La nouvelle Commission Juncker et la JAI : que tout change pour que rien ne change ?

by Henri LABAYLE (CDRE)

Original published HERE

La composition de la nouvelle Commission a suscité nombre de commentaires dans les médias, souvent bienveillants sinon flatteurs. L’a priori favorable dont bénéficie son Président, Jean Claude Juncker, n’empêche pas de douter de leur bien-fondé en matière de Justice et d’affaires intérieures, à supposer d’ailleurs que ces commentaires se vérifient dans les autres domaines d’action de l’Union.

Après des discours encourageants semblant indiquer que les thèmes des valeurs de l’Union et de l’urgence migratoire avaient été pris en considération par le programme du candidat à la Présidence, le retour à la réalité est moins enthousiasmant. Sans procès d’intention, il faut se résoudre à penser que, non seulement le changement ici aussi n’est pas pour maintenant, mais qu’il n’est pas davantage dans l’esprit des dirigeants de l’Union.

On fera litière d’abord des éléments de communication habilement distillés dans les rédactions des grands médias européens, notamment via un document de presse intelligemment construit. En résumé, la nouvelle Commission serait aujourd’hui un animal « politique », par opposition à sa composition technocratique précédente. Cette option est résumée ainsi par son président : « les commissaires ne sont pas des fonctionnaires ». Est-on bien certain que l’inverse n’est plus vrai ?

Soit, même si à l’examen il est aisé de se rendre compte que nombre de ces politiciens ont plutôt leur avenir politique derrière eux (5 anciens premiers ministres, 4 vice-premiers ministres, 19 anciens ministres, 7 commissaires sortants, nous dit-on), à supposer parfois qu’ils en aient eu un. Reste alors l’habileté manœuvrière qui, si l’on se penche plus précisément sur la JAI, réclamera vraisemblablement davantage de solliciter celle de Jean Claude Juncker que de compter sur le dispositif proposé.

Quelle délimitation des composantes de l’Espace de liberté ?

Deux réponses étaient attendues aux interrogations suscitées à la fois par le mauvais bilan de la Commission Barroso et par les annonces du candidat Jean Claude Juncker.

1. La première concernait l’organisation interne de l’ELSJ, dans ses trois composantes : droits fondamentaux, justice, affaires intérieures.

La dérive constatée au lendemain du traité de Lisbonne du fait de la Commission Barroso II n’avait pas convaincu, c’est un faible mot, avec la décision de mettre fin au portefeuille unique un temps brillamment détenu par Antonio Vittorino sous la présidence Prodi. Alors que le traité distingue soigneusement depuis toujours les politiques migratoires de la coopération « judiciaire » en matière pénale et civile et la coopération policière, le choix avait été fait ne pas s’en remettre au traité lui-même. Au contraire, les dirigeants de l’Union avaient préféré, sans publicité inutile, y importer la culture « Home affairs » chère aux anglo-saxons et oublier qu’en démocratie la « justice » commande à la police et à la répression pénale.

L’ensemble du portefeuille sécuritaire était ainsi rassemblé sous la coupe de Mme Malmström tandis que les responsabilités de Mme Redding étaient réduites comme une peau de chagrin, la contraignant à un activisme inversement proportionnel à leur étendue.

Il existait donc une certaine curiosité quant à la confirmation ou pas de cette option, sans grandes illusions néanmoins. Le contraire aurait été surprenant dans un univers où l’attribution de compétences pénales à l’Union n’a suscité d’autres réponses que des « policy cycles » et des « lignes directrices » du Conseil européen dont la pauvreté le dispute à l’indigence des travaux du COSI institué par l’article 71 TFUE.

On ne sera donc pas déçu sur ce terrain, pourquoi changerait-on une équipe qui perd ? Sans doute, l’état de la situation en Méditerranée ou le spectacle des djihadistes au Proche Orient, sans parler de Calais ou de l’omniprésence de la criminalité organisée, justifient-ils que l’on reconduise un schéma déséquilibré. Ce dernier a largement démontré son absence d’efficacité et l’un des Etats membres menace même de le quitter, preuve de son attractivité …

Les choix opérés consistent en effet à confirmer le passé c’est-à-dire à mêler sous un même pavillon de contrebande questions sécuritaires et questions humanitaires, à faire de la politique de sécurité intérieure de l’Union le moteur de l’ELSJ, contribuant ainsi à l’assimilation entre insécurité et politiques migratoires que l’on dénonce publiquement avec hypocrisie ensuite.

L’intelligence politique de Jean Claude Juncker l’empêche cependant d’être dupe. Les lettres de missions rédigées à l’égard de ses collaborateurs révèlent peut-être le fond de sa pensée : constituer un « bloc » de compétences coordonnées et intégrées, ensemble dont il faudra évaluer la réalité de la gouvernance dans quelques mois.

