Strasbourg, 10 mai 2005
The Hague Programme, endorsed by the European Council in November 2004, fixes the priorities for an area of freedom, security and justice for the next five years. The Commission presents an Action Plan to the Council in which the aims and priorities of the Hague Programme are to be translated into concrete actions, including a timetable for their adoption and implementation.
Presenting the Action Plan, Vice-President Franco Frattini, Commissioner responsible for Freedom, Security and Justice, said: “In the fight against cross-border organised crime and terrorism, in the management of migration flows and on making the daily business and family life of EU citizens easier: Europe makes the difference! This Action Plan clearly stipulates what actions by which EU institutions, and by Member States, in which timeframe need to be taken to achieve the objectives set out by the EU Heads of Sate and Government in the area of Freedom, security and Justice”
This Action Plan identifies ten specific priorities upon which the Commission believes the collective efforts for the next five years should be concentrated.
These priorities may be summarised as follows:
(1) Fundamental rights and citizenship
Ensure the full development of policies enhancing citizenship, monitoring and promoting respect for fundamental rights.
(2) The fight against terrorism
Focus on different aspects of prevention, preparedness and response in order to further enhance, and where necessary complement, Member States capabilities to fight terrorism.
(3) Migration management
Define a balanced approach to migration management developing a common immigration policy at Union level, while further strengthening the fight against illegal migration and trafficking in human beings, notably women and children.
(4) Internal borders, external borders and visas
Further develop an integrated management of external borders and a common visa policy, while ensuring the free movement of persons.
(5) A common asylum area
Work towards the establishment of a common asylum area taking into account the humanitarian tradition and respect of international obligations of the Union and the effectiveness of a harmonised procedure.
(6) Integration: the positive impact of migration on our society and economy
Adopt, support and incentive measures to help Member States deliver better policies on integration so as to maximise the positive impact of migration on our society and economy.
(7) Privacy and security in sharing information
Strike the right balance between privacy and security in the sharing of information among law enforcement and judicial authorities, fully respecting fundamental rights of privacy and data protection, as well as the principle of availability of information.
(8) The fight against organised crime
Develop and implement a strategic concept on tackling organised crime at EU level, including knowledge of the phenomenon, law enforcement cooperation, judicial cooperation, legislative and non-legislative initiatives, and cooperation with third countries and international organisations. Make full use of and further develop Europol and Eurojust.
(9) Civil and criminal justice: an effective European area of justice for all
Guarantee an effective European area of justice by ensuring an effective access to justice for all and the enforcement of judgments.
(10) Freedom, Security and Justice: sharing responsibility and solidarity
Give meaning to notions of shared responsibility and solidarity between Member States by reviewing the type of policy and financial instruments that can meet the objectives of Freedom, Security and Justice in the most efficient way.
This Action Plan needs to be read in conjunction with other Plans and Strategy papers regarding specific policy issues in the area of freedom, security and justice (the EU Action Plan on Drugs; the Communication on Perspectives for the development of mutual recognition of decisions in criminal matters and of the mutual confidence of March 2005; the Communication Developing a Strategic Concept on Tackling Organised Crime).
A particular focus will also be given to the monitoring of the implementation of legislation. The Action Plan has to be flexible and adaptable in order to allow for new priorities which may emerge in the course of the coming years. Moreover, a mid-term review of the Action Plan will take place in November 2006.
1. At the core of the Union’s values
Fundamental rights and citizenship
Creating a fully-fledged policy
Fundamental rights are placed at the heart of the European project, as proven by the integration of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the Constitution.
The Union is bound to the respect of fundamental rights, but it is also engaged in actively promoting them. Over the coming five years, the protection of personal data and the fight against discrimination in all its forms will be further promoted. The Commission will also pursue its efforts to combat violence against women and provide support to victims in collaboration with member States.
Special attention will be devoted to the rights of the child. The Daphne II Programme will continue to support European organisations that develop measures and actions to prevent or to combat all types of violence against women and children and to protect the victims and groups at risk. Moreover, the Group of Commissioners on Fundamental Rights will enhance consistency among the different activities in favour of children of the Commission. After having consulted the European Parliament and national and international stakeholders, in 2005, the Commission will present a Communication on the protection of the rights of the child and consequently promote an International Conference to allow Member States and appropriate stakeholders to launch various form of collaboration. In the Commission’s view, it would also be relevant and necessary to set up one single emergency telephone number for missing and abused children applicable in the whole Union.
