Commission Opinion [COM(97) 2004 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(98) 703 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(1999) 511 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2000) 711 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2001) 700 final - SEC(2001) 1754 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2002) 700 final - SEC(2002) 1410 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2003) 675 final - SEC(2003) 1209 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Treaty of Accession to the European Union [Official Journal L 236 of 23.09.2003]
In its Opinion of July 1997, the European Commission considered that Slovakia appeared to have the administrative capacity and infrastructure to bring its laws into line with EU justice and home affairs legislation (present and future) in the medium term, but would have to demonstrate its commitment to introducing the necessary reforms, notably in the development of visa policy towards the new independent states, border management and migration control, extradition, and combating organised crime and corruption. Some legislation, for example on asylum issues, would also have to be further developed to comply with EU legislation.
The November 1998 Report noted that Slovakia had made progress with legislation in this area, but a number of adjustments were still needed. There were also shortcomings as regards implementation. Efforts would have to be made to achieve the medium-term priorities, particularly as regards border controls and the implementation of asylum and migration legislation, including bringing visa policy into line with Community standards. The fight against organised crime, and money laundering in particular, also had to be stepped up, and police services improved. The report specifically called on Slovakia to show real political will to align legislation in this area in view of the damaging effect of any delay in an area so vital to the implementation of the rule of law.
Overall, the Commission's evaluation in its October 1999 Report was more positive than in the previous reports. Slovakia had stepped up the transposal of EU law into national legislation, particularly as regards judicial cooperation in criminal matters. Justice and home affairs was considered a priority and efforts had been made in that area. However, additional work needed to be done, particularly as regards the fight against organised crime and corruption, the status of foreigners and asylum. The judicial system as a whole needed strengthening, and border controls had to be reinforced.
In its November 2000 Report, the Commission noted the significant progress made by Slovakia as regards visas and the right to asylum but emphasised that further effort had to be made as regards the management of external borders. Slovakia had also made progress with regard to immigration, police cooperation and the fight against money laundering, organised crime, corruption, fraud and drug trafficking. Some progress was also noted in the area of judicial and customs cooperation. In general, Slovakia had not slackened its efforts to implement the Community acquis. Nevertheless, there was a need to continue the fight against organised crime.
In its November 2001 Report, the Commission noted that Slovakia had made progress in several areas, particularly as regards visas, police cooperation, asylum, the fight against money laundering, drug trafficking, and customs and police cooperation. Efforts needed to be stepped up particularly with regard to data protection and immigration policy.
The October 2002 Report noted that Slovakia had continued making progress in areas such as data protection, visas, border controls, immigration, asylum and police cooperation.
The November 2003 Report noted a few delays in the Schengen action plan, visa policy, external border checks and the fight against fraud and corruption. Slovakia also needs to be particularly active on preparations for the implementation of Eurodac and Dublin II and must improve interinstitutional cooperation.
The Treaty of Accession was signed on 16 April 2003 and accession took place on 1 May 2004.
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 ".
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.
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:
- the establishment of a European Refugee Fund;
- the adoption of a specific temporary protection system in the case of a massive influx of displaced persons;
- the definition of the State responsible for vetting asylum requests;
- the start-up of the " Eurodac " system of finger-print comparison for asylum seekers within the European Union.
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, 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.
Slovakia has completed the alignment of its data protection legislation. New data protection legislation entered into force in September 2002. Since December 2001 police databases have been subject to supervision by the Chairman of the Office for the Protection of Personal Data, as are the databases of the army, the prisons administration, customs and the railway police.
Slovak legislation on visas has been only partially aligned with the Community acquis.
The new Stay of Aliens Act entered into force in April 2002. It sets out the various types of visa which may be issued and describes the relevant procedures. But Slovakia has still to denounce the entry agreements with Cuba, South Africa and the Seychelles. It must align its policy on the positive list and amend its legislation on expatriate Slovak nationals. It is currently extending to all embassies and consulates the electronic link-up allowing direct contact between visa-issuing authorities and central authorities.
Significant progress has been made with regard to the system of external border controls. However, Slovak legislation has not yet been aligned with the Community acquis. A special effort must be made to align legislation as regards the border with the Czech Republic and to finalise cooperation agreements on border controls and crime prevention with Poland, Hungary and Ukraine. Close attention also needs to be given to the modernisation of technical equipment and the allocation of financial resources to give effect to the Schengen Action Plan.