Le Président de la Commission, en présentant son équipe, souligne en premier lieu, l’importance du dossier JAI. Ce dernier implique pas moins de 5 commissaires puisqu’il faut ajouter aux trois premiers le Haut représentant de l’Union pour les affaires étrangères et le commissaire en charge du budget. Sur le plan de la méthode, ensuite, le président développe non pas l’idée de « clusters » qui avait été évoquée un temps mais celle « d’équipes de projet » réclamant une collaboration plus étroite que par le passé et favorisant, espérons-le, davantage d’équilibres.

2. La seconde explication de l’attente tenait dans la force des affirmations de Jean Claude Juncker lors de sa désignation. Elle se résume en une phrase des priorités exprimées dans son discours devant le Parlement européen, le 15 juillet 2014 : « l’Union européenne est une union de valeurs. Nous sommes crédibles à l’égard du reste du monde si nous sommes exigeants à l’intérieur en matière de valeurs fondamentales ». La place réservée aux droits fondamentaux et à leur défense était donc particulièrement observée.

La personnalité et le savoir-faire du nouveau président l’ont conduit à retenir des options qui ne sont pas en rupture avec le passé, sans pour autant renier ses convictions. Ce qui est déjà un progrès avec certain de ses prédécesseurs qui avaient pour credo de n’en avoir pas.

La conviction du Président de la Commission est que les valeurs et les droits fondamentaux sont au cœur du projet européen, rendant impossibles un marchandage à leur propos et les petits accommodements qui affectent la crédibilité de ce projet. Il faut lui faire crédit d’avoir eu de la suite dans ses déclarations en confiant cette responsabilité essentielle à son premier Vice Président, Frank Timmermans, en charge des relations interinstitutionnelles, de l’Etat de droit et de la Charte des droits fondamentaux. De son propre aveu, il reconnaîtra à l’avis de ce dernier « un poids particulier », le rôle d’une « sentinelle ».

La visibilité reconnue à cette composante de l’ELSJ tranche avec le passé et le consensus mou qui prévalait jusque là. Elle confirme à la fois son caractère prioritaire et transversal dans l’action de l’Union. Il est en effet utile de la soustraire aux compétences des commissaires en charge de missions matérielles : dans quel Etat membre confierait-on la protection des droits fondamentaux au ministre en charge de la défense de l’ordre public, dans quel poulailler confie-t-on la clé au renard …

D’autant que la montée en puissance de la Cour de justice incite à cette précaution. Les récentes annulations et les dossiers en suspens en matière de protection des données démontrent qu’aucun des deux commissaires précédents n’avaient pris la dimension du problème. Le contrôle préventif de la législation de l’Union devient une question centrale de son fonctionnement. Que Frank Timmermans soit de surcroît en charge de l’amélioration de la réglementation et du respect des principes de subsidiarité et de proportionnalité rendait cette liaison indispensable. Enfin, last but not least, le premier Vice Président se voit expressément confier la responsabilité de conduire la conclusion du dossier de l’adhésion à la CEDH.

3. En revanche, le contenu des portefeuilles « Justice » et « Affaires intérieures » n’est pas à la hauteur des attentes.

Jean Claude Juncker ne tient parole qu’en apparence à propos de la création d’un commissaire spécifiquement en charge de l’immigration, en raison de la priorité qu’il avait attribuée au dossier dans le débat sur sa nomination. Les compétences dévolues au nouveau Commissaire « Immigration et affaires intérieures » ressemblent en effet furieusement à celles de son prédécesseur et il n’est en rien spécialisé en la matière.

Le mouvement sécuritaire prévalant en Europe contraint donc le nouveau titulaire du poste à demeurer positionné sur des terrains parfois très éloignés de la priorité prétendument reconnue aux questions migratoires. Sa lettre de mission l’invite ainsi à se préoccuper de lutte contre le terrorisme, de la corruption, de la criminalité transfrontalière, de la traite des êtres humains et du cybercrime. Il se voit même attribuer le rattachement de l’Unité anti-drogue autrefois dévolue à « Justice » et l’Unité Recherche en matière de sécurité liée à « Industrie »…

Comment croire alors que la question migratoire deviendrait aujourd’hui une véritable priorité de l’Union, à l’inverse d’hier ? Comment imaginer que le plateau sécuritaire ne continue à peser plus lourd dans la balance de l’Union que celui de la circulation des personnes et des obligations humanitaires ? Qui peut raisonnablement compter sur une redécouverte du principe de solidarité par des Etats membres qui n’ont pas lu les traités auxquels ils ont souscrit ?

Car le second commissaire intéressé, « Justice », est manifestement le parent pauvre de la construction. Le déclin de ses fonctions, visible là encore dans sa lettre de mission, est manifeste depuis deux mandats, au détriment de l’action sécuritaire. Cette perte d’influence est un contresens au regard de la révolution copernicienne du traité de Lisbonne en matière criminelle, de son champ d’application à la perspective d’un Parquet européen. Elle est grave au plan des symboles.

Initialement centré, si l’on suit les termes des traités, sur la coopération judiciaire en matière pénale, le portefeuille « Justice » s’est vue progressivement « civilisé » au sens où le droit des contrats, celui des consommateurs et du marketing ont fait perdre de vue l’enjeu de la coopération en matière pénale : mettre le juge national au centre de la lutte contre le crime. Tel devrait être le choix d’une société civilisée obéissant à des impératifs démocratiques.

