countries.
The Government approved a Schengen action plan in July 2001. Under this plan, Estonia continues to make preparations to participate in the Schengen information system (SIS II). On the whole, the country must continue its efforts to apply the Schengen acquis in full once it is in the Union.

External border management is functioning satisfactorily, even though an integrated border management strategy has not yet been worked up and the legislation still needs aligning. But border cooperation agreements have been concluded with neighbouring countries. More should be done in the way of recruitment, training and living conditions of border guards. The equipment and infrastructure of, among others, the maritime borders are being upgraded.

In the field of immigration, Estonia has completed the alignment of its legislation, including the legislation on carrier's liability. Progress remains to be made, particularly in relation to expulsion orders.
Since February 2002, a specialised service in the Office for nationality and migration with responsibility for visas and illegal immigration has been operational. Estonia signed readmission agreements with 33 countries in June 2002. However, it must try to conclude agreements with the Russian Federation, Belarus and Ukraine.

Even though the number of asylum applications in Estonia is low, Parliament amended the Refugees Act in January 2001 and in May 2002. A specialised service for refugees was set up in February 2002, and Estonia's reception capacities are now adequate. As regards administrative capacities, preparations for accession to Eurodac and Dublin II must be expedited.

Progress has been achieved in the field of police cooperation and the fight against organised crime (alignment of legislation, training, international cooperation, etc.). International cooperation is well established and is based on agreements, one of which is with Europol. The country has signed but has not yet ratified the three protocols to the United Nations Convention of 2000 against transnational organised crime.
On the implementation side, the police training situation is satisfactory but a decision is still needed on the financing of the new system to run from 2004. The Commission suggests increasing staff capacity of the intelligence facilities devoted to international crime. An electronic crime registration system (POLIS) has been operational in all police premises since 2002.

In the fight against terrorism, Estonia has ratified the main conventions, with the exception of the convention on judicial assistance in criminal matters.

In June 2001 Parliament adopted the new Criminal Code, which is designed to bring national law into line with the acquis as regards the fight against fraud, corruption and money laundering.
But on the fraud side an effort is still needed to come into line with the acquis and apply it in full. Most of the legislation for the fight against corruption is in place; the final amendments to the Corruption Act were made in February 2003. Despite the low frequency of corruption in Estonia, there is a need for a comprehensive strategy to combat it to ensure that the relevant authorities are properly coordinated. An interministerial committee to devise the strategy was set up in May 2003. As regards international law, in December 2001, Estonia ratified the Council of Europe Criminal law convention on corruption, which entered into force in July 2002.
Further progress is needed in aligning legislation on money laundering with the acquis, and it is necessary to strengthen the resources devoted to financial intelligence.

As regards drugs, Estonia has ratified the UN Convention and increased penalties for drug-related offences. The police have also set up specialised drugs investigation teams. Legislation is largely aligned with the acquis. Progress is being made in the fight against drugs through the implementation of the alcohol and drug addiction prevention programme for 1997-2007.
In July 2001, the Estonian centre to control drugs was set up and also serves as a national focal point for the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). But the resources to fight drug trafficking must be increased by strengthening the administrative and operational capacity of the bodies responsible for applying the law, in particular the police and customs authorities, and interministerial coordination.

With regard to customs cooperation, transposal of the legislation is not yet complete. There are agreements for interinstitutional cooperation, but more needs to be done in the form of a register of customs investigations.

On judicial cooperation, Estonia has virtually completed the process of alignment on the acquis. It must be especially attentive to the decision on the European arrest warrant.

As regards human rights, since, the ratification of the Convention for the protection of individuals regarding the processing of personal data, Estonia has ratified all the relevant legal instruments.

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

 
Last updated: 12.09.2005
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