In 2005, the Commission will propose converting the European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia into a Fundamental Rights Agency. The Agency will constitute a point of reference for the civil society: it will promote dialogue at European level and contribute to raising awareness of general public. Other tasks of the Agency will be providing European institutions and Member States with assistance and expertise, collect and disseminate reliable and comparable information and data and produce an annual report.
Citizenship of the Union entails a number of rights which the Union will further promote in the next five years. These are for example free movement within the EU, but also diplomatic and consular protection if Union citizen is in distress in a country outside the EU but there is no accessible representation of his or her own country. Electoral rights in European Parliament and municipal elections in the Member State of residence are sensitive and important issues, which the Commission will examine attentively.
For further information:
DG JLS web site - Reconciling fundamental rights with security and justice in the European Union
DG JLS web site - The creation of a Fundamental Rights Agency is a basic element of the EU policy to respect and promote Human Rights
DG JLS web site - European Union citizenship, European Union rights
DG JLS web site - Daphne II EU programme to combat violence against children, young people and women
2. A Union against terrorism
The fight against terrorism
Working toward a global response
The European Union can contribute decisively to the defeat of terrorism, by working together towards a global strategy to be established on the basis of its founding values: democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law. The Union’s attention must focus on different aspects of prevention, preparedness and response to further enhance, and where necessary complement, Member States’ capabilities to fight terrorism.
This strategy also entails close cooperation with third countries, including assistance in funding counter-terrorism and capacity-building projects.
The reduction of access to financial and economic resources by terrorists is a strategic objective for the Member States and the EU: a number of different measures is foreseen over the coming years will aim at enhancing transparency of legal entities and information exchange among relevant actors at national, EU and international levels.
In order to maximise the capacity within EU bodies and Member States to detect investigate and prosecute terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks, the Union will promote cooperation between all the competent authorities of Member States, most notably in exchanging information relevant to the investigation of terrorist activities.
The Union will work together with Member States to enhance their capability of dealing with the consequences of a terrorist attack: in 2005, a Programme on the protection of critical infrastructures will be established and the Commission will present a proposal creating a Critical Infrastructure Warning Information Network (CIWIN), in order to assist Member States to exchange information on shared threats, areas of vulnerability and appropriate measures and strategies to mitigate risk in support of critical infrastructure protection.
In 2006, it will be possible to assess the results and give a follow-up to the pilot project for the victims of terrorist acts. In this framework, the Union budget provided assistance and training to professionals for psychological support to victims and their families, created reception centres for the victims and their families collecting "best practices" with regard to supporting victims of terrorist acts and raised awareness amongst the European public regarding the terrorist threat.
For further information:
DG JLS web site - European Union plugging the gaps in the fight against terrorism
Communication on the Prevention, preparedness and response to terrorist attacks
Communication on the Prevention of and the Fight against Terrorist Financing
Communication “Preparedness and consequence management in the fight against terrorism”
Communication “Critical Infrastructure Protection in the fight against terrorism”
Pilot project for the victims of terrorist acts
3. Regulating migration in an area of free movement
Defining a balanced approach
The Commission believes that there is a clear case for agreeing transparent and more harmonised common rules and criteria at EU level for admitting legal migrants. However, decisions to admit such third country nationals in one Member State affect others: the right to travel within the Schengen area, to deliver services in other Member States, to move to other Member States once long-term residents status has been acquired and the impact of the admission of third country workers on the EU labour market.
Moreover, the need for a European strategic initiative is strengthened by the fact that, in its absence, migration flows are more likely to be able to bypass national rules and legislation. As a consequence, in the absence of common criteria for the admission of legal migrants, the number of third country citizens entering the EU illegally and without any guarantee of having a declared job – and thus of integrating in our societies – will grow.
The Union aims at developing a balanced approach: it implies the establishing a common immigration policy, covering admission procedures and criteria to legally enter its territory, and ensuring a secure legal status and a better defined set of specific rights to third country nationals temporarily working or staying legally for other reasons in the EU, while carrying out a policy against illegal migration, which is both firm yet respectful of the rights and dignity of third country nationals, including those in an irregular situation in the Union.
Social and economic costs of illegal migration call for rules on return procedures, the conclusion of readmission agreements, and further coordination to combat smuggling and trafficking in human beings.
