European Union

Justice and home affairs

Justice and home affairs

Within the EU, citizens have a right to live in any EU country. Borders can be crossed almost without noticing since the Schengen Agreement abolished checks at the EU's internal borders (with the exception of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom).

The EU also works to protect citizens from international crime and terrorism, and to ensure your access to the local justice system and respect for your fundamental rights wherever you are in the EU. Access to an effective justice system is an essential right, one of the founding principles of European democracies.

Guaranteeing fundamental rights

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights sets out all the personal, civil, political, economic and social rights flowing from EU citizenship. Its Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) helps policymakers to pass new laws and works to raise public awareness of fundamental rights.

The EU acts on behalf of EU citizens to prevent discrimination on grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. In the age of ubiquitous internet, the EU fights for everyone's right to the have their personal data protected.

Cooperation between judicial authorities

When you travel within the EU, you are entitled to unrestricted access to the legal system of the country you are in. This also means that criminals cannot escape the consequences of their crime by crossing a border.

Cooperation has intensified between national judicial authorities to ensure that legal decisions taken in one EU country are recognised and implemented in any other. This is especially important in civil cases such as divorce, child custody, maintenance claims or even bankruptcy and unpaid bills, when the individuals involved live in different countries.

To help in the fight against serious crimes such as corruption, drug trafficking and distribution and terrorism, the EU has established the European Judicial Network.

The European arrest warrant has replaced lengthy extradition procedures, so that suspected or convicted criminals who have fled abroad can be swiftly returned to the country where they were tried, or are due to be tried.

Asylum and immigration

Common minimum standards and procedures for asylum seekers are intended to guarantee a high level of protection for those who need it, while ensuring that national asylum systems are not abused. For example, they determine how and where applications should be processed, the standards for receiving asylum applicants, the status of people granted asylum and the role of national authorities in meeting these responsibilities.

EU countries are also working to develop a coherent EU immigration policy that takes advantage of the opportunities offered by legal immigration, while tackling the challenges of irregular immigration. The aim is to take account of the priorities and needs of each EU country and encourage the integration of non-EU nationals into their host societies.

The EU is also striving to create partnerships with the countries of origin and of transit in order to better organise legal immigration and curb irregular immigration, to improve the link between migration and development, as well as to strengthen the rule of law and promote respect for fundamental rights in these countries.

For people to have freedom to move throughout the EU, there must be effective controls at all points of entry into the EU. EU countries are working together to improve security through better external border controls, while making it easier for those with a right to enter the EU to do so. Operational cooperation between EU countries is managed by the EU external borders agency FRONTEX.

EU security strategy

EU home affairs policies focus on the fight against terrorism and organised crime, cybercrime and violent radicalisation, particularly by targeting illicit firearms trafficking, the trafficking of human beings and the sexual exploitation of children.

The EU's internal security strategy sets out to improve internal security through cooperation on law enforcement, border management, civil protection and disaster management.

The strategy includes legislation and practical ways to stop organised criminals – drug barons, human traffickers, money launderers, terrorists – from exploiting the freedoms the EU brings and to improve cooperation between national police forces, especially within the framework of the European Police Office (Europol).


Factsheet published in July 2016

This publication is part of the 'THE EU AND' series

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