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Brussels, 4 June 2014
Justice and Home Affairs Council 5-6 June 2014 in Luxembourg
European Union Justice and Home Affairs Ministers will meet in Luxembourg on 5-6 June 2014. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner and Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.
Main agenda items for Home Affairs Ministers (5 June):
Main agenda items for Justice Ministers (5 and 6 June):
Home Affairs Council (5 June):
1. Revised EU strategy for combating radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism
What is expected at this Council? The JHA Council is expected to adopt the revised strategy for combating Radicalisation and Recruitment to Terrorism.
Commission's position: The latest evolutions of the terrorist threat and of radicalisation patterns clearly call for an update of our policies in this area. The Commission welcomes the adoption of the new strategy which includes several proposals that were put forward by the Commission in its January 2014 Communication on radicalisation (IP/14/18)
Background: Since 2005, efforts against radicalisation have been guided by the EU Strategy for Combating Radicalisation and Recruitment (last revised in 2008). While recognising EU Member States' authority as security-providers, the strategy contains joint standards and measures that aim at preventing terrorist radicalisation and recruitment, grouped under three key headings:
In order to contribute to reviewing the EU Strategy, the Commission adopted (last January) a Communication identifying 10 areas in which Member States and the EU are called to reinforce their actions to prevent all types of extremism that leads to violence, regardless of who inspires it. Proposed measures include the creation of a European knowledge hub on violent extremism, the development of training for frontline practitioners and financial support for projects making use of modern communication tools and social media to counter terrorist propaganda.
2. Fight against terrorism: Foreign fighters and returnees from a counter-terrorism perspective, in particular with regard to Syria
What is expected at this Council? The recent attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels shows that the phenomenon of Foreign Fighters returning from Syria is a serious concern for European security. Interior Ministers will discuss ways to better address the threat foreign fighters and returnees represent for the EU internal security, including on the basis of documents presented by the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator.
Commission's position: The challenges posed by foreign fighters to the EU internal security concern the full cycle of the fight against terrorism - from the prevention of radicalisation, to exit strategies, including detection of outgoing and returning movements of people and funds, access to and smuggling of weapons and explosives, etc. The Commission, within its competences, will continue to mobilise all relevant instruments and policies.
Background: The terrorist threat has in part shifted away from organised groups to individuals, including so-called foreign fighters, who are harder to detect, and whose actions are harder to predict. These individuals have the potential to utilise their training, combat experience, knowledge and contacts for terrorist activities inside the EU.
During the JHA Council in December 2013, Ministers identified four priority areas where the EU action in support of Member States' efforts would be particularly useful: prevention, information exchange, criminal justice response and cooperation with third countries.
Fighting terrorism and violent extremism requires a comprehensive approach and to work with a broad range of partners, including front line professionals. To this end the Commission has set up and supports the Radicalisation Awareness Network (see for instance IP/13/59 and MEMO/13/40) which supports Member States' efforts to prevent violent radicalisation and the recruitment of individuals to terrorist activities and carries out work in directly relevant areas, e.g. radicalisation in jails.
3. Future developments in the Home Affairs area
What is expected at this Council? The Council will have an exchange of views on the basis of a paper presented by the Greek Presidency on the future of Home Affairs policies. Discussions will also take into account the Commission's input. This will help preparing the "strategic guidelines" that the European Council is set to adopt at the end of June.
Commission's position: Significant progress has already been made over the past five years, but efforts to ensure an open and secure Europe need to continue. There is a need to fully implement the agreed legislation and existing instruments and to ensure that the EU is able to respond to opportunities and challenges ahead.
Background: The Stockholm Programme that has framed Home Affairs policies from 2010 to 2014 is coming to an end. In May the Commission has presented its vision on the future agenda for Home Affairs (IP/14/234): efforts should reflect common priorities and future needs and express the solidarity and shared responsibility that are fundamental to keeping Europe open and secure.
Europe will need to respond to issues like increasing international mobility, demographic developments, shortages of the EU's labour market, instability in the direct neighbourhood of Europe and rapid developments in modern technology that also bring new security challenges. At the same time the economic interests of the EU need to be reflected much more strongly in the future Home Affairs agenda.
Many of those challenges can only be met through strong cooperation between the Member States, the EU institutions and EU Agencies and third countries.
4. Task Force for the Mediterranean
What is expected at this Council? In line with the conclusions of the European Council in December the European Commission will report on the implementation of the Task Force Recommendations to the JHA Council (IP/13/1199).
Commission's position: The Commission is committed to ensure that actions identified by the Task Force Mediterranean are implemented, including to: better cooperate with countries of origin and transit of the migrants, open new ways for legal migration while at the same time fighting together the criminal networks that are behind these deadly journeys.
Background: Following last year tragedy in Lampedusa, the Commission had proposed ways and taken measures to better address migratory and asylum flows, and prevent migrants' death in the Mediterranean.