Ce mouvement de retrait s’accentue incontestablement en 2014. L’appellation même du nouveau poste en témoigne : « Justice, consommateurs, Egalité des genres »… Il s’agit là d’un choix politique dont il appartiendra au Parlement européen de débattre s’il le juge utile et dont les destinataires essentiels pour l’ELSJ que sont les juges nationaux apprécieront la portée.

Car la pollution mercantile et numérique affecte ici aussi la priorité juridique. Mettre avant ces thèmes à la mode n’est pas innocent et cette stratégie est patiemment poursuivie dans les couloirs de la Commission. Quoi qu’en pensent les technocrates européens que l’on aurait prétendument cantonnés à leur place et qui ont manifestement tenu la plume dessinant ces schémas, l’ambition initiale de l’ELSJ était autre. La place du droit dans une société n’est pas d’accompagner le marché et, au mieux, d’en cadrer les dérives. Elle est de concrétiser le contrat social et d’ordonner la vie en commun. Faute d’être en capacité de dessiner un accord partagé sur la politique criminelle ou la politique migratoire de l’Union, sur la base de valeurs assumées, tout est préféré ici à un véritable débat public, fondamentalement politique.

Evaluer la « performance des systèmes judiciaires nationaux » ou suivre la « responsabilité sociale des entreprises »  est un noble dessein, certes, mais bien loin de cette ambition … Remiser la place de la « Justice » dans l’action de l’Union au rang d’un accessoire est lourd de signification pour l’avenir. En d’autres termes, la vision politique affirmée par le Président, se placer sur le terrain des valeurs, est ici démentie par ses choix opérationnels.

Quels titulaires des portefeuilles de l’ELSJ ?

Au vu des lignes précédentes, leur énoncé a finalement une importance mineure. Encore que souligner les personnalités et déminer les faux-procès peut aider à la compréhension des enjeux, une fois rappelé que le choix du Président porte non pas sur les personnalités mais sur les affectations. Rien n’est pire ici que les procès d’intention à l’égard d’individus encore mal connus de la scène européenne.

La présence de Frank Timmermans à la 1ere Vice présidence de la Commission est sans doute une bonne nouvelle pour l’ELSJ et donc pour l’Union. Ceci est vrai en particulier en raison du rôle de coordination qui lui est confié par Jean Claude Juncker dans sa lettre de mission : « as my first Vice-President, you will steer and coordinate the Commission’s work in the areas of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights ».

Acteur et militant convaincu du traité portant Constitution puisqu’il fut membre de la Convention pour l’avenir de l’Europe, la compréhension des enjeux par ce ministre néerlandais des affaires étrangères sortant est certaine.

Il jouera incontestablement un rôle central en matière JAI même si, avec humour, Steve Peers compare sa situation à celle du Vice Président des Etats Unis dont la principale attribution est d’attendre la disparition du chef de l’Etat !!! Que Jean Claude Juncker l’ait qualifié de son « bras droit » ne l’y destine pas mais indique que son influence sera déterminante, en lien avec la question des valeurs. Peut être faut-il en espérer alors une implication plus volontaire, et plus efficace car portée à un niveau supérieur que par un commissaire ordinaire, de l’Union dans ce domaine, y compris pour rappeler les Etats membres à leurs devoirs.

Tout porte donc à penser qu’un scénario crédible le verra prendre le leadership sur des personnalités moins affirmées, l’interrogation demeurant celle des moyens administratifs à sa disposition. Sans troupes à ses cotés, comment ne retombera-t-il pas sous la coupe des décideurs de l’ombre qui, à force de manoeuvres et de renoncements, ont oeuvré de l’intérieur pour que l’ELSJ ne soit pas ce que ses créateurs voulaient qu’il soit ?

La désignation de Dimitris Avramopoulos à la « Migration et affaires intérieures » n’a pas été une surprise, son nom ayant largement circulé depuis quelques semaines. Si chacun a cru utile de gloser sur sa nationalité, en raison de la situation de la Grèce sur le plan du contrôle de ses frontières, là n’est pas l’essentiel.

On sait en effet qu’avec une malice certaine, Jean Claude Juncker a multiplié les faux contre-emplois, des affaires économiques aux produits financiers et, avec moins d’humour, à l’Education et à la culture. Mais l’argument est de faible portée tant, dans l’Union, mieux vaut demeurer caché pour servir ou influencer son propre Etat.

La vraie question est de deviner ce que ses propres aptitudes permettent à l’Union d’attendre de lui. Une compétence diplomatique certaine semble, à ce stade, contrebalancer une expérience européenne relative et une prédilection pour les affaires de défense qui pourrait nourrir un attrait pour les questions sécuritaires au détriment de la priorité migratoire.