An in-depth public discussion on the most appropriate form of Community rules for admitting economic migrants and on the added value of adopting such a common framework is currently taking place. On that basis, a policy plan on legal migration including admission procedures will be presented before the end of 2005. It will aim at setting up a system capable of responding promptly to fluctuating demands for migrant labour in the labour market.
For further information:
Towards a common European Union immigration policy:
Public debate on economic migration:
Green paper on "An EU approach to managing economic migration":
4. Schengen reaches adulthood
Internal borders, external borders and visas
Developing an integrated management of external borders for a safer Union
The ensemble of rules known as the “Schengen acquis” ensures the free movement of persons over EU territory. This includes a number of “compensatory measures”, aiming at coordinating controls at external borders and improving coordination between national authorities in order to achieve this goal.
In the coming five years, the Member States that joined the Union in 2004 will be fully integrated in the Schengen area and internal borders checks will be lifted with and between them. This implies the development of a new information system (Schengen Information System II - SIS II), which will become operational in 2007, after thorough evaluation procedures.
The EU is developing an integrated management system for external borders. The Border Management Agency of Warsaw will be responsible for coordinating and assisting Member States’ action in surveillance and controlling of external borders. A first evaluation of its functioning will be carried out in 2007.
In order to enhance travel documents security while maintaining full respect for fundamental rights, biometric identifiers will be integrated in travel and identification documents from 2005 onwards.
The development of an effective visa policy will be facilitated through the availability of the Visa Information System, which is aimed at enhancing exchange of visa data between Member States, thus improving the assessment of visa applications and the verification and identification of applicants. This will call for the reinforcement of the cooperation between Member States to create common application centres for visas, which could be a first step towards a future European common consular service. To that end, the Commission will put forward a Proposal in 2007, in order to satisfy the need for a better synergy in consular activities, regarding both European citizens travelling abroad and third country nationals needing a visa to enter the EU territory.
For further information:
ScadPlus - Schengen acquis:
ScadPlus - Schengen Information System II:
DG JLS web site - Border Management Agency:
DG JLS web site - Integration of biometric identifiers in travel and
• Visa Information System:
5. Building on the European asylum system
A common asylum area
After having built the foundations of a common asylum policy during the past five years, it is now necessary to assess the impact of existing instruments, as well as committing to a second phase of development of the Common European Asylum System (to be completed before the end of 2010).
The future measures will seek to establish a common procedure and uniform status for persons benefiting from asylum or subsidiary protection, in accordance with the Union’s values and humanitarian tradition.
In addition to the completion of the Common European Asylum System the European Union will concurrently assist countries in regions where asylum seekers come from and countries of transit in order to enable them to provide adequate refugee protection in line with international standards. Enhancing the protection capacity of regions of origin will diminish the need for refugees to search protection elsewhere. This will reduce the dangers that asylum seekers have regularly to face while attempting to reach a safe country.
These Regional Protection Programmes will propose concrete and operational measures to be developed in close partnership with the concerned countries and aiming at enhancing protection capacities by enabling refugees to access durable solutions.
In the long term, the Regional Protection Programmes should result in the fulfilment of a range of goals: third countries receiving this support shall adopt or amend their national asylum legislation, thus conforming to international standards and namely to the obligations entailed under the Geneva Convention; reception and admission standards should therefore be enhanced. The Programmes will also provide general assistance for the improvement of the local infrastructure and assistance for return to countries of origin and resettlement.
The Commission will present an action plan for one or more pilot Regional Protection Programme(s) by July 2005.
For further information:
Virtual Documentation Centre - A single roof for asylum in the European Union:
Determining an approach for the external dimension of the European Asylum Policy:
6. Maximising the positive impact of migration
Maximising the positive impact of migration on our society and economy
During the coming years, the European Union will support and encourage Member States to deliver better policies on integration in order to prevent isolation and social exclusion of immigrant communities.
In 2005, a European Framework on Integration based upon common principles will be established to favour greater contact between national authorities and exchange of experiences and information on integration.
Moreover, the edition of a Handbook on Integration will be pursued in 2006. This instrument is intended to provide practitioners (national and local governments, employers, unions, religious organisations, civil society, migrants’ associations, media, NGOs) with examples of best practices, with a view of driving the exchange of information and promoting policy initiatives.
The first edition depicts successful examples of integration policies, concerning introduction courses for newly arrived immigrants (for example, a UK company supplying casual labour that has developed a training scheme for employees who are mostly recently arrived immigrants) and civic participation (in order to develop intercultural competences, religious dialogue and participation in political processes).