The government has taken a number of administrative and legal measures to reinforce external border control. Infrastructure at crossing points on the border with Ukraine has been improved, but further efforts are necessary.
Since April 2001, the National Schengen Information System has been in place, as has the Schengen Action Plan. It has been updated and progress has been made in its implementation. But preparations for integrating SIS II are still only at the preliminary stage as regards the development of national applications, and work needs to be speeded up.
The new Stay of Aliens Act, which broadly brings Slovak law into line with the Community acquis on migration, entered into force in April 2002, but it still needs to be amended as regards the level of protection in the event of expulsion and the resources needed to qualify for long-term resident status. Illegal immigration is an ongoing problem. Slovakia established a national unit in April 2002 with a view to combating the phenomenon more effectively.
With regard to asylum, a specialised documentation centre for the collection and analysis of information on countries of origin was set up in July 2001.
A new Asylum Act was adopted by Parliament in June 2002 and is due to enter into force in January 2003. It lays down new rules on the principle of "non-refoulement", regulates in detail the asylum application procedure and provides new definitions of the safe-third-country concept. But it still does not achieve full alignment on the Dublin Convention and Eurodac rules.
With regard to police cooperation and the fight against organised crime, Slovakia has signed:
- the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime;
- the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
Since January 2001 an office for international police cooperation has been working together with Interpol and the National Bureau of Schengen. Furthermore, a unit within the general directorate of the national police force has been devising a schedule for the implementation of the Schengen acquis.
The Slovak Parliament adopted a new Police Act in October 2001 amending the 1993 Police Force Act. In November of that year Slovakia signed the additional Protocols to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (Palermo Convention) on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. The additional Protocol on firearms was signed in August 2002.
An amendment to the Criminal Code which entered into force in September 2002 has introduced terrorism as a criminal offence. In June 2002 Slovakia had already amended its Code of Criminal Procedure to reform the preventive detention procedure.
Slovakia has established the office of Special Prosecutor for the fight against corruption and organised crime and set up special courts to handle the relevant cases. Parliament adopted amendments to the Criminal Code in June 2002 which will enable Slovakia to implement the 1995 Convention on the Protection of the European Communities' Financial Interests and its two Protocols. Amendments to the Civil Code enabling ratification of the Civil Law Convention on Corruption were adopted in August 2002. But corruption remains a source of considerable concern and Slovakia must pursue its efforts to implement its national programme of action.
In February 2001 Slovakia ratified the 1990 European Convention on laundering, search, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime. But it must withdraw the reservation it has entered on Article 6. An independent financial police unit is working with police forces in the Member States and with the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF). Under a new law, which entered into force in September 2002, existing anonymous accounts are to be abolished between January 2004 and January 2007.
In June 2001 Slovakia applied to join the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), and a national focal point has now been established. Further efforts are needed to coordinate the activities of the various bodies involved in the fight against drug trafficking. Good progress has been made in implementing the national anti-drugs programme, which covers the period 1999-2003. A national monitoring centre for drugs was set up as the central node of the drugs information system within the European Network on Drugs and Drug Addiction (Reitox).
The new Customs Act and the State Administration Bodies in the Field of Customs Act came into force in July 2001. Slovakia needs to continue its efforts to put in place a computerised customs system, improve staff training and counter internal corruption. Three memoranda of understanding between the customs administration and business associations were signed to combat drug trafficking. The investigative powers of customs officers were enhanced in June 2002 when Parliament approved an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure.
In the field of judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, the alignment of Slovak legislation continued. The Extradition Act was amended in June 2001. Several conventions were ratified, including the Convention on the protection of children and cooperation in respect of inter-country adoption. Amendments to the code of criminal procedure have been adopted. The code now contains provisions on international legal assistance, completing alignment with the acquis in the field of judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
In the civil-law field, the following conventions have become binding on the Slovak Republic:
- Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of Inter-Country Adoption;
- European Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children (1980);
- Convention abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation of Foreign Public Documents (1961);
- Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (1996).
All the human rights legal instruments which are part of the Justice and Home Affairs acquis have been ratified by Slovakia.
This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.