Le nom de la candidate de la République tchèque, Vera Jourova, a surpris les observateurs qui avaient tous misé sur la reconduction de Cecilia Malmström exfiltrée au dernier instant vers le Commerce et le libre échange. Négociatrice de l’adhésion de son Etat à l’Union, elle connaît les rouages de l’Union et a, dit-on, bénéficié de l’appel du Président à la féminisation pour surmonter des blocages politiques internes.

Au total, donc, il est difficile de porter une appréciation objective sur le processus en cours, a fortiori avant que le Parlement européen ne s’en empare. Trop de fausses priorités et de vraies déceptions ont entouré la construction institutionnelle de l’ELSJ pour que l’on se satisfasse de propositions fonctionnelles et de désignations personnelles acceptables, sinon enthousiasmantes.

Il ne reste à compter que les pas en avant et les pas en retrait, comme à Echternach avec Emilio de Capitani. Pour les pas de côté, ils ne sauraient tarder.

 

Organigramme

 

Posted in 1. EU and MS legal Order and Institutional framework, 1.1 News from the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, 2. Values & principles of the European Union, 3. Fundamental rights - Charter, 5. Asylum & refugees rights' policies, 6. Borders control policies (Schengen), 7. Immigration policies, 8. Judicial cooperation, 8.1 Judicial cooperation in civil matters, 8.2 Judicial cooperation in criminal matters, 9. Internal security -police cooperation | Leave a comment

The new Commission: first thoughts on Justice and Home Affairs issues

By Steve PEERS

ORIGINAL POSTED HERE

Today’s list of jobs for the next European Commission – and the accompanying major restructuring of the Commission – has major implications for every area of EU policy. But here are my initial thoughts about the impact upon Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) issues.

Of course, the next European Commission still has to be confirmed by the European Parliament (EP). The EP insisted on changes to the planned list of Commissioners in 2004 and 2009, so it might well do so again. But nevertheless, it’s an opportune moment to examine the new Commissioners who will have responsibility for JHA issues – as well as the revised structure of the Commission as it affects such issues.

Migration and Home Affairs

As before, the area of immigration and home affairs (ie policing and internal security) is assigned to a separate Commissioner. Therefore the suggestion in some quarters that there’s a new ‘Commissioner for immigration’ is just not true. There is also still a separate Directorate-General (DG) dealing with these issues. DG Home picks up responsibility for anti-drug policy and security research, and does not lose any policy responsibilities.

The new Commissioner is Dimitris Avramopolous. He has no background in this field, and his current job is Greek defence minister. But that’s misleading: he started out his career as a diplomat, became a popular mayor of Athens and was also an MP (for the conservative New Democracy party), holding ministerial posts for tourism, health and foreign affairs before becoming defence minister. So he has a broad diplomatic and political background.

The most striking thing about his appointment is his nationality. Greece is, of course, at the centre of the debate about the effectiveness of the EU’s ‘Dublin’ policy, which assigns responsibility for asylum applications to (in effect, in most cases) the first country which they enter. That is frequently Greece. So partly as a result of the Dublin rules, the Greek asylum system has broken down in recent years, and both the CJEU and the European Court of Human Rights have ruled that sending asylum-seekers to Greece would violate their fundamental rights.

Since Avramopolous never previously held a job relating to immigration policy, he can’t be blamed directly for these problems. Also, it must be recalled that because Commissioners are independent of the government which appointed them (although Commissioners have been known to forget this), it will not be his job to defend the Greek government, but rather to articulate and enforce EU policy in this area. Hopefully it will be an advantage, not a detriment, to have an immigration Commissioner from a Mediterranean state, given the crucial role which sea crossings play in EU immigration policy.

In light of the external impact of EU immigration policy, it also useful that the new Commissioner has diplomatic experience. In particular, it’s potentially significant that he is credited as one of the authors of the recent Greek-Turkish rapprochement. Migrants who come from Turkey and refugees who travel via Turkey are a significant part of those who come to the EU, and the EU/Turkey readmission agreement will come into force on 1 October. One of his chief tasks will be to ensure EU visa liberalisation for Turkey, as a quid pro quo for the readmission agreement and other changes in Turkish policy. On paper at least, he is the right man for this job.

Justice

Until the last moment, the next Justice Commissioner was going to be the outgoing Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom. Instead, Malmstrom has been thrown into the maelstrom (I couldn’t resist) of EU trade policy, being responsible in particular for negotiating the EU/USA free trade agreement (TTIP).

The new Justice Commissioner will instead be Vera Jourova, the Czech minister for regional development, who has a background in that field. Unlike Avramopolous or Malmstrom, there’s nothing in her history which suggests that Jourova is particularly well suited to this job. But there are plenty of historical examples of politicians who did a good job despite not having a background in a relevant field. Let’s hope this proves to be another such case.

In terms of structure, DG Justice first of all loses two roles: anti-drug policy (moved to DG Home, as noted already) and equality policy – apart from gender equality – moved to DG Employment and Inclusion.

The first of these changes makes some sense, since anti-drug policy is not exactly a Justice issue. But that policy is even less well-placed in DG Home, since that wrongly identifies anti-drug policy is primarily a law enforcement issue, rather than a health and social problem.

