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Brussels, 8 October 2014
Justice and Home Affairs Council 9-10 October 2014 in Luxembourg
European Union Justice and Home Affairs ministers will meet in Luxembourg on 9-10 October 2014. The European Commission will be represented by Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs and Martine Reicherts, EU Commissioner for Justice.
Main agenda items for Home Affairs Ministers (9 October):
Main agenda items for Justice Ministers (10 October):
Home Affairs Council:
1. Taking action to better manage migratory flows
What is expected at this Council? The strategic approach and operational priorities included in the Italian non-paper on migratory flows management will be discussed and debated.
Commission position: While the non-paper only addresses the migratory situation in the Central Mediterranean, the European Commission agrees that most actions are in line with and build on what was designed under the Task Force Mediterranean. The European Commission emphasises that positive aspects of migration should not be forgotten and underlines the need for more international solidarity, as well as intra-EU solidarity. The Commission will also raise the topic of developing a responsibility-sharing mechanism for asylum-seekers between all EU states.
Background: The Italian Presidency formulated last July a number of priority actions to address the challenges of increasing migratory flows and shifting routes to enter the EU.
The Italian Presidency has since drafted a non-paper "Taking action to better manage migratory flows - Strategic approach". The paper focuses on three pillars: actions with third countries, reinforced management of external borders and actions at Member State level on reception and fingerprinting.
2. Foreign fighters: follow-up on the Conclusions of the European Council of 30 August 2014
What is expected at this Council? The Council will hold a general orientation debate on the ways to implementing the measures on "foreign fighters and returnees" in the EU adopted by the JHA Council in June 2013, notably the EU PNR and the checks at external borders.
Commission position: The flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East is a real concern to the EU and the Member States and need to be stemmed. In this regard, the European Commission stands ready to facilitate the dialogue between the Council and the European Parliament on the work on the EU PNR. On the checks at external borders, the European Commission encourages the Member States to make full use of the provisions of the Schengen Borders Code and the Schengen Information System.
Background: Recognising the threat to the EU security posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the European Council, last August, called for action to restrain the flow of foreign fighters from Europe and to implement agreed measures in June 2013 to support Member States in their efforts against terrorism.
3. Follow-up to the Task Force Mediterranean
What is expected at this Council? The Commission will report on the implementation of the Task Force Recommendations to the JHA Council. Frontex and EASO will provide updates regarding the developments of the situation on the ground.
Commission 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 (IP/13/1199).
Many of the actions envisaged under the TFM have been implemented or are in the process of implementation (a first overview of the main actions and initiatives had already been issued end of May - Staff Working Document 'Implementation of the Communication on the Work of the Task Force Mediterranean – and progress has been steady).
4. Signature of a Joint declaration establishing a Mobility Partnership between the Jordan and the European Union and its Member States
What is expected at this Council? In the margins of the Council meeting, the EU and Jordan will agree on a new partnership on migration and mobility. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, and the Ministers responsible for migration from the twelve EU Member States participating in this partnership (Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden) will sign a Joint Declaration establishing a framework for future cooperation in the field of migration and mobility.
Commission position: The EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström welcomes the signature of this Joint Declaration establishing a framework for future cooperation in the field of migration and mobility, the first of its kind with a country of the Middle-East.
Background: Mobility partnerships are flexible and non-legally binding frameworks for well-managed movements of people between the EU and a third country. Their goal is to ensure, through dialogue and practical cooperation, that there is a responsible and joint management of migratory flows that protect the interests of the Union, of its partners and of the migrants themselves.
The EU and Jordan began a Dialogue on Migration, Mobility and Security in December 2012 and negotiations on the Political Declaration for the EU-Jordan Mobility Partnership were finalised in June this year. The Mobility Partnership with Jordan is the first of its kind with a country in the Middle East region. It follows the signature of such partnerships with other countries bordering the Mediterranean (i.e. Morocco in June 2013 and Tunisia in March 2014). Mobility Partnerships are also in place with the Republic of Moldova and Cape Verde (2008), with Georgia (2009), with Armenia (2011) and with Azerbaijan (2013).
1. EU Data Protection Reform and the right to be forgotten
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, not only applying 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.
The agenda of this Council includes the obligations of organisations handling personal data, the implications of the European Court of Justice's landmark ruling on the right to be forgotten and the proposed data protection Directive (the so called Police Directive).