For further information:
Handbook on integration:
7. A coherent approach to privacy and security
Privacy and security in sharing of information
Striking the right balance
The need for effective investigations of cross-border criminality and the maintenance of law and order in an area of free movement, which has been exacerbated by the threat of terrorist attacks, led the Union to multiply its efforts to facilitate exchange of information between law enforcement authorities in different Member States.
Member States should use the powers of their intelligence and security services not only to counter menaces to their own security, but also to protect the internal security of other Member States. A high level of exchange of information between law enforcement authorities must be maintained and improved, taking into account the overall principle of availability.
Information for law enforcement purposes needed by the authorities of one Member State should be made available by the authorities of another Member State, subject to certain conditions. In 2005, The Commission will present proposals to this end.
In doing so, the Union needs to strike the right balance between privacy and security in sharing information among law enforcement and judicial authorities.
The lack of a unique legal framework brings about the need for the adoption of new instruments regulating protection of data collected and used for law enforcement and judicial purposes.
Hence, the principle of availability will be balanced with the protection of fundamental rights through the establishment of adequate safeguards for the transfer of personal data; the Commission will adopt a proposal to this aim before the end of 2005.
The Commission is also about to put forward a proposal aiming at regulating and providing specific guarantees in respect of the retention of data processed in connection with the provision of public electronic communication services for the detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences (2005).
In order to follow a coherent approach, tasks within the Commission have been recently redesigned, concentrating responsibilities relating to data protection under the Directorate General “Justice, Freedom and Security” (JLS).
For further information:
Speech by VP Franco Frattini “Data protection in the area of Justice, Freedom and Security”
8. Fighting organised crime: prevention, investigation and cooperation
Developing a strategic concept
Fighting against organised crime is a priority of the Commission’s action. A Communication on “Developing a strategic concept on tackling organised crime”, will be shortly presented which will outline an overall European strategy for the coming years.
The Commission recommends developing common methodologies among national and EU bodies contributing to the fight against organised crime, as well as an EU crime statistics system (that will be created in 2005), collecting information and measuring crime and victimisation in specific groups. Constituting the core of a European Criminal Intelligence Model, this will improve knowledge of the phenomenon and enable decision-makers to define European strategies based on thorough assessments.
The strategic concept on tackling organised crime includes measures designed for strengthening prevention, namely developing a model for crime proofing legislation and new products and services; this should avoid creating new opportunities for organised crime. Further development and implementation of a comprehensive EU anti-corruption policy, together with actions aiming at fostering public sector transparency, should prevent organised crime from infiltrating licit markets. Moreover, Partnerships between the public sector and enterprises are an effective tool for preventing crime in general, and organised crime in particular. The preparation and implementation of an EU Action Plan on Public Private Partnerships is a priority for the Commission in 2006.
Cooperation among national law enforcement services (police, justice, customs) needs to be improved in order to combat organised crime in a more effective way and the potential of Europol and Eurojust has to be fully exploited, for example involving these bodies more closely in the investigation phase of cross-border organised crime cases.
Concurrently, investigation and tools to address financial aspects of organised crime will be strengthened. In particular, the Commission will promote stronger investigation skills (2005) and the establishment of criminal asset intelligence units in EU Member State.
The strategy must also contemplate intensifying cooperation on this issue with third countries and international organisations as one of its priorities.
The prevention of human trafficking, a particularly serious crime involving severe human rights violations, is a primary aim. The Commission will submit a Communication dedicated to combating trafficking in human beings in 2005 which will take an integrated, human rights oriented and victim centred approach.
For further information:
Virtual Documentation Centre - A common EU approach to the fight against transnational organised crime
9. Guaranteeing an effective European area of justice for all
Civil and criminal justice
Aiming at creating an area where effective access to justice is guaranteed, in order to obtain and enforce judicial decisions, the Union must envisage rules on jurisdiction, recognition and conflict of laws, but also measures which build confidence and mutual trust among Member States, creating minimum procedural standards and ensuring high standards of quality of justice systems, in particular as regards fairness and respect for the rights of defence.
