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Brussels, 20 April 2010
European Commission plan to deliver justice, freedom and security to citizens (2010 – 2014)
Why is the Commission adopting this plan?
The European Council of 10-11 December 2009 adopted the Stockholm Programme, a comprehensive framework for EU actions on citizenship, justice, security, asylum and immigration policies for the next five years. This Programme contained 170 initiatives. To focus efforts and to translate these political objectives into concrete proposals, the Commission selected a number of key actions – with clear timetables – for adoption between 2010 and 2014.
The EU is facing increasing threats from organised and cross-border criminals, who are taking advantage of the EU's Single Market and border-free area. Traffickers in arms, drugs and human beings will face tougher measures. At the same time, there can be no security without justice. The rights and integrity of individuals will be further safeguarded: from the protection of personal data and privacy to the support of crime victims, suspects in criminal proceedings, migrants' rights and a legally secure and transparent asylum system.
The action plan is focused on citizens and ensuring that they can fully exercise their rights and benefit from European integration. Security, justice and fundamental rights issues are treated in a coherent approach to meet current and future challenges.
What is the procedure now?
The Commission plan should be politically endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council.
According to the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission will work with the European Parliament, the Council and EU governments and parliaments to adopt the measures in today's plan. Under the Lisbon Treaty, most justice and home affairs 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.
When will there be concrete results of today's plan?
The plan provides a clear timetable for adoption and implementation of the measures. The goal is to implement the measures before the end of 2014.
Several initatives have already been taken. The Commission has, for example, proposed measures to help citizens and to boost security, including the strengthening the European agency for border control, Frontex (IP/10/184), and adopting a proposal to allow international couples to choose the applicable law for a divorce (IP/10/347).
How does the plan affect EU citizens’ daily lives?
The Commission’s action plan will help EU citizens when they exercise their right to live, work, study or travel outside their home countries. Administrative burdens will be reduced by easing recognition of official documents. It also deals with data protection, children’s rights, racism, violence against women, migration and asylum. It addresses everyday security threats and safety concerns: cybercrime, identity theft, smuggling, customs issues, unaccompanied minors, trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children. These problems affect all Member States and require a pan-European approach.
Today's plan includes the following 10 initiatives to bring more security to Europeans and a responsible answer to migration:
1. Defining a comprehensive Internal security strategy aimed at strengthening cooperation in police cooperation, border management, civil protection, disaster management as well as criminal judicial cooperation in order to make Europe more secure (Communication; 2010). The strategy and all related actions will need to address common security threats from terrorism and organised crime, to safety concerns related to man-made and natural disasters:
Fight against terrorism
2. Negotiating a long-term agreement with the US on the processing and transfer of financial messaging data in the framework of the Terrorist Financing Tracking Programme (TFTP) (international agreement; 2010).
TFTP-derived information has already helped in the past to investigate and disrupt terrorism plots. In 2010, the Commission will negotiate a long-term agreement with the US, with a mandate including significant data protection guarantees such as a strict counter terrorism purpose limitation, an absolute prohibition on transfers on bulk data to third countries (only leads can be transferred). It aims at a potential limitation of the amount of personal data that is transferred to US authorities. The EU will have the right to terminate the Agreement in the event of breach of any of the data protection safeguards.
Fight against crime
3. Looking at an EU approach to the use of Passenger Name Record (EU-PNR) data for law enforcement purposes (legislative proposal; 2010) and creating a European framework for the communication of PNR data to third countries (Communication; 2010).
The objectives of the proposal are the prevention of and fight against terrorism and organised crime, allowing law enforcement authorities access to a tool (PNR data) enabling them to identify persons associated with these offenses, as well as using PNR data for trend analysis and development of risk indicators.
The Framework Decision on the protection of personal data in the context of police cooperation in criminal matters will govern aspects of data protection.
4. Criminalising identity theft and setting a European strategy on identity management (legislative proposal; 2012).
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world today, clearly linked to organised crime and that affects governments, businesses and citizens.
5. Protecting European citizens from attacks against information systems and cybercrime (legislative proposal; 2010).
The Commission will in 2010 propose a new directive on attacks against information systems. The directive will build on the existing Framework Decision on attacks against information (Council Framework Decision 2005/222/JHA of 24 February 2005 on attacks against information systems), seeking specifically to deter large-scale attacks originating from the EU or targeting it.
Visa policy and border security
6. Reinforcing border security by setting up an entry-exit system for visa holders (legislative proposal; 2011). The entry/exit system will replace the current practice of stamping the passports of third-country nationals at each entry and exit to monitor compliance with the rules on short stays. The system should include the recording of information on the time and place of entry, the length of stay authorised, and the transmission of automated alerts directly to the competent authorities, should a person be identified as 'overstayer', both at the time this occurs and upon departure from the EU.
7. Evaluating and if necessary amending the data retention directive (evaluation report and if needed legislative proposal; 2010-2012).
The evaluation will assess the application of the Directive by Member States, and its impact on businesses and consumers. It will also assess technological developments in the telecoms sector.
The evaluation report is due to be adopted by the Commission in autumn 2010, and will be made public. The outcome of this evaluation will play an important role in determining whether amendments to the Directive needed.
