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The Czech Republic

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1) REFERENCES

Commission Opinion [COM(1997) 2009 final -Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission report [COM(1998) 708 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission report [COM(1999) 503 final -Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission report [COM(2000) 703 final -Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission report [COM(2001) 700 final - SEC(2001)1746 -Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission report [COM(2002) 700 final -SEC(2002) 1402 -Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission report [COM(2003) 675 final -SEC(2003) 1200 -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 Commission considered that the necessary structures for the free movement of persons seemed to be in place but that it was not always easy to assess their real effect or to ascertain how they were being used. It also felt that the Czech Republic should be able to meet the justice and home affairs acquis within the next few years, assuming progress continued at the current rate. The judiciary and police, however, would require particular attention, as would the Czech Republic's efforts to combat drugs and organised crime.
The November 1998 Report found with regard to the implementation of the acquis that there were delays in tightening frontier controls. It felt that the new government should speed up the pace of reform in order to meet the medium-term priorities of the accession partnership, in particular by more thorough frontier controls and by stepping up the fight against drugs and organised crime.
The October 1999 Report found that, generally speaking, preparations for the adoption of the acquis in this area had been speeded up but that this had yet to be reflected in the country's legislation (other than on drugs) or administrative structures. It was therefore crucial that the relevant draft laws be adopted or implemented without delay and that the requisite human and financial resources be made available.
The November 2000 Report emphasised that major progress had been made by the Czech Republic as regards visas, immigration and data protection. However, very little progress had been made with regard to police cooperation in the fight against illegal immigration, corruption and fraud. The Commission noted insufficient administrative and executive capabilities.
In the November 2001 Report, the Commission stated that significant process had been achieved by the Czech Republic in the fields of data protection, border control, visas, migration and police cooperation. Further efforts had to be made in the fight against crime.
The October 2002 Report states that the Czech Republic has transposed into its legislation almost all the justice and home affairs (JHA) acquis. It has also made considerable progress in strengthening its institutional capacity and in implementation in general. However, the lack of effectiveness in the fight against crime and corruption remains its key weakness.

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

With regard to the protection of personal data, the Czech Republic has completed the alignment of its legislation, notably on the use of personal data by police and customs authorities. The Office for Personal Data Protection presents public reports on its activities, carries out surveys and applies penalties; it must complete the recruitment of the requisite personnel.

Visa policy is generally aligned on the acquis. The Czech Republic still needs to take over the technical specifications relating to the positive list of visas and to introduce a Schengen-style visa sticker in accordance with the Commission Communication of August 2003.

In 2002 the Czech Republic adopted a number of measures to improve border controls (new equipment, decision to create an integrated Alien and Border Police to ensure border protection and the fight against illegal immigration).
A new State Border Protection Act was passed in April 2002. The Commission is awaiting the updating of border control and crime prevention agreements with Poland, Austria and above all Slovakia, given their common border management functions.

Alignment on the Schengen criteria continued. An additional effort must be made to conclude an agreement with Slovakia to confine border crossings to specified crossing points. Preparations for incorporation of the Schengen II Information System (SIS II) progressed.

In the field of immigration, the legislation is fully aligned. The Act on the Residence of Aliens has been modified to clarify certain concepts such as family reunification and expulsion. It entered into force partially on 1 January 2003 and fully on the date of the lifting of internal border controls. Measures have been taken to conclude new readmission agreements with a number of countries (including Italy, Benelux, Yugoslavia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Algeria, China, India, Iraq and Iran). A readmission agreement was signed with Slovakia in July 2002.

The Czech Republic has now completed the alignment of its legislation on asylum, except as regards the minimum standards for temporary protection. The administrative capacities of the asylum service have been stepped up, but efforts must still be made on the number and training of judges handling asylum cases.

Remarkable progress has been achieved as regards police cooperation and the fight against organised crime that will permit the Czech Republic to participate in the Europol Convention. The national criminal police office, set up in January 2001, brings together departments specialising in the fight against organised crime, drug trafficking and corruption. Furthermore, a new integrated criminal and judicial police service was set up in 2003 following the merger of the investigation office and the criminal police, which had beneficial effects in terms of efficiency.
However, the police ethics code has not yet been adopted and investigations into police corruption are few and far between.
The Czech Republic has signed international cooperation agreements, notably with Europol.

As far as the fight against terrorism is concerned, in April 2002 the Czech Republic adopted a national action plan in reaction to the events of September 11 in the United States, but it has not yet ratified the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism or the EU convention on mutual judicial assistance. New legislation including measures against the financing of terrorism was adopted in 2002.

With regard to the fight against fraud and corruption, efforts must be continued in order to allow the Czech Republic to collaborate with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) upon accession. One of the most serious problems remains the corruption of the police forces, particularly the departments responsible for granting authorisations or other official documents. The annual report on corruption approved in May 2003 highlighted the frequent irregularities in relation to public procurement rules and practice. Corruption affects not only the police but also health-care, the banking and judicial systems and public administration in general. The only progress is that a commission to combat police corruption has been set up and two specialised departments (Department to combat corruption and economic crime and the Fraud and State Protection Office) merged in April 2003 following the merger of the police forces into a single criminal and investigation police. The accession of the Czech Republic to the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in 2002 was followed by an initial evaluation in March 2003, containing nine recommendations in anti-corruption matters, including the waiver of parliamentary immunity.

The national strategic plan for 2001-04 to combat drug consumption, aimed at implementing the European Union action plan (2000-04), is being implemented. An Inter-Ministerial Commission is coordinating activities relating to the fight against drugs (it adopts preventive as well as punitive measures). A National Contact Point was established in June 2002 and has been fully operational since January 2003. The national information centre has yet to be established to handle cooperation with the drugs and drug addiction network.

Efforts must be continued in the fight against money laundering because only a few cases have so far led to prosecution. Coercive measures should be stiffened and maximum penalties increased (they are lower than those for financial fraud), and specialised training should be provided for the relevant departments. The Czech Republic implemented the 2001 amendment of the Code of Criminal Proceedings.

The legislation on customs cooperation has largely been aligned on the acquis. An amendment to the Customs Act intended to simplify existing procedures entered into force in July 2002. Preparatory work for accession to the Naples II and CIS (Customs Information System) Conventions is in hand. Special attention needs paying to cooperation between customs authorities and other agencies handling illegal immigration, corruption and drugs.

As for judicial cooperation, the Code of Criminal Proceedings was amended in 2002, and alignment is in progress. The Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 concerning the European arrest warrant calls for special attention. The administrative structures for contacts between judicial authorities are now operational. Also, in the field of civil cooperation, the Czech Republic has ratified:

  • The Convention on International Access to Justice;
  • The European Conventions on the Exercise of Children's Rights and on the Legal Status of Children born out of Wedlock.

In July 2002, the amendments to the Criminal Code affecting Schengen judicial cooperation, the definition of criminal organisation, trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children entered into force.

The Czech Republic has ratified most of the human rights legal instruments under 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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