But the changes to the equality responsibilities make no sense at all. If those responsibilities have to be moved, it would be better to move them all, rather than all except gender equality. True, there’s a good argument for a woman to be in charge of gender quality – but the next Commissioner for employment will be a woman (Marianne Thyssen) as well.

In any event, those responsibilities shouldn’t have been moved, since there is a better case for keeping equality issues either as part of the Justice DG or assigning them to the new Vice-President dealing with human rights (more on him in a moment). The problem is that the effect of the move might be to focus attention too much on discrimination in employment, whereas discrimination occurs in other fields too. Indeed, a proposal for a Directive to tackle discrimination in other fields has been under discussion for six years. Admittedly, DG Employment is now DG Employment and Inclusion; but that DG is always likely to retain a focus on employment issues.

DG Justice has also picked up some new responsibilities: most consumer affairs issues, as well as social responsibility (corporate governance). The first of these changes takes account of the de facto reality, as the outgoing Commissioner, Viviane Reding, already took a big role as regards consumer legislation.  The second change risks corporate social responsibility becoming detached from the rest of substantive company law. Again, it’s a role that could have been better suited to the Vice-President responsible for human rights.

Fundamental Rights

The new Vice President (VP) responsible for better regulation, inter-institutional relations, the rule of law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights is Frans Timmermans. He is the outgoing Dutch minister for foreign affairs. Like Avramopolous, he began his career as a diplomat, and then became a politician. He held ministerial posts in the Dutch government, including the minister for European affairs. Also, he was a member of the ‘Convention on the Future of Europe’ which drafted the ill-fated Constitutional Treaty, later approved in a decaffeinated form as the Treaty of Lisbon.

While Timmermans is meant to steer the work of the Commission generally on these issues, and particular the Commissioners for Justice and Home Affairs, he has no specific responsibilities, and no dedicated bureaucracy. So his post is one of President Juncker’s great innovations in the design of the Commission: creating five Vice-Presidents in charge of thematic issues, who don’t have specific tasks. (Two other Vice-Presidents – the High Representative for EU foreign policy and the VP in charge of budgets – do have specific tasks).

Time will tell whether this innovation is a brainwave or a foolish gimmick. The risk is that it replicates the problems of the US Vice-Presidency, which also comes with no specific tasks (besides waiting for the President to die). As one US Vice-President didn’t quite say, the job was ‘not worth a bucket of warm spit’. And now the Commission will have five such jobs.

Having said that, at least some of the new VPs might be able to make the job work. Much will depend on their personalities and the clout of the senior officials in their cabinet. Timmermans might be in a better position to make it work than others, being designated as the ‘First Vice President’ and the President’s ‘right-hand man’, and having fewer (and less high-profile) other Commissioners to supervise.

Certainly, it seems like a good idea to designate a Commissioner specifically responsible for human rights and the rule of law, given their overarching importance and application to all fields of EU law. The original plan (dropped at a late stage) was to give these responsibilities to the home affairs Commissioner, but this was a bad idea. It would have been awkward to mix up the responsibility for carrying out a specific policy with the role of ensuring that human rights are respected in all areas of EU law. Moreover, human rights are too important an issue to entrust to any of the (de facto) junior Commissioners.

Some wanted a Commissioner purely concerned with human rights, but we did not get that. What about Timmermans’ other two responsibilities? First of all, in principle the ‘better regulation’ task logically falls instead within the scope of the activities of the new VP for Jobs, Growth and Competitiveness. This task may well have been handed to Timmermans because of the Dutch government’s particular interest in this issue. Giving this task to him could have the positive result of reminding  everyone that some parts of Justice and Home Affairs law, just like EU economic law, is also a morass of overlapping and confusing legislation that ought to be cleaned up.

Finally, his most important task as the Commissioner for inter-institutional relations will be to try again to open up the EU, by amending its legislation on access to documents. Again, it might be helpful that he is Dutch, given that country’s strong tradition of transparency. But equally it might have been thought that a Swedish Commissioner would deal with that issue well – yet Mrs. Wallstrom produced a dreadful proposal back in 2008.

Her (presumed) intention to enlarge access to documents was frustrated by Commission officials who had exactly the opposite objective, resulting in a text which would have reduced access, not increased it (by redefining a ‘document’ narrowly, for instance). We will probably only have a good proposal on this issue if it’s drafted by someone who doesn’t work for the Commission. Just for the record, Mr. Vice President, I could draft that proposal for free.

Posted in 1.1 News from the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice | Leave a comment

The new Juncker  Commission: an “Echternach procession” for the freedom security and justice agenda ?

by Emilio DE CAPITANI

Text Updated on September 11, 2014 

1. Jean-Claude Juncker, President-elect of the European Commission which should start working from November 1st has unveiled today its team, its main priorities and its new method. As far as the Freedom security and justice area related policies are concerned there are some interesting and some worrying messages arising notably from the “mission” letters sent to the vice-president and to the two Commissioneers which will be in charge of this sensitive domain.

Vice President Timmermans :the “right hand” of the King ?

