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Brussels, 8 June 2011

Justice and Home Affairs Council: 9-10 June 2011 in Luxembourg

European Union Justice and Home Affairs Ministers will meet in Luxembourg on 9-10 June 2011. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, and Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

EU Home Affairs Council: 9-10 June

Main agenda items:

  • Asylum Package

  • Strengthening Frontex

  • Migration Package

  • Schengen evaluation: Romania and Bulgaria

  • Anti-corruption Package

1. Asylum package

What is expected at this Council? The Council will discuss the state of play concerning progress on the establishment of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) in 2012. Ministers will also have a first exchange of views on the modified proposals on the Asylum Procedures and Reception Conditions Directives which was adopted recently by the Commission.

Commission's position: The Commission stresses the importance of making substantive progress to reach a global compromise package in the coming months. The modified proposals should facilitate the negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament and enable progress on all the remaining instruments of the CEAS.

Background: On 1 June, the Commission adopted revised proposals amending the Directives on Asylum Procedures and on Reception Conditions (IP/11/665). The proposed modifications are aimed at ensuring faster, fairer and more efficient rules that will benefit both the Member States and the refugees themselves. In general:

  • Amendments to the current Asylum Procedures Directive will improve the efficiency and quality of national asylum systems. The modified proposal would ensure a fast and fair common asylum procedure. It guarantees that applications are treated similarly in all Member States and should reduce Member States' costs by enabling them to deliver decisions more quickly, by giving them more flexibility to adapt procedural obligations to the specificities of national asylum systems, and by facilitating the tackling of abuse.

  • Amendments to the existing Receptions Conditions Directive will result in more harmonised and coherent reception systems. They will make sure that the same dignified standards of living for asylum seekers are applied throughout the EU, irrespective of where an asylum application has been made.

The revised proposals are important steps towards the establishment of a common area of protection and solidarity based on a common asylum procedure and a uniform status for those granted international protection. The June European Council should set general orientations for further work regarding the completion of the CEAS (for a state of play of the negotiations on the different elements, see MEMO/11/365).

2. Strengthening Frontex

What is expected at this Council? The Hungarian Presidency will provide the state of play on negotiations on the revision of the Regulation of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex).

Commission's position: The Commission expects that the European Parliament and the Council will deploy all necessary efforts to find an agreement on the Commission's proposals by the end of June, as requested by the European Council, and considering that such an agreement would help Frontex to better assist the EU in facing the current migration situation in the Southern Mediterranean.

Background: The March European Council called for an agreement on the Regulation in June 2011, which will be essential for effective and credible controls at the EU external border.

It is necessary that the European Union's border management agency is given a stronger operational mandate through a revision of its legal basis, which the Commission tabled in February 2010 (IP/10/184 and MEMO/10/45). The proposals include reinforcing the legal framework to ensure full respect of fundamental rights during Frontex activities and enhancing the operational capacity of Frontex to support Member States. Member States would put more equipment and more personnel at the Agency's disposal. Frontex would be able to co-lead border patrol operations with EU Member States or lease and buy its own assets (such as vessels or helicopters). It would also be allowed to provide technical assistance and to deploy liaison officers to third countries.

3. Migration package

What is expected at this Council? During the extraordinary Council on 12 May Member States supported the main lines of action proposed by the Commission in its Communication adopted on 4 May. Since then, the Commission has adopted the Communication on "Migration and Asylum in the EU in 2010" and the Communication on a "Dialogue for Migration, Mobility and Security with the Southern Mediterranean".

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on Borders, Migration and Asylum.

Commission's position: The Commission welcomes the adoption of Council conclusions and expects that the discussion on the Commission's initiatives will help prepare the ground for a comprehensive debate on European asylum and migration policy during the European Council in Brussels on 24 June 2011.

Background: On 24 May 2011 the Commission adopted a package of measures aimed at a better management of migration flows from the Southern Mediterranean region (IP/11/629). In particular, the Commission adopted:

  • The Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum (2010), which highlights the main developments at the EU and national levels in the field of migration last year (MEMO/11/329).

  • A Communication on a "Dialogue for migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean countries", which aims to establish mobility partnerships between the EU and North African countries (MEMO/11/330).

These initiatives are a follow up to the Communication on Migration adopted on 4 May 2011 which details the components of a wide ranging policy on migration, addresses the current crisis in the Southern Mediterranean and looks at migration and asylum issues also in the longer term (IP/11/532 and MEMO/11/273).

4. Schengen evaluation: Romania and Bulgaria

What is expected at this Council? The Council will adopt conclusions recognizing the efforts of Bulgaria and Romania to fulfil all criteria and maintaining a perspective for accession to the Schengen area.

Commission's position: The Commission welcomes the fact that, given their very considerable efforts, Romania and Bulgaria were now found to meet the Schengen criteria, after three years of evaluation.

Background: Schengen evaluations are carried out by Member State experts. Their reports form the basis for a decision to lift internal border control. This decision is made unanimously in the Council, after consultation of the European Parliament. No proposal from the Commission is required. The Commission participates as an observer in the evaluation.

Schengen evaluations started in 2009 and several on-the-spot visits have taken place since, concerning police cooperation, data protection, visas, sea borders, air borders or land borders. The last visit to the external land borders took place in Bulgaria in March 2011.

