Thursday

9th Jul 2020

Brussels outlines justice priorities for next 5 years

  • The commission proposal also aims to tackle migration and set up "burden-sharing" among member states (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission on Wednesday (10 June) presented the priorities it would like the EU to focus on in the realm of justice for the next five years, including increased security co-operation and improved immigration management.

The paper presented by the EU executive calls for tighter border controls and says member states should exchange more information on criminal and security matters, as well as increase police co-operation in general.

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Closer co-operation is needed to better tackle organised crime and terrorism, EU justice commissioner Jacques Barrot, whose cabinet drafted the document, said at a press conference in Brussels.

"Organised crime progresses without caring about national frontiers," he stressed.

One way to work on this would be to set up an exchange programme for police officers – "an Erasmus programme for the police" – and improve the one that exists in that respect for judicial staff, the commissioner said.

The draft also focuses on citizens' rights and calls on member states to ensure they fully implement EU legislation on free movement of people in the bloc.

It also says court decisions issued in another member state should be recognised faster, without intermediate procedures, in order to allow EU citizens to fully exercise their rights.

Speaking at the same news conference, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the proposals aimed to "promote citizens' rights, make their daily lives easier and provide protection."

"This calls for effective and responsible European action in these areas," he added.

The commission president stressed the EU executive was not aiming to win for itself more powers at the expenses of member states, who are especially reluctant to give up sovereignty in such sensitive areas.

"There are objective facts that justify the European approach," he said, pointing out that there are currently some eight million Europeans living or working in another EU state.

"This is not a question of power-grabbing for the European commission ... We are not trying to have more powers at the European level for the sake of having more power," he added.

Immigration

In its paper, the commission also re-affirmed proposals it had made earlier in the areas of immigration and asylum, insisting on "burden-sharing and solidarity" between member states as regards asylum seekers.

It also says legal migrants should have the same status across the 27-nation bloc and that they should have easier access to the job market.

The bloc's external borders agency, Frontex, would be given a larger budget and more power in patrolling the EU's borders to prevent both human trafficking and irregular immigration.

The document presented on Wednesday is the commission's contribution to the so-called Stockholm programme, which is to outline the bloc's priorites in the area of justice, security and liberty for the next five years.

The previous one – the Hague programme – had been agreed under Dutch presidency in 2004.

The Stockholm programme is set to be examined by the European Parliament in November, and the commission hopes it could be approved by EU leaders in December, under Swedish EU presidency.

But with the area being particularly sensitive and member states having already shown disagreements on certain points – such as taking in asylum seekers from other EU countries – the discussions are unlikely to be wrapped up quickly.

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