What is expected at this Council? Justice Ministers are expected to reach a partial general approach (an agreement on certain provisions of the reform) on the rules governing the processing of personal data by data controllers and processors. A discussion is also expected on the European Court of Justice's ruling on the right to be forgotten, and an update on the 'Police Directive', which is an integral part of the Commission's proposed reform.
Commission position: Following the partial general approach on territorial scope and international transfers achieved at the June 2014 Justice Council, the Commission looks forward to further progress, notably on the rules on how personal data will be handled by companies, governments and other organisations. The Commission believes that cutting red-tape and building flexibility into our future data protection rules should be a central objective. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises must be exempted from obligations when their compliance has no added value in terms of data protection, such as the obligation to keep records of processing activities.
Background: 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 Member States to act.
2. A European Public Prosecutor's Office
In order 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 independent and subject to democratic oversight.
What is expected at this Council? Justice Ministers will discuss the state of play of the proposal for the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor's office. This is a priority file for the Italian Presidency and Ministers will hold a debate on the central element of the European Public Prosecutor's office: its authority to investigate as an independent body, in all the Member States, in order to protect the EU budget against frauds. This sets out the concept of a 'single legal area'. A common understanding of this fundamental aspect of the proposal will be a first step towards the establishment of a true 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 "single legal area", as this is the defining feature of a Union-level prosecution body and the only way to eliminate the fragmentation in existing mechanisms for judicial cooperation.
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 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 confirmed its support for a European Public Prosecutor’s Office in March 2014.
3. Presumption of Innocence Directive
The European Commission tabled a package of proposals in November 2013 to guarantee fair trial rights for all citizens, wherever they are in the European Union (see IP/13/1157 and MEMO/13/1046). A central part of this package is the proposed Directive on the presumption of innocence. This proposal aims to guarantee respect for the presumption of innocence of all citizens suspected or accused by police and judicial authorities, and the right to be present at trial. It will in particular guarantee that (1) guilt cannot be inferred by any official decisions or statements before a final conviction; (2) the burden of proof is placed on the prosecution and any doubt benefits the suspect or accused person; (3) the right to remain silent is guaranteed and not used against suspects to secure conviction; and (4) the accused has the right to be present at the trial.
What is expected at this Council? Justice Ministers will hold a general debate on the Commission's proposal.
Commission position: The Commission welcomes the intensive work carried out by the Italian Presidency on the file, and the constructive approach shown by the Member States. The rights which are guaranteed by the proposed Directive are key to ensure the fairness of criminal proceedings, especially regarding the burden of proof, where the Commission proposals correspond to the standards established by the European Court of Human Rights.
Background: The European Parliament voted in favour of the Commission's proposal for a Presumption of Innocence Directive already in April 2014.
4. Free circulation of public documents
In April 2013, the European Commission proposed to slash red tape for citizens and businesses by doing away with the bureaucratic rubber-stamping exercises currently required to get public documents like birth certificates recognised as authentic in another EU Member State. Currently, citizens who move to another Member State have to spend a lot of time and money in order to show that their public documents (such as birth or marriage certificates) issued by their Member State of origin are authentic. This involves the so-called Apostille certificate which is used by public authorities in other states as proof that public documents, or the signatures of national officials on documents, are genuine. Businesses operating across EU borders in the EU’s Single Market are also affected. For instance, they will often be required to produce a number of certified public documents in order to prove their legal status when operating cross-border.
What is expected at this Council? The Justice Council will hold an orientation debate on a number of important questions, such as multilingual standard forms, the relation to international conventions and information technologies that can facilitate administrative cooperation.
Commission position: The proposal is key for EU citizens and businesses and a concrete contribution to the 'Justice for Growth' agenda. The simplification impact of this proposal will be concrete and tangible across the Union. Citizens and businesses would no longer have to provide costly 'legalised' versions or 'certified' translations of official documents when, for example, registering a house or company, getting married, or requesting a residence card. Twelve categories of public documents would automatically be exempted from formalities such as 'Apostille' and 'legalisation' – which are currently required for around 1.4 million documents within the EU each year. Abolishing these requirements will save citizens and businesses in the EU up to 330 million euro, not counting the saved time and inconvenience that is avoided.
Background: The European Parliament voted in favour of the Commission's proposals in February 2014.