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Brussels, 8 April 2011

Justice and Home Affairs Council: 11-12 April 2011 in Luxembourg

European Union Justice and Home Affairs Ministers will meet in Luxembourg on 11-12 April 2011. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Viviane Reding, the Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Commissioner, and Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

EU Home Affairs Council: 11 April

Main agenda items:

  • Southern Mediterranean Region

  • Proposal for an EU Passenger Name Record (EU PNR) Directive to fight serious crime and terrorism

Southern Mediterranean region

What is expected at this Council? The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the situation in the Southern Mediterranean in the field of migration and asylum. Commissioner Malmström will report back to JHA ministers on her recent visits in Egypt (on 23-24 March) and Tunisia (on 30-31 March).

Commission's position: In a letter sent to the ministers ahead of the JHA Council, Commissioner Malmström recalled the urgent measures already undertaken by the EU to address the situation in the Southern Mediterranean region, and outlines further steps in short- and long-term. The EU needs to cope with the crisis in a true spirit of solidarity between the Member States and develop a new partnership with the countries of the Southern Mediterranean region.

Background: The European Union has responded in a rapid and effective manner to the crisis developing in the Southern Mediterranean region. The Commission has mobilised €30 million to manage the humanitarian emergency. A Joint Frontex operation, called HERMES 2011, was launched on 20th of February to help Italy with maritime border surveillance, identification of migrants and refugees, as well as search and rescue operations at sea. Additional financial assistance of €25 million has been identified by the Commission and could be mobilised under the External Borders Fund and European Refugee Fund following concrete requests to be made by Member States. It remains necessary to take further action, both with short term measures and by addressing the longer-term challenges as endorsed by the European Council on 11 and 24/25 March.

EU Passenger Name Record (EU PNR)

What is expected at this Council? The Commission will outline its proposal for an EU PNR, which obliges air carriers to provide EU Member States with data on passengers entering or departing from the EU for the purposes of the fight against serious crime and combating terrorism.

Commission's position: The proposed Directive is an important part of EU security policy and will contribute to the fight against serious crime and terrorism. The Commission is looking forward to discussing the issue with Member States and gather their first reactions. Intra EU-flights are not covered by the proposal and the Commission proposed to analyse the need for inclusion at a later stage.

Background: The Commission adopted its proposal for a Directive on EU PNR on 2 February 2011 (IP/11/120 and MEMO/11/60). This text lays down common rules for EU Member States to set up national PNR systems, whilst guaranteeing a high level of protection of privacy and personal data. It replaces the 2007 proposal for a Council Framework Decision on the use of Passenger Name Record data for law enforcement purposes. This new proposal takes into account the views expressed by Member States in Council discussions on the draft Framework decision, as well as the recommendations of the European Parliament as stated in its Resolution of 20 November 2008 and the opinion of the European Data Protection Supervisor.

EU Justice Council: 12 April

Main agenda items:

  • Clearer property rights of international couples

  • An EU agenda for children's rights

  • EU framework for national Roma strategies

  • Implementing the Charter of Fundamental Rights

  • European Investigation Order

Clearer property rights for international couples

In Europe, there are around 16 million international couples, both in marriages and registered partnerships. These couples face legal uncertainties and extra costs when dividing their property in cases of divorce, legal separation or death. Citizens lose time and money figuring out which law applies to their case and which court is competent to help them. Rules vary greatly between countries and sometimes lead to conflicting situations. Parallel legal proceedings in different countries, complex cases and the resulting legal fees cost an estimated €1.1 billion a year.

The European Commission has therefore proposed two EU Regulations to bring legal clarity to the property rights of international couples (IP/11/320). The first deals with married international couples and the second with registered partnerships with an international dimension.

What is expected at this Council? The Commission will for the first time present to the Council its two proposals for a Regulation, which were adopted as a package on 16 March 2011. The legal basis for both proposals requires unanimity in the Council, after consultation of the European Parliament.

Commission position: The two proposed Regulations would help identify which law applies to a couple's property rights and the responsible court. They would also provide for rules for recognising and enforcing court judgments on a couple's property in all EU Member States through a single procedure. The proposals only concern the property consequences of a marriage or registered partnership, not the recognition of civil status as such.