2. The most interesting (and promising?) is the fact that the respect for the rule of law and of the Charter will be the main mission of the first vice President (M. Timmermans) who will be the “right hand”  of the Commission President and who will have a veto power on the legislative initiatives presented by anyone of the members of the College.

3. The future will tell us if the Vice Presidents coordinating role will be a serious one (as the Juncker formula seems to suggest) or will only be a cosmetic formula as it was when under the Prodi Commission, for the first time this organisational model was launched. For the VP it will not be an easy task as it will not be served by a General Directorate. Within an institution where more than 80% of the decisions are taken by written procedure and where the real coordination/negotiation is done at head of Cabinet’s level the lack of administrative troops could be a serious handicap. That having been said it is more than likely that VP Timmermans will be supported by the Commission Secretary General and by the Legal Service (even if both are directly linked to Mr Juncker). Again who between them will be the real leader is still to be verified.

Three steps forward…

4. Unlike his predecessor Sefcovic in the Barroso Commission who was also in charge of the “Better Regulation” policy Vice President Timmermans should ensure that every Commission proposal or initiative will comply with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Moreover the mission letter fix a six months deadline to revise the consistency of the current legislation and states that  the new Vice President should “ensure that every Commission proposal or initiative complies with the Charter of Fundamental Rights”. Maybe this is a positive consequence of the fact that the Court of Justice does no more hesitate from striking down EU legislation when in contrast with the Charter (as it has been the case for the recent Data Retention Ruling). However some hot potatoes are already on the table such as the EU-PNR or the Smart Border package (Entry-Exit and registered traveller program) which will be hard to consider compliant with the principles of non discrimination and of data protection as outlined by the CJEU.

5. Moreover the mission letter establish a six months term to revise the legislation to be “RE-FITTED” in compliance with the new criteria set by President Juncker. Again, it will not be easy as already one month after the envisaged entry into force of the new Commission will end the transitional period for hundred measures in police and judicial cooperation adopted before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (European Arrest Warrant, Prum Decisions and several framework decisions…) without any serious impact evaluation on fundamental rights.

6. VP Timmermans will also be in charge the accession of the EU to the ECHR and of the coordination of the Commission’s work related to the Rule of Law as well as on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for Bulgaria and Romania. These tasks in the previous Barroso Commissions were very often treated only at the legal service level and raise at political level only in very exceptional cases (as it has been the case with Hungary). The fact that the Juncker  Commission does not intend to hide under the carpet the tensions which could arise with some Member States when the rule of law is at stake (even if  this “..is also an area where we need to be sensitive to the diversity of constitutional and cultural traditions in the 28 Member States”) should then be welcome.

7. Again, unlike his predecessor Sefcovich, the new first vice president  Timmermans will also “.. guide the work of the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality and the Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs” and will “manage and coordinate the participation of the Commission in the Justice and Home Affairs Council“ which means that coordination will not be avoid formula. Let’s hope that thanks  to this coordinating role the tensions which have arisen between the two commissioners on Home and Justice in the previous legislature will remain a thing of the past.

..and two steps back..

8. That having been said the message arising from the missions of the two candidate Commissioners in charge of Justice, Home affairs and migration is more ambiguous.

9. First and foremost the mission of the Justice minister  which was in the previous mandates focused on the core of judicial cooperation in criminal matters (as it is the case in the Member states) is now much more oriented to civil justice, consumer protection and ..the digital market. These are all important issues but not exactly the core of the Justice policy which, in the Juncker vision looks ancillary  even to “…our jobs and growth agenda, including through an assessment of the performance of judicial systems in the context of the European Semester of economic policy coordination.” Is the new Commission afraid (as the European Council in its recent guidelines) of the judicial area of criminal law ?  In theory this should not be the case because the Justice Commissioner will also be in charge of “all the Commission’s work in criminal matters and reinforcing judicial cooperation in this field. Putting an independent European Public Prosecutor’s Office in place by 2016 will be a significant step forward to protect the EU budget from fraud.”

10. However this declaration is contradicted by the mission of the Commissioner in charge of  “Migration and Home Affairs” who should “robustly address the challenge of irregular migration”,  “step up the fight against cross-border crime and terrorism” and focus “… on the fight against crime with a clear link to EU policies, such as human trafficking, smuggling and cybercrime and helping to tackle corruption, also by strengthening police cooperation”.

11. Do all these objectives fall outside judicial cooperation in criminal matters ? Will the Home Commissioner be in charge of the future legislation on euro crimes as it has been the case already in the previous Barroso Commission when the legislative proposal on trafficking of human beings, confiscation , and sexual abuse have been proposed by the Home Commissioner instead of the Criminal Justice commissioner ?

11. Instead of a patchwork of partially overlapping competencies in criminal law would had not been much wiser to link more clearly the competencies of the two “operational” commissioners to the relevant legal basis in the Treaty (where judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters are dealt by articles 81-86 and  police cooperation is dealt with by articles 87-89) ?