5. Anti-corruption package

What is expected at this Council? The Commission will present its Anti-corruption package, a strategic initiative adopted on 6 June 2011.

Commission's position: The Commission hopes Member States will support the approach for a stronger commitment at national and European level in order to fight corruption more vigorously, as foreseen by the Stockholm programme.

Background: On 6 June the Commission proposed a set of measures to address the serious harm corruption causes to European societies (IP/11/678 and MEMO/11/376). The core of its initiatives is the establishment of a new evaluation mechanism, the EU Anti-Corruption Report, to assess anti-corruption efforts in the EU. Apart from a stronger monitoring and a proper implementation of existing legal instruments against corruption, the Commission also proposes a wide range of actions to ensure that there is a stronger focus on corruption in all relevant EU policies.

The Anti-corruption package consists of:

  • A Communication on fighting corruption in the EU, which presents the objectives of the EU Anti-Corruption Report and the practical aspects of its functioning. The Communication also explains how the EU should place greater emphasis on corruption in all relevant internal and external policies;

  • A Commission Decision establishing this EU anti-corruption reporting mechanism;

  • A Report on the implementation of Council Framework Decision 2003/568/JHA on combating corruption in the private sector;

  • A Report on the modalities of EU participation in the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

EU Justice Council: 10 June

Main agenda items:

  • Successions

  • Improving victims' rights

  • Protecting the EU's financial interests

  • European Investigation Order

1. Successions

There are around 4.5 million successions a year in the EU, of which about 10% have an international dimension. These successions are valued at about €123 billion a year.

EU-wide coordination is needed to ensure that such successions are treated efficiently. On 14 October 2009, the Commission proposed (IP/09/1508) allowing one authority to deal with a succession under a single law, which would – by default – be the habitual residence of the deceased.

What is expected at this Council? The Hungarian EU Presidency, which has actively sought to reach an agreement, is hopeful that the justice ministers can reach a political compromise to submit to the Council of Ministers for final adoption.

Commission position: After two years of work at technical level, the time has come to agree on political guidelines for future work. The Commission supports a compromise.

Background: The rules applicable to international successions are highly complex and difficult to predict. The rules governing jurisdiction and the law applicable vary considerably from one Member State to another. This leads to great legal uncertainty and distress for people who want to plan their succession and their heirs, or who may become embroiled in legal and administrative difficulties on inheriting property in another Member State.

2. Improving victims' rights

Throughout the EU, an estimated 75 million people every year fall victim to crime. Such events can have devastating physical, emotional and financial consequences for victims and their families. Whether a person has been mugged or injured during a terrorist attack, all victims should be treated with respect, offered protection and support, and be able to access justice. But current laws across the EU can be patchy, and do not always meet these basic needs.

What is expected at this Council? The Hungarian Presidency will present its roadmap for strengthening the rights and protection of victims.

Commission position: The Commission will present its recently adopted package of measures to improve victims' rights (IP/11/585). The Commission is proposing a package of measures to ensure a minimum level of rights, support and protection for victims across the EU, no matter where they come from or live. Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has the explicit competence to legislate on the rights of victims of crime.

Background: The Commission presented its 'victims' package' on 18 May 2011. The package contained a series of measures that address the quality of treatment that victims receive in the aftermath of crime and during the criminal proceedings that follow. These measures aim to ensure that victims receive the same minimum standard of treatment, including non-discriminatory access to justice, in all EU Member States, irrespective of their nationality or country of residence. The 2001 Framework Decision on the standing of victims is both insufficient and poorly implemented and needs replacing with a new Directive which provides much clearer rights, obligations and responsibilities.

3. Protecting the EU's financial interests

On 26 May 2011, the European Commission set out a series of measures enabling prosecutors and judges across the EU to fight fraud against the European Union’s financial interests more effectively. The Commission plans to strengthen substantive criminal law by clarifying definitions of crime such as embezzlement or abuse of power and by reinforcing the capacities of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and Eurojust (the EU's judicial cooperation body).

What is expected at this Council? The Commission will present its recently adopted policy Communication on protecting the EU's financial interests through criminal law (IP/11/664).

Commission position: Protecting taxpayers’ money is a priority for the Commission. Taxpayers must have the confidence and trust that European Union funds are only used for carrying out policies approved by EU lawmakers.

: The wide variety of legal systems in Europe makes protecting the EU’s financial interests a particular challenge. Fraud and corruption involving EU funds at the national level can come in many forms. Criminals can illegally obtain EU funds for agricultural, research, education or infrastructure projects. They also could try to influence public officials with bribes.

Currently, police, prosecutors and judges in the EU Member States decide – if they do at all – how to intervene to protect EU finances on the basis of their own national rules. As a result, the conviction rate in cases involving crimes against the EU budget varies considerably across the EU, ranging from 14% to 80%.

4. European Investigation Order

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

What is expected at this Council? The Hungarian Presidency is seeking a partial general agreement.

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. Any new instrument on evidence should offer added value, go beyond the achievements of the current fragmented legislative regime (Conventions on Mutual Assistance 1959 and 2000, European Evidence Warrant of 2008), and comply with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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.

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