«Brussels, COM (2009) 262/4 COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL An area of freedom, security and justice ...»
COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES
COM (2009) 262/4
COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN
PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL
An area of freedom, security and justice serving the citizen
COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN
PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCILAn area of freedom, security and justice serving the citizen Wider freedom in a safer environment
1. Introduction People want to live in a European Union that is prosperous and peaceful, where their rights are respected and their security protected. They want to be able to travel freely, and to move temporarily or permanently to another European country in order to study, to work, to found a family, to set up a business or to retire. But they are disturbed to see that the context of stability and security that has prevailed in Europe in recent years is threatened by worldwide developments.
The economic and political difficulties facing the European Union and the world, and the complex challenges of the future, call for solutions that are global and lasting. At a time when mobility is growing on a worldwide scale, Europeans are entitled to expect effective and responsible action at European level in areas that affect them so strongly.
Towards a citizen’s Europe in an area of freedom, security and justice Freedom, security and justice are key values that form an integral part of the European model of society. They are a cornerstone of European integration. The Union has already succeeded in providing its citizens with a single market, economic and monetary union, and the capacity to meet global political and economic challenges. It has also made substantial progress towards an area of freedom, security and justice; the priority now has to be to put the citizen at the heart of this project.
Substantial progress made
The Maastricht Treaty brought justice and home affairs into the European Union framework:
they had previously been dealt with only at intergovernmental level. Since then justice and home affairs have experienced a steady increase in the degree of integration between Member States and in the role of the European Parliament and of the Court of Justice. The consolidation of these policies, which are of fundamental importance to the ordinary citizen, was given strong political impetus by the Tampere and Hague programmes.
There have been numerous successes in the last ten years:
– The removal of controls at internal borders in the Schengen area allows more than 400 million citizens of 25 countries to travel without border control from the Iberian peninsula to the Baltic states and from Greece to Finland. The Union’s external borders are being managed in a coherent fashion, especially as a result of the establishment of the Frontex agency.
– The foundations have been laid for a common policy on immigration. In particular, there are rules that make legal immigration fairer and easier to understand, a common agenda has been agreed for facilitating integration into European societies, EN EN and stronger action is being taken against illegal immigration and human trafficking.
Partnerships have also been established with non-Union countries so that questions associated with migration can be managed in a concerted fashion.
– The foundations have likewise been laid for a common European system of asylum for people needing international protection, with a practical mechanism in the form of an Asylum Support Office. A common visa policy has been successfully developed, increasing clarity and legal certainty for all those involved.
– Steps have been taken to establish a high level of confidence between the authorities in different Member States. There have been particularly marked improvements in the exchange of information in the criminal sphere. For example, police forces can obtain information from other Member States, if it is available, without any major constraints. The European arrest warrant has greatly reduced the effort required in order to extradite criminals: it has brought the time taken to secure an extradition from about a year to between 11 days and six weeks.
– There have been measures to combat organised crime, including cybercrime, and to protect critical infrastructures.
– Progress has also been made in civil and commercial law. EU citizens now have simpler and more rapid channels for enforcing their claims in cross-border situations.
Common rules have been drawn up on the law governing civil liability and contracts.
The protection of children has been improved, in particular so as to ensure that following a separation they can maintain regular contact with their parents and to deter child abduction in the EU.
But in some fields progress has been slow and less clear-cut Progress has been comparatively slow in some fields, especially criminal law and family law.
These policies require unanimity in the Council, which has often led to long debate with no clear outcome, or to the enactment of legislation that is less ambitious than it might have been.
Securing proper implementation of the legislation is an additional challenge. Especially in the criminal law sphere the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice is limited, and the Commission is unable to bring infringement proceedings. This has led to considerable delay in the transposal of EU legislation at national level, which gives it a somewhat ‘virtual’ character.
Leaving aside the procedural and institutional constraints, there are major efforts that have still to be made. Civil and commercial cases, involving contested claims for example, still require intermediate proceedings that are an obstacle to the free movement of judgments.
There are gaps in the protection afforded to citizens and firms in the event of disputes with parties domiciled in non-Union countries. There are still obstacles to the cross-border recognition of civil status documents. There is some way to go before the Directive on freedom of movement for persons has been fully implemented by all Member States. There are still differences in the level of protection of persons in criminal proceedings. Minimum procedural guarantees for criminal cases have not been agreed. Exchanges of information between Member States’ authorities regarding persons convicted of offences are not yet fully effective. And at an operational level, there are many obstacles in the way of police action across borders.
EN EN The challenges ahead
The objective is to provide the best possible service to the citizen. The growing diversity of a Union made up of 27 or more Member States has to be reflected in the way in which justice, freedom and security are managed. The right to move and to stay freely throughout the Union is now open to 500 million people. Personal and commercial situations with a cross-border dimension consequently arise more and more often. In addition, migratory pressures have grown strongly.