In view of the discussion in tomorrow's Justice and Home Affairs Council the Commission has issued an overview of the concrete steps taken so far. The main actions and initiatives are presented in a Staff Working Document ('Implementation of the Communication on the Work of the Task Force Mediterranean').
1. Future developments in the justice area (5 June)
The Stockholm programme, which has until now governed work in the Justice and Home Affairs area, comes to an end in December. At its summit on 26 and 27 June, the European Council is set to adopt "strategic guidelines" for future work in these fields as set out in Article 68 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The European Commission presented its vision for the future of justice policies earlier this year (IP/14/233).
What is expected at this Council? The Council will have an exchange of views on the basis of a paper presented by the Greek Presidency of the EU. Discussions will also take into account the Commission's input. This will help contribute preparing the "strategic guidelines" that the European Council is set to adopt at the end of June.
Commission position: The Commission believes that in the coming years work has to focus on dealing with three main challenges: trust, mobility and growth. Justice policies can be a key tool to deliver these objectives. Focusing on strategic objectives is more efficient than producing long lists of measures to be adopted, the Commission believes.
Background: After the March Justice Council had a first debate on the future of justice policies, the European Commission presented its vision in March (MEMO/14/174). Progress towards a fully functioning European Area of Justice should be made by enhancing trust, facilitating mobility and contributing to economic growth. This can be done by consolidating what has already been achieved, codifying EU law and practice and complementing where necessary the existing framework with new initiatives.
Justice Council: 6 June
2. EU Data Protection Reform
The European Commission proposed a reform of the EU's data protection rules in January 2012 to strengthen online privacy rights and boost Europe's digital economy (see IP/12/46 and MEMO/14/60). Technological progress and globalisation have profoundly changed the way our data is collected, accessed and used. That's why new rules are needed that will not only apply to European companies but also to non-European companies when they provide services to EU citizens.
Another important objective of the Commission's data protection reform is to simplify bureaucratic procedures and complete the digital Single Market. The proposed one-stop-shop is a central element of the reform as it will ensure that companies and citizens will only have to deal with one single supervisory authority, not 28 or more. Supervisory authorities will be applying one single law – a Regulation – instead of a patchwork of divergent laws which make life more difficult and more expensive for citizens and companies alike. One single law and the one-stop shop for enforcement of the rules as proposed by the Commission will do away with the current fragmentation and red tape, leading to savings for businesses of around €2.3 billion a year.
"Companies need legal certainty about the conditions that need to be met to transfer data outside Europe. Citizens need legal guarantees that their data is protected inside and outside Europe. I am confident that in the coming days we can make good progress on the rules governing international data transfers," said Vice-President Viviane Reding ahead of the Council meeting.
The central question of the territorial scope of the proposal, the rules governing international transfers and the mechanism for a uniform enforcement of the rules across the EU (the one-stop-shop) are on the agenda of this Justice Council.
The discussions will take place just a few weeks after the European Court of Justice's landmark ruling on 'the right to be forgotten' in which the Court confirmed that EU law applies to non-European companies and to search engines if they do business in Europe. The Court also confirmed the existence of the right to be forgotten, the scope of which is refined in the proposed EU data protection reform (see factsheet on the right to be forgotten ruling).
What is expected at this Council? Ministers are expected to reach a partial general approach (an agreement on certain provisions of the reform) on the rules governing transfers of personal data outside the EU. They are also expected to confirm that EU rules should apply to all companies, even those not established in the EU (territorial scope), as long as they handle data of European citizens. On the one-stop-shop, a general discussion is expected.
Commission position: Following the endorsement by Justice Ministers of the one-stop principle in the October 2013 Justice Council, and of the territorial scope of application of the Regulation in the March 2014 Justice Council, the Commission looks forward to further progress, notably on the rules regarding international transfers. The Commission is of the opinion that international transfers should only take place within a clear and enforceable legal framework. The Commission welcomes the Greek Presidency's work on Chapter V of the Regulation.
Background: Personal data is increasingly being transferred across borders – both virtual and geographical – and stored on servers in multiple countries both within and outside the EU. That is for example how cloud computing works. This requires strong rules for the protection of personal data which at the same time ease the flow of personal data across borders without loopholes or unnecessary complexity. To respond to these challenges, the Commission has proposed a system which will ensure a level of protection similar to that which exists within the EU whenever data is transferred to third countries. This includes clear rules defining when EU law is applicable to companies or organisations established outside the EU. The Commission also proposed streamlined procedures for so-called adequacy decisions which recognise a third country as being "adequate" when it comes to data protection and thus allow for a free flow of information between the EU and non-EU countries.
The European Parliament has already given its backing to the Commission's proposals, in March 2014 (MEMO/14/186). Now it is the turn of the Council to act.