12. But the worst suprise is the confirmation of the link between  police cooperation and migration policies. Why migration is still considered a threat for the European Union so that it has to be dealt by the Ministry of interior ? Would not had been better to link the announced “new” portfolio of migration policy within the neighbouring policy or with the social policy or even to a new objective of “human mobility” where as it happens within the Schengen cooperation the right to freedom of movement of EU citizens and third country nationals are de facto coming closer  ?

13. The real outcome of the current configuration is a the growing role of the EU homeland security policy which will not only drive most of the future  legislation in criminal matters but will also drive (or be driven by?) the EU external security policy which still remain the main intergovernamental policy area after the Treaty of Lisbon. Last but ,ot least DG Home will now  manage some hundreds of millions of euros of research in the security domain.

14. Would had not been more logic (and compliant with the EU Charter) bringing together police and judicial cooperation under a rule of law perspective (as it is the case in the European Parliament with the LIBE committee) instead of creating spurious links between consumers policy with criminal justice and police cooperation with migration.

15. Moreover is the latter still considered a threat for the European Union to continue to be dealt by the Ministry of interior ? Would not had been better to link the announced “new” portfolio of migration policy with the neighbouring policy or with the social policy ?

16. Even the best of the Vice president will not be able to right up something which has been so badly designed and which mirror a typical Luxembourg procession in Echternach where people advance by making three step forward and …two step back.

———————-

ANNEX (text emphasized by me)

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans(150 kB)

10 September 2014

Jean-Claude Juncker, President-elect of the European Commission

Mission letter for  Frans Timmermans: First Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights

Dear Frans,

You are becoming a Member of the new European Commission at a particularly challenging time for the European Union. With the start of the new Commission, we have an exceptional opportunity, but also an obligation, to make a fresh start, to address the difficult geo-political situation, to strengthen economic recovery and to build a Europe that delivers jobs and growth for its citizens.

I want the new Commission to be a strong and political team. And I want you, with your political skills and experience, to fully play your part in this team.

We will have a lot to do in the years to come and we will have to show a united and clear sense of purpose from our very first day in office. In the Political Guidelines for the new European Commission that I presented to the European Parliament on 15 July, I set out a new Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change, focused on ten priorities.

I had discussed and developed this Agenda in detail in meetings with all the political groups in the European Parliament. The Political Guidelines are, therefore, somewhat akin to a political contract that I concluded with the European Parliament to mark the beginning of a new mandate and to prioritise the work of the new Commission.

I will be looking for your support, creativity and action to help deliver concrete results.

Following our recent discussions, I would like you to be my first Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In this mission letter, I set out what I expect from you as a Member of the Commission as well as specific goals for which you will be responsible for reaching during our mandate.

A new way of working

Delivering the priorities of the Political Guidelines will require a reform of the way the Commission has operated up until now. Reform means change. I want us all to show that we are open to change and ready to adapt to it.

I want the Commission as a whole to be more than the sum of its parts.

I therefore want us to work together as a strong team, cooperating across portfolios to produce integrated, well-grounded and well-explained initiatives that lead to clear results.

I want us to overcome silo mentalities by working jointly on those areas where we can really make a difference. We cannot and should not do everything: I want the European Commission to be bigger and more ambitious on big things, and smaller and more modest on small things.

I also want us to focus our energy and efforts on ensuring effective implementation and follow-up on the ground. I count on you to play your part in this new collaborative way of working.

To facilitate this, I have decided to organise the new Commission differently from its predecessors.

I will entrust a number of well-defined priority projects to the Vice-Presidents and ask them to steer and coordinate work across the Commission in the key areas of the Political Guidelines.

This will allow for a better focus and a much stronger cooperation amongst Members of the College, with several Commissioners working closely together as a team, led by the Vice-Presidents, in compositions that may change according to need and as new projects develop over time.

To empower them to deliver on their priority projects, the Vice-Presidents will act on my behalf and will help exercise my rights and prerogatives in their area of responsibility.

In particular, the Vice-Presidents will be in charge of:

  • Steering and coordinating work in their area of responsibility. This will involve bringing together several Commissioners and different parts of the Commission to shape coherent policies and deliver results.
  • Assessing how and whether proposed new initiatives fit with the focus of the Political Guidelines. As a general rule, I will not include a new initiative in the Commission Work Programme or place it on the agenda of the College unless this is recommended to me by one of the Vice-Presidents on the basis of sound arguments and a clear narrative that is coherent with the priority projects of the Political Guidelines.
  • Managing and organising the representation of the Commission in their area of responsibility in the European Parliament, the Council, national Parliaments and other institutional settings as well as at international level.
  • Promoting a proactive and coordinated approach to the follow-up, implementation, and communication of our priority policies across the Union and internationally.

Respect for the principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and better regulation will be at the core of the work of the new Commission. We will concentrate our efforts on those areas where only joint action at European level can deliver the desired results. When we act, we will always look for the most efficient and least burdensome approach. Beyond these areas, we should leave action to the Member States where they are more legitimate and better equipped to give effective policy responses at national, regional or local level.