Civil and commercial judicial cooperation is a policy area which has a direct impact on the citizens’ daily life. It can ease the recovery of debts across Europe, simplify the procedures or the access to justice by determining clear rules on the law applicable in cases which have cross-border implications. The Commission has already presented a number of legislative proposals to this aim and new legislation in under preparation. This will involve preliminary consultations, on the model of the one launched based on the Green Paper on applicable law and jurisdiction in divorce matters, which aims at gathering opinions and suggestions in view of regulating this specific matter. The increasing mobility of citizens within the European Union has resulted in an increasing number of “international” marriages where the spouses are of different nationalities, or live in different Member States or live in a Member State of which they are not nationals. In the event that an “international” couple decide to divorce, several laws may be invoked. The Green Paper provides examples of situations that could find a suitable solution thanks to a European regulation. For instance, under current legislation, a Finnish-Swedish couple may find out that the conditions for divorce change dramatically in the case they decide to move to Ireland: irrespective of the nationality of the spouses, Irish courts apply Irish law to divorce proceedings, which requires a four years separation period to establish that the marriage has broken down (compared to a six months period under Swedish and Finnish law!). An EU regulation would thus ease and clarify conditions for divorce for a wide number of people (approximately 15 per cent of the divorces pronounced in Germany each year concern couples of different nationalities).
Regarding criminal justice, harmonisation and the establishment of minimum standards of several aspects of procedural law (such as ne bis in idem, handling evidence or judgements in absentia) are instrumental in building mutual confidence and pursuing mutual recognition. Eurojust is a key actor for developing European judicial cooperation in criminal matters: established in 2002, it works with the authorities of the Member States to improve the co-operation and co-ordination of investigations and prosecutions in a wide range of cases, including terrorism, fraud, trafficking in human beings and drugs. Eurojust members – a high-level team of senior prosecutors and judges seconded from each EU country – provide expert knowledge and rapid access to the legal systems of their own country.
Eurojust can pinpoint patterns in European crime more easily than single national authorities. It can recommend that national law-enforcers take specific action and initiate investigations and prosecutions. Eurojust’s role should be supported and its potentialities fully exploited in the light of the experience acquired and in view of future developments.
For further information:
DG JLS web site - Judicial co-operation between Member States in civil and commercial matters is a European Community policy linked to the free circulation of people
Virtual Documentation Centre - Divorce and parental responsibility — mutual recognition of family law decisions throughout the EU
DG JLS web site - Prosecuting criminals and guaranteeing individuals' rights more effectively in free movement Europe
10. Financial resources adequate to policy objectives
Freedom, Security and Justice
Sharing responsibility and solidarity
The Hague Programme underlined the importance of supporting political priorities in the field of Freedom, Security and Justice through adequate funding.
The adoption of the Hague programme has coincided with the preparation of the Commission proposals for the new Financial Perspectives (2007-2013) and this has allowed the Commission to fully ensure coherence between the political priorities defined in the Hague programme and the financial instruments supporting their implementation, in the period 2007-2013.
The proposals for the three framework programmes covering the domains of Freedom, Security and Justice follow closely the structure of the Hague programme. Therefore, policy objectives are associated with adequate resources and seek to give practical meaning to the concepts of shared responsibility and solidarity between Member States:
Currently 0.5% of the total EU budget is dispensed in this area, but over the time, the percentage will gradually increase to 1.3% in 2013. This almost amounts to a trebling of expenditure.
If the amounts proposed for 2007-2013 are compared to the current levels of funding:
The bulk of the funding will go to the programme on Solidarity and management of migration flows (around 60%). The Security and Justice programmes will represent 8% and 6% respectively. The remainder 25% of the funds will be spent on Agencies and External bodies in the JLS field, and on managing large information systems such as VIS and SIS II.
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How the Commission works on Justice, Freedom and Security
DG Justice, Freedom and Security
Directorate General Justice, Freedom and Security (DG JLS) has been created in 1999, from a Task Force of around 80 staff, and it is responsible for a wide range of policies at the Commission level. These namely include:
• Fundamental rights, EU citizenship and fight against racism and xenophobia
• Fight against terrorism
• Free movement of persons, visa policy, the EU external borders policy and the functioning of the Schengen area
• Data protection
• Police and customs cooperation
• Crime prevention
• Fight against organised crime
• Judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters
• Drugs policy coordination
• External relations and enlargement from a justice and home affairs perspective
Comprising nowadays 325 permanent staff and 95 temporary staff, DG JLS is still one of the smallest services of the Commission, but its significant development during the last years gives evidence of the expansion of its tasks and the growing importance of its area of competences at a European level:
For further information:
DG JLS website on Europa: