Brussels, 20 April 2010
Commission acts to bolster citizens' data protection, protect defendants' rights and enhance immigration and asylum cooperation
Citizens expect to have the same rights and sense of security throughout the European Union. Creating a single area of justice and security for 500 million Europeans is a top priority for the European Commission in the next five years. The Commission today presented concrete actions – with set timetables – to boost citizens' ability to work, travel and study outside their home countries. The proposals will enhance citizens' security with better judicial cooperation and increased solidarity through a common immigration and asylum policy. Businesses will also benefit from less red tape and more legal certainty in cross-border transactions. With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009, the EU now has the tools to bring a new balance into policies to strengthen the rights and freedoms of Europe's citizens.
"EU citizens should not face barriers to justice when they leave their home countries. I want citizens to be confident that the EU can protect their rights when they are abroad, whether they are starting a family, planning to retire, resolving contractual disputes or dealing with the results of a car accident," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "These ambitious proposals will remove bureaucratic obstacles that currently hinder citizens' lives and add extra costs and legal uncertainty to our businesses. I look forward to working with the European Parliament, national parliaments and governments on these measures, as well as citizens themselves."
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: "The programme laid down in Stockholm is a roadmap to a free and secure Europe. Because freedom and security matter to European citizens, it is also an opportunity for Europe to get closer to its citizens. That's why we are going to propose, amongst other things, an entry-exit system for the Schengen area, so that people can cross borders with less bureaucracy and yet more security. We will also introduce tools to fight organised crime more effectively and use the new provisions in the Lisbon Treaty to criminalise cyber attacks and identity theft on the Internet. My aim is also to create a common asylum and migration system based on solidarity."
European leaders endorsed 170 initiatives last December known as the Stockholm Programme. The measures are aimed at creating a genuine European area of freedom, security and justice in the next five years. The Commission has now turned these political objectives into an action plan for 2010-2014.
In the Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship area, the Plan includes the following proposals:
Improving data protection for citizens in all EU policies – including law enforcement and crime prevention – and in relations with international partners. The 1995 EU Data Protection Directive will be modernised to respond to new technological challenges.
Strengthening the rights of the accused in criminal proceedings to have a fair trial with proposals on informing them about charges, providing legal advice, communicating with relatives and ensuring special safeguards for vulnerable persons.
Cutting red tape for citizens and businesses by ensuring that judicial decisions and civil documents are recognised across borders without cumbersome procedures or excessive costs.
Simplifying the cross-border recovery of debt and alternative dispute resolution. Today companies only recover 37% of cross-border debts.
Boosting online commerce by offering companies an optional European contract law. In 2008 only 7% of transactions on the Web in Europe were cross-border.
Increasing protection for citizens travelling outside their home countries in the EU when they book a holiday package or file a claim after a road accident. For travel outside the EU, citizens will have better consular protection.
In the Home Affairs area, the Plan includes the following proposals:
Defining a comprehensive security strategy to strengthen cooperation in law enforcement and civil protection as well as disaster and border management.
Negotiating a long-term agreement with the US on the processing and transfer of financial messaging data for the purpose of fighting terrorism (Terrorism Financing Tracking Programme – TFTP).
Looking at an EU approach for the use of Passenger Name Record (EU-PNR) data for law enforcement purposes and creating a European framework for the communication of PNR data to third countries.
Protecting European citizens from cybercrime by criminalising identity theft as well as malicious software that is used to attack information systems, and by reinforcing border security by setting up an entry-exit system
Evaluating and, if necessary, amending the Data Retention Directive.
Clearing the conditions of entry and residence of third country nationals for purposes of seasonal employment and intra-corporate transfers; introducing a common EU asylum system and fostering solidarity between Member States.
The European Council of 10-11 December 2009 adopted the Stockholm Programme, a comprehensive Plan of EU justice and security policies for 2010–2014.
With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights has become legally binding on the EU's institutions and on Member States when they act in the scope of EU law. In addition, most Justice and Home Affairs rules and policies will be proposed by the Commission and approved by both the European Parliament and the Council, with the latter voting by qualified majority instead of unanimity, which will streamline the decision-making process.