The following examples are representative of the many challenges ahead:
– More than eight million Europeans are currently taking advantage of their right to live in another Member State of their choice, and the trend can be expected to intensify in the future. But although this right is an important reflection of their Union citizenship, they often encounter obstacles to its exercise.
– Questions of civil justice can be expected to grow more important. One succession in ten in the Union already has an international dimension.
– Cybercrime knows no borders, and is mutating constantly. In 2008, 1 500 internet sites with child pornography content were identified, both commercial and non-commercial.
– Terrorism remains a threat to the Union. In 2007 there were almost 600 terrorist attacks — failed, foiled or successfully executed — in 11 Member States.
– There are 1 636 designated points of entry to the Union, and in 2006 the number of people crossing was about 900 million. In an open world, with growing mobility, ensuring effective management of the Union’s external borders is a major challenge.
– In 2006 there were 18.5 million non-EU nationals registered in the Union, which is about 3.8% of the total population. Migratory pressures can be expected to grow further. This is due to population growth and poverty in many of the countries of origin, and to the ageing of the population of Europe: between 2008 and 2060 the number of people of working age is expected to fall by 15%, or about 50 million.
– According to estimates there are about eight million illegal immigrants living in the Union, many of whom work in the informal economy. Tackling the factors that attract clandestine immigration and ensuring that policies for combating illegal immigration are effective are major tasks for the years to come.
– Despite the existence of a common system of asylum, there is a need for greater uniformity in Member States’ handling of asylum applications: the rates of acceptance of applications are currently very variable. In 2007, 25% of first decisions granted protection in the form of either refugee status or subsidiary protection.
Behind this average figure there are wide variations: some Member States allow protection in only very few cases, while others have a recognition rate close to 50%.
A new multiannual programme The Union needs a new multiannual programme that builds on the progress made so far and learns the lessons of the current weaknesses in order to make an ambitious push forward. The new programme should define the priorities for the next five years, take up the challenges of EN EN the future, and make the benefits of the area of freedom, security and justice more tangible to the ordinary citizen.
The area of freedom, security and justice cannot be built without a strong external dimension which is consistent with the Union’s general external policy and helps to promote our values in compliance with international human rights obligations. None of the objectives being pursued here can be achieved without effective use of the appropriate tools of external policy.
And by engaging with non-EU countries in partnerships and international organisations with regard to justice and home affairs, the Union will make its external policy more effective.
The political priorities The main thrust of the new programme will be ‘building a citizen’s Europe’. All action taken in future should be centred on the citizen, and should work towards the following main
2. Promoting citizens’ rights — a Europe of rights: The area of freedom, security and justice must above all be a single area in which fundamental rights are protected, and in which respect for the human person and human dignity, and for the other rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, is a core value. For example, the exercise of these freedoms and the citizen’s privacy must be preserved beyond national borders, especially by protecting personal data; allowance must be made for the special needs of vulnerable people; and citizens must be able to exercise their specific rights to the full, even outside the Union.
3. Making life easier — a Europe of justice: The achievement of a European area of justice must be consolidated so as to move beyond the current fragmentation. Priority should be given to mechanisms that facilitate people’s access to the courts, so that they can enforce their rights throughout the Union. Where contracts and commerce are concerned, this should give those involved in economic life the tools they need to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the single market. Cooperation between legal professionals should also be improved, and resources should be mobilised to put an end to barriers to the recognition of legal acts in other Member States.
4. Protecting citizens — a Europe that protects: A domestic security strategy should be developed in order further to improve security in the Union and thus to protect the life and safety of European citizens. The strategy should be aimed at strengthening cooperation in police matters and law enforcement and making entry to Europe more secure.
5. Promoting a more integrated society for the citizen — a Europe of solidarity: A major priority in the next few years will be consolidating and putting into practice a policy on immigration and asylum that guarantees solidarity between Member States and partnership with non-Union countries. The policy should offer legal immigrants a clear and uniform status. A closer match should be developed between immigration and the needs of the European labour market, along with targeted integration and education policies. The practical use of the tools available to combat illegal immigration should be improved. For the management of these policies it is crucial that there be consistency with the Union’s external policy. The Union should confirm its humanitarian tradition by offering its protection generously to those who need it.
If the next multiannual programme is to be implemented successfully, it must follow a
method based on five main points:
(i) As the policies followed in the fields of justice and home affairs gradually reach maturity, they should support each other and grow in consistency. In years to come they should fit smoothly together with the other policies of the Union.
(ii) To narrow the wide gap between the rules and policies approved at European level and their implementation at national level, greater attention should be paid to national implementation. Beyond strict legal transposal, implementation should be followed up with practical support measures (such as an upgrading of professional networks).