8. Clearing the conditions of entry and residence of third country nationals for purposes of seasonal employment and admission of third country nationals in the framework of intra-corporate transfer (legislative proposals; 2010)
It is obvious that the EU, despite the current economic crisis we are facing, has a long-term demographic challenge. Even though the unemployment rates are high, we also have an ageing population. If we are to secure our welfare, we need to open more legal ways into Europe.
In the context of the current economic crisis, it is particularly important to avoid employers from one Member State competing unfairly with their counterparts from another Member State, due to different national regimes for employing third-country seasonal workers.
Furthermore, the Schengen area without internal borders requires common rules to ensure a well-functioning admission of seasonal workers.
Finally, an EU instrument on seasonal workers is crucial for ensuring effective cooperation with third countries and developing further the global approach to migration. When discussing irregular migration, it is crucial that we also look at the possibilities of providing legal ways to enter Europe.
9. Taking special care of unaccompanied minors in the migration process (Communication; 2010)
The challenge of unaccompanied minors is growing. Every year a considerable number of third-country nationals or stateless persons below the age of 18 arrive to the European Union unaccompanied by an adult. The Action Plan will address this challenge by proposing a common EU approach based on the respect of the rights of the child.
There are four main strands of action within this area: prevention, protection, reception and the identification of durable solutions such as return and reintegration in the country of origin, a legal status in the Member State of residence or resettlement.
These actions will be implemented by a series of concrete measures which will be outlined in the Action Plan and which will not be limited to immigration policies, but will also address the root causes of migration.
Common EU asylum system
10. Introducing the joint processing of asylum applications within the European Union, fostering solidarity between Member States and creating a framework for the transfer of protection of beneficiaries of international protection and mutual recognition of asylum decisions (Communication; 2014).
In December 2008, the Commission presented the first concrete proposals to implement the Policy Plan on Asylum (IP/08/948) and the Pact on Immigration and Asylum (IP/08/1473). They aimed to amend three of the existing legislative instruments of the Common European Asylum System: the Directive on reception conditions for asylum-seekers; the Dublin Regulation which determines the Member State responsible for an asylum application; and the Eurodac Regulation, a data base containing the fingerprints of asylum seekers, which supports the operation of the Dublin Regulation. The proposal aims to ensure that all asylum-seekers are treated in a fair and equal way wherever they make their request for asylum in the EU, and to enhance the efficiency of the EU asylum system.
In the years to come, the Commission will continue this work, with the aim to create a common EU asylum system that treats people with dignity and full respect for the fundamental rights and with a strong focus on solidarity. There is also an ongoing pilot project which aims at facilitating the resettlement of beneficiaries of international protection from those countrieshaving asylum systems that currently are under pressure.
In 2011, the Commission will establish a mechanism to review the Member States' national asylum systems and identify the issues related to capacities which will enable Member States to support each other in building capacity.
In the justice, fundamental rights and citizenship area, the Commission plan includes the following 10 concrete actions to help Europeans work, study and travel in the EU and to support economic activity in the Single Market:
1. Protecting personal data
European legislation and Treaties guarantee the protection of personal data (Article 8 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights). The 1995 European Data Protection Directive ensures that EU citizens' data are protected in the context of all EU policies, including law enforcement, crime prevention and international relations. This also includes the use and development of new technologies, such as RFID devices, social networking sites or security scanners at airports.
The Commission will tackle these issues with two concrete actions. First, before the end of the year, the Data Protection Directive will be modernised to respond to the latest technological developments and to integrate in a coherent way the already existing data protection instruments in the area of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA). The same data protection principles should apply – no matter whether your data are processed for commercial or public enforcement principles (legislative proposal before the end of 2010).
Second, the Commission will present a negotiation text by June for an "umbrella" data protection agreement between the EU and the US. This data protection agreement will set out which data can be shared with the US for law enforcement purposes exclusively (data for commercial purposes are not covered). The agreement aims to provide legal certainty and a set of clearly defined rights for EU citizens, such as the possibility to file complaints about misused data. EU citizens' complaints should be handled in the same manner as American citizens in US courts (legislative proposal, June 2010).
2. Stronger procedural rights for suspects in criminal proceedings
As more Europeans travel, study and work outside their home countries,1 the chance that they become involved in criminal proceedings increases. It is important to ensure that they still receive a fair trial if this occurs.
The Commission on 9 March took the first step and proposed robust translation and interpretation rights for suspects in criminal proceedings (IP/10/249, MEMO/10/122). The next step will follow this summer on the right to information (letter of rights and information on charges). Further procedural rights will be added progressively: a proposal on the right to legal advice and legal aid (legislative proposal, 2011), the right to communicate with relatives and consular authorities (legislative proposal, 2012), a proposal to protect the especially vulnerable – e.g. children – in criminal proceedings (legislative proposal, 2013).