Background: The proposals are the first deliverable of the Commission's October 2010 Citizenship Report (IP/10/1390 and MEMO/10/525), which outlined 25 major practical obstacles that Europeans still face in their daily lives. The proposals are the logical next step following the swift agreement last year on EU legislation to determine which country's rules apply in cross-border divorce cases (IP/10/347 and MEMO/10/695).

An EU agenda for children's rights

On 15 February, the Commission presented an EU agenda for reinforcing the rights of the child by putting the principles of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights into practice (IP/11/156). It includes a series of concrete actions where the EU can provide added value to policies for children's well-being and safety, including promoting child-friendly justice, better informing children about their rights, and making the internet safer for kids.

What is expected at this Council? The Commission will present its Communication on an EU agenda for the rights of the child. The rights of the child are high on the Hungarian Presidency's agenda with particular attention to child friendly justice, protection of vulnerable children, Roma children and missing children.

Commission position: The Commission would like to raise awareness of the newly adopted Communication and highlight the shared responsibility of Member States in implementing it.

Background: The EU agenda lists 11 actions that the Commission will take over the coming years. The initiative aims to reaffirm the strong commitment of EU institutions and Member States to promoting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of the child in all relevant EU policies and to turn them into concrete results. In the future, EU policies that affect children directly or indirectly should be designed, implemented, and monitored taking into account the principle of protecting children’s best interests.

EU Framework for national Roma strategies

Europe's 10-12 million Roma continue to face discrimination, exclusion and the denial of their rights, while governments lose out on increased revenue and productivity because potential talent could go wasted. Better economic and social integration is an imperative – but to be effective, concerted action is needed at all levels to address the multiple causes of exclusion. On 5 April, the Commission put forward an EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP11/400, MEMO/11/216).

What is expected at this Council? The Commission will present its Communication on an EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies. The Hungarian Presidency is planning to adopt Council Conclusions on the Framework at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council on 19 May and to submit a report based on the discussions in the different Council formations (EPSCO, Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), Education, Youth and Culture (EYC)) to the General Affairs Council on 23 May, where there will be an orientation debate. The report will then be submitted to the European Council meeting of June 24 for endorsement by heads of State or government.

Commission position: The Framework will help guide national Roma policies and mobilise funds available at EU level to support integration efforts. The Framework focuses on four pillars: access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing. Member States should set individual national Roma integration goals in proportion to the population on their territory and depending on their starting point.

Background: The Roma – Europe’s largest ethnic minority – have been part of Europe for centuries, but frequently face prejudice, intolerance and discrimination.

Many of the areas for improving Roma integration – such as education, employment, health and housing – are primarily national or regional responsibilities. However, the EU has an important role in coordinating action by Member States and helping with financial tools.

Implementing the Charter of Fundamental Rights

Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (1 December 2009), the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights has been legally binding on the EU institutions when preparing legislation and on Member States when they are implementing EU law. The Charter entrenches all the rights found in the European Convention on Human Rights as well as other rights and principles resulting from the common constitutional tradition of the EU member states, the case law of the European Court of Justice and other instruments.

What is expected at this Council? The Commission will present the 2010 report on implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights

Commission position: The report brings together for the first time a coherent overview of the dynamic application of the Charter with concrete examples.

Background: In March 2011, the Commission adopted the first annual report on the application of the Fundamental Rights Charter (IP/11/386). The annual report is part of the Commission's strategy for effectively implementing the provisions of the Charter (IP/10/1348).

European Investigation Order

On 21 May 2010, seven EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) proposed a European Investigation Order – a system that would ease justice authorities' work in obtaining evidence for transnational criminal proceedings (or investigations). The United Kingdom, which has an opt-out on justice issues, has said it wants to participate in the proposed Directive. The proposal would allow authorities to request their counterparts to investigate, share and gather evidence.

What is expected at this Council? The Hungarian Presidency will try to reach an agreement on the rules for refusing to recognise or execute an investigation order.

Commission position: The Commission noted in a report on 24 August (see IP/10/1067) that the proposal for a simpler, unified system could have advantages if it were backed by appropriate procedural and fundamental rights standards.

The Commission will continue to follow the negotiations closely.

Background: The initiative aims at providing a comprehensive and improved system for gathering of evidence in criminal matters based on the principle of mutual recognition. The authorities in one member state would be able to request another member state to gather evidence in criminal cases.

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