Brussels, 10 June 2009
European Commission outlines its vision for the area of freedom, security and justice in the next five years
The European Commission today adopted two communications analysing the EU's work on justice and internal affairs in recent years and setting out its priorities for the future. Ordinary citizens should be at the heart of the future Stockholm Programme, to be debated by the European Parliament and adopted by the European Council before the end of the year, which will provide a framework for EU action on the questions of citizenship, justice, security, asylum and immigration for the next five years.
"In future, EU action must aim above all at delivering the best possible service to the citizen in an area of freedom, security and justice more tangible for the citizens", according to Commission President, José Manuel Barroso. "We want to promote citizens' rights, make their daily lives easier and provide protection, and this calls for effective and responsible European action in these areas. In this context, I consider immigration policy particularly important. This is the vision the Commission is presenting to the Council and Parliament for debate, with a view to the adoption of the new Stockholm Programme by the European Council in December 2009".
Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner in charge of the Justice, Freedom and Security portfolio, stated: "Freedom, security and justice are core values which constitute key components of the European model of society. We have made substantial progress in creating an area of freedom, security and justice in recent years. The priority now must be to put the citizen at the heart of this project in order to demonstrate the added value of the European Union in areas that have such a bearing on people's daily lives."
It is ten years since the European Union set itself the target of creating an area of freedom, justice and security. With the Tampere 1 and Hague 2 programmes giving the necessary political impetus, significant progress has been made.
The priorities identified by the Commission take account of recent developments in the area of freedom, security and justice. The progress achieved and the lessons learnt over the past five years are analysed in detail in the communication evaluating the Hague programme. The experience we have gained should help us to meet the major challenges facing the European Union.
Some examples of the challenges we face:
People want to live in a European Union that is prosperous and peaceful, where their rights are respected and their security protected. They want to be able to travel freely, and to move temporarily or permanently to another European country in order to study, to work, to found a family, to set up a business or to retire. They want easy access to justice, the possibility of enforcing judicial decisions issued by other Member States and protection from a variety of threats (organised crime, terrorism). This can only be achieved by better, more efficient cooperation between the police forces and judicial systems of the Member States.
The European Union must also mobilise to help people and businesses cope better with the short-term problems of the economic crisis and, in the longer term, to meet the challenges of a globalised society and an ageing European population. It must establish a flexible migration policy enabling it to respond to its employment needs and make use of the opportunities provided by foreign labour. It must also uphold its humanitarian tradition by offering its protection generously to those who need it.
What are the policy priorities?
The future programme should be devised around four major priorities, yielding specific proposals to make the benefits of a European area of freedom, security and justice more effective and more tangible for ordinary citizens:
Promoting citizens’ rights — a Europe of rights: the area of freedom, security and justice must above all be a single area in which fundamental rights are protected, and in which respect for the human person and human dignity, and for the other rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, is a core value. The citizen’s privacy must be preserved beyond national borders, especially by protecting personal data; allowance must be made for the special needs of vulnerable people; and citizens must be able to exercise their specific rights to the full, such as the right to vote and the right to consular protection.
Making life easier — a Europe of justice: the achievement of a European area of justice must be consolidated. Priority should be given to mechanisms that facilitate people’s access to the courts, so that they can enforce their rights throughout the Union. Where contracts and commerce are concerned, this should give those involved in economic life the tools they need to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the single market. Cooperation between legal professionals should also be improved, and resources should be mobilised to put an end to barriers to the recognition of legal acts in other Member States.
Protecting citizens — a Europe that protects: a domestic security strategy should be developed in order further to improve security in the Union and thus to protect the life and safety of European citizens. The strategy should be aimed at strengthening cooperation in police matters and law enforcement and making entry to Europe more secure. Tougher, more coordinated action is needed particularly to combat organised crime and terrorism.
Promoting a more integrated society for the citizen — a Europe of solidarity: a major priority in the next few years will be consolidating and putting into practice a policy on immigration and asylum that guarantees solidarity between Member States and partnership with non-Union countries. The policy should offer legal immigrants a clear and uniform status. A closer match should be developed between immigration and the needs of the European labour market, along with targeted integration and education policies.
The practical use of the tools available to combat illegal immigration should be improved. The Union should also move towards a common asylum system and insist on burden-sharing and solidarity between Member States in this area.
Examples of the measures proposed (10 specific innovations):
Introduce a comprehensive scheme to ensure better data protection in the European Union;
Completely abolish intermediate procedures (exequatur) for enforcing court decisions issued in another Member State;
Set up an exchange programme for police officers and improve the scheme that already exists for the judiciary and judicial staff (Erasmus programme for the police and the judiciary);
Strengthen procedural guarantees in criminal cases;
Develop a domestic security strategy for the European Union;
Create an information system architecture that will help to improve the exchange of information between European police forces;
Improve the evaluation of European judicial policies and support the efforts of the Member States to improve the quality of their judicial systems;
Ensure a flexible immigration policy that is in line with the needs of the job market whilst at the same time support the integration of immigrants and tackle illegal immigration.
Enhance solidarity between Member States for hosting refugees and asylum-seekers;
Increase the research effort in the area of security technologies.
Vice-President Barrot ended by singling out some of the strong themes running through this communication: "respect for the person and human dignity are core values of the area of freedom, security and justice. The individual should be at the heart of its construction and all future developments. Solidarity must be the watchword of the future programme. Solidarity between people, particularly the most vulnerable members of society, solidarity between Member States to find common solutions to common threats like terrorism and organised crime, to derive common benefits from the opportunities that regulated immigration, tailored to the needs of the labour market, can create, solidarity to respond collectively to the need for protection expressed by those who seek asylum at our frontiers."
The Tampere Programme: Towards a Union of Freedom, Security and Justice, Presidency Conclusions, Tampere European Council, 15-16 October 1999.
The Hague Programme: strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union (OJ C 53, 3.3.2005, p. 1) and Council and Commission action plan implementing the Hague programme on strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union (OJ C 198, 12.8.2005, p. 1).