3. Better protection for EU citizens abroad
EU citizens must feel protected when they travel outside their home country and the EU. Any EU citizen who is in a country where his or her Member State is not represented needs to be sure of receiving consular assistance from embassies or consulates of any other Member State on the same conditions as their nationals. Diplomatic and consular protection in third countries is an important part of EU-Citizenship. The Lisbon Treaty (Article 20 TFEU) provides the EU with the competence to adopt legislation in this area. The Commission will present legislative proposals on improving financial compensation of consular protection in crisis situations (legislative proposal, 2011) and implementing the right to consular protection (legislative proposal, 2011).
There are more 500,000 cross-border road accidents a year in Europe. EU law has helped resolve which country's law applies to those accidents, but citizens are confronted with massive confusion with insurance claims. They may have a short time period to file a claim. The Commission could harmonise these limitation periods for liability, giving consumers and businesses more legal certainty (legislative proposal, 2011).
The Package Travel Directive is outdated following changes in technology and new market developments (IP/09/1824). The Directive dates to 1990 when most holidays in Europe were packaged trips. EU citizens (56%) organise their holidays themselves rather than buying pre-defined packages. As a result, fewer consumers are protected when they go on holiday. Consumers are using so-called "dynamic packages" to put together their own travel arrangements through Internet-based services. This trend has created legal uncertainty for businesses and consumers. A revised Directive will clarify legal "grey zones" and possibly extend the scope to ensure that more dynamic packages are covered (legislative proposal, 2011).
4. More legal certainty for international marriages
Following an EU proposal to allow international couples to choose which country's law applies to their divorce (IP/10/347, MEMO/10/100), the Commission will make a similar proposal this year on which law will apply when it comes to the division of couples' property during these proceedings (legislative proposal, 2010).
5. Less administrative burdens for citizens
Europeans who want to get married, adopt a child or change their civil status should not face additional administrative burdens if they are outside their home country. For example, a Finnish woman who falls in love with a man from the UK would have to submit a certificate of no impediment from the UK to get married. The UK does not provide such documents. To avoid these kinds of situations, the Commission will propose a law for the mutual recognition of certain civil status documents (legislative proposal, 2013).
6. Helping businesses to operate cross-border
If companies are to invest and operate cross-border, they need to have trust in Europe's Single Market – especially in today's economic context. At present, companies only recover 37% of cross-border debts while more than 60% of cross-border debts cannot be enforced. To address this problem and stimulate the incentive to do business cross-border, the Commission will propose legislation on a European "attachment" of bank accounts. This measure will ensure that money that is owed does not disappear (legislative proposal, 2010).
Legal certainty is crucial for motivating businesses to do commerce across borders. If you know the rules of the country where you would like to do business, you will be much more willing to offer your services/goods rather than studying different 27 regimes. These 27 contractual regimes will remain. The Commission is preparing an additional and optional contract law instrument – something similar to the US Uniform Commercial Code. Companies could then choose to apply this instrument to their contractual relations – no matter in which EU country they have their business (Communication, 2010).
7. Fighting violence against women
Combating violence against women is a top priority for the Commission. When a judge delivers a protection order for a spouse, she should be able to travel or move to another Member State and be assured that the order will be upheld. The Commission will present comprehensive legislation on protecting victims. The proposals will include practical measures to develop a European Protection Order (legislative proposal, 2011).
8. Enhancing victims' rights
Crime affects one out of four Europeans every year. When people are abroad, they often don’t know where to turn for help or protection. It is also harder to report a crime or to receive compensation.
Justice systems need to be sensitive to victims' needs, whether as witnesses, getting support from counsellors, overcoming trauma or receiving compensation.
The Commission will propose comprehensive rules on victims' rights. These proposals will set common standards for legal systems for treating victims. The measures will cover every stage in the justice process from the police and judges to medical officers and counsellors (legislative proposal, 2011).
9. Protecting children
Parents and children need to be able to call help quickly and free of charge while travelling in the EU. In the UK and Belgium, more than 7,500 children were reported missing in 2007 (www.missingchildreneurope.eu). Public concern about child safety has been heightened by cases like the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal. In 2007, the Commission took action by reserving, at national level, six-digit numbers starting with 116 for missing children hotlines (116000) and for help lines (116111) with which children can seek assistance.
After having closely monitored that 116000 is reserved by EU countries, the Commission last year urged Member States to support 116000 hotline operators so that parents and children can call 116000 when they need it, everywhere in Europe. (IP/09/276).
The Commission plans to propose a Regulation on EU hotlines for missing children in 2012.
10. Better justice enforcement across Europe
For criminal investigators to do their job properly, they often need to cooperate with their colleagues in different countries. That is why a network of national prosecutors, magistrates, or police officers called Eurojust was established in October 1999.
To remove obstacles to effective law enforcement, Member States already cooperate through EU agencies and bodies such as Eurojust. The Commission will propose giving Eurojust powers to directly initiate investigations. At the same time, the proposals would make Eurojust's internal structure more efficient and involve the European Parliament and national parliaments in evaluating Eurojust's activities (legislative proposal in 2012).
These steps may lead to the creation of the European Public Prosecutor Office, which would deal with investigating and prosecuting offences against the EU's financial interests, such as tax fraud. The Lisbon Treaty (Article 86 TFEU) outlines this option for Eurojust (Communication 2013).