3. Better protection for children in criminal court proceedings
Judicial systems in Europe are still insufficiently adapted to the specific vulnerabilities and needs of children. Every year in the EU, roughly 1.086.000 children face criminal justice proceedings, a number which represents 12% of the total European population facing criminal justice proceedings. With a series of proposals (IP/13/1157, MEMO/13/1046), the Commission wants to ensure that the highest possible standards are guaranteed for children in criminal proceedings. This means that children should not be able to waive their right to be assisted by a lawyer, as there is a high risk that they would not understand the consequence of their actions. Children are also set to benefit from other safeguards such as being promptly informed about their rights, being assisted by their parents (or other appropriate persons), not being questioned in public hearings, the right to receive medical examination and the right to be kept separate from adults inmates if deprived of liberty.
What is expected at this Council? The Council is expected to reach a general approach (initial agreement allowing the start of negotiations with the European Parliament) on the Directive guaranteeing safeguards for children in criminal proceedings.
Commission position: The Commission is grateful to the Greek Presidency of the EU for the swift work carried out, and is satisfied that the agreement reached in this Council opens the door for trilogue discussions between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission under the Italian Presidency in the second half of the year.
Background: Around 1 million children in the EU are estimated to come into formal contact with the police and judiciary every year. All relevant international standards (the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights) recognise that children are vulnerable due to their insufficient maturity. It is also generally recognised that they need specific safeguards in criminal proceedings which should enable them to understand and follow the proceedings. The fair trial rights of children throughout the various stages of criminal proceedings are, at present, not sufficiently guaranteed within the EU. Breaches of their fair trial rights have been raised and acknowledged in many cases before the European Court of Human Rights. This proposal forms part of the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child that aims to promote child-friendly justice.
4. Protecting taxpayers’ money against fraud by establishing a European Public Prosecutor's Office
To better protect European taxpayers’ money against fraud, the European Commission proposed on 17 July 2013 to establish a European Public Prosecutor's Office (IP/13/709). The Office’s exclusive task will be to investigate and prosecute and, where relevant, bring to judgment – in the Member States' courts - crimes affecting the EU budget. The European Public Prosecutor's Office will be an independent institution, subject to democratic oversight.
What is expected at this Council? Justice Ministers will discuss the state of play on the proposal for the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor's office. Ministers will hold a debate on the two central elements of the European Public Prosecutor's office: its structure and its competence. A common understanding of these two main features will be a first step towards the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor’s office.
Commission position: The proposal aims to improve EU-wide prosecution of criminals who defraud the EU budget. The Office has been designed to be fully integrated into national judicial systems. Delegated European Prosecutors will carry out the investigations and prosecutions in the respective Member State. Their actions will be coordinated at the central level so as to ensure a uniform approach throughout the EU, which is vital particularly in cross-border cases. The Commission will confirm its position in relation to the independence, efficiency and competences of the European Public Prosecutor's Office.
Background: The logic of the European Public Prosecutor's Office proposal is simple: If you have a "federal budget" – with money coming from all EU Member States and administered under common rules – then you also need "federal instruments" to protect this budget effectively across the Union. Currently, there is a very uneven level of protection and enforcement across the EU when it comes to tackling EU fraud. Action and conviction rates for fraud offences against EU resources greatly vary greatly: EU-wide only 45.7% of cases transferred to Member States are followed up by national judicial authorities and the conviction rate of these is on average only 42.3%. This means that many criminals who steal taxpayers' money are getting away with their crimes. The European Public Prosecutor's Office will make sure that every case involving suspected fraud against the EU budget is followed up and completed, so that criminals know they will be prosecuted and brought to justice. The European Parliament supports the proposal (MEMO/14/183).
5. Cross-border insolvency law
Businesses are essential to creating prosperity and jobs, but setting one up – and keeping it going – is tough, especially during economically difficult times. The Commission, on 12 December 2012, proposed to modernise the current EU rules on cross border insolvency (see IP/12/1354 and SPEECH/12/945). The new rules will shift the focus away from liquidation and develop a new approach to helping businesses overcome financial difficulties, all the while protecting creditors' right to get their money back.
What is expected at this Council? Justice Ministers will discuss the Commission's proposals with a view to achieving a general approach.
Commission position: The Commission considers the proposal to be especially relevant in the current economic climate and fully supports a swift adoption of the proposed regulation so that companies can benefit from it. Reaching a general approach (initial agreement) on the proposal will be an important step forward, as it will enable the institutions – the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the Commission – to start 'trilogue' discussions.
Background: Insolvencies are a fact of life in a dynamic, modern economy. Around half of enterprises survive less than five years, and around 200 000 firms go bankrupt in the EU each year. This means that some 600 companies in Europe go bust every day. A quarter of these bankruptcies have a cross-border element. But evidence suggests that failed entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes and are generally more successful the second time around. Up to 18% of all entrepreneurs who go on to be successful have failed in their first venture. It is therefore essential to have modern laws and efficient procedures in place to help businesses, which have sufficient economic substance, overcome financial difficulties and to get a "second chance".