I will therefore pay particular attention to your opinion as my first Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, before including any new initiative in the Commission Work Programme or putting it on the agenda of the College. You will also be entrusted with the regular monitoring of procedures linked to the preparation of delegated and implementing acts to ensure full political ownership.

I will also pay particular attention to the opinion of the Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources as regards the impact of our activities on the financial resources and staff of the European Commission. We will have the privilege of being supported by an excellent, highly motivated European civil service and a professionally well-run administration, but its resources are limited and have to be used to best effect. This is also why I will want resources to be allocated to our priorities and to make sure that every action we take delivers maximum performance and value added.

I also want all Commissioners to ensure sound financial management of the programmes under their responsibility, taking all necessary measures to protect the EU budget from fraud.

Under my supervision, Vice-Presidents will be supported by the Secretariat General in their tasks but will primarily rely on close cooperation with the relevant Commissioners and the services that report to them.

In addition, Vice-Presidents will be able to draw on any service in the Commission whose work is relevant for their area of responsibility, in consultation with the relevant Commissioner.

With regard to the Union’s external action, I have launched a pragmatic partnership with the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who, according to the Treaties, is one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission.

The new High Representative and I have agreed that she will play her role as a Commission Vice-President to the full. She will notably steer and coordinate the work of all Commissioners with regard to external relations through a Commissioners’ Group on External Action to develop a joint approach.

This Group will meet at least once a month in varying thematic and/ or geographic formats, according to the needs identified by the High Representative/Vice-President or by me.

The High Representative/Vice-President will regularly report back to me and the whole College about geopolitical developments. To liaise more effectively with the other Members of the College, we agreed that she will have her Headquarters in the Berlaymont, and that the Commission will put a Cabinet of an appropriate size at her disposal, about half of which will be Commission officials.

We also agreed that, whenever she sees the necessity to do so, she will ask the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations and other Commissioners to deputise in areas related to Commission competence.

Working together in this new way across the Commission should help ensure that the final decisions we take as a College are well-prepared and focused on what is important and that we are all equipped to explain and defend them. We will have to show a team spirit to make the new system work. Our success will depend on each and every one of you: on the team leadership of the Vice-Presidents and on the readiness of Commissioners to be strong team players. I would ask you all to work together to ensure that this new system works well.

The portfolio of the first Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights

As my first Vice-President, you will steer and coordinate the Commission’s work in the areas of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

You will work closely with the other Vice-Presidents, and all Commissioners will liaise closely with you when it concerns the implementation of our better regulation agenda.

In addition, for initiatives requiring a decision by the Commission in their area of responsibility, you will guide the work of the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality and the Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs.

You will drive the Commission’s work on better regulation in order to maximise its contribution to our jobs and growth agenda, both by coordinating the Commission’s work and by promoting the principles of better regulation in the EU institutions and at national level.

You will also be responsible for strengthening and deepening the Commission’s relations with the other institutions and national Parliaments.

During our mandate, I would like you to focus on the following, in your role as Vice-President:

  • Coordinating the work on better regulation within the Commission, ensuring the compliance of EU proposals with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, and working with the European Parliament and the Council to remove unnecessary “red tape” at both European and national level. This includes steering the Commission’s work on the “Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme” (REFIT) of EU legislation and ensuring the quality of impact assessments underpinning our activities. I will ask you to take stock of experience and report to the College within twelve months on how our approach to better regulation could be strengthened.
  • Ensuring that the special partnership with the European Parliament, as laid down in the Framework Agreement of 2010, is pursued with full commitment, and coordinating, on behalf of the Commission, the inter-institutional work on policy programming and better law-making.

I will ask you to discuss, within the first three months of the mandate, with the European Parliament and the Council, the list of pending legislative proposals and to determine whether to pursue them or not, in accordance with the principle of “political discontinuity”.

  • Coordinating and strengthening the interaction of all Commissioners with national Parliaments as a way of bringing the European Union closer to citizens and forging a new partnership with national Parliaments.
  • Ensuring that every Commission proposal or initiative complies with the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
  • Leading the dialogue between the European Commission and churches and religious associations or communities, as well as with philosophical and non-confessional organisations, in a transparent and regular manner.
  • Concluding the process of accession of the EU to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the Council of Europe.
  • Coordinating the Commission’s work related to the Rule of Law.
  • Coordinating the Commission’s work on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for Bulgaria and Romania.
  • Coordinating the work on transparency and preparing a proposal for an Inter-Institutional Agreement creating a mandatory lobby register covering the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council.

You will represent the Commission in the General Affairs Council and in negotiations on institutional issues. You will also manage and coordinate the participation of the Commission in the Justice and Home Affairs Council.

You will be responsible for the Commission’s relations with the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, as well as with the European Ombudsman.

You will coordinate the work on audit and chair the Audit Progress Committee (APC). To help you fulfil these responsibilities, the Internal Audit Service (IAS) will report to you. The IAS should be gradually reinforced through the integration of the Internal Audit Capacities of individual Commission services.

Our principles: ethics and transparency

We must abide by the highest possible professional and ethical standards at all times. I want the European Commission to lead the way as a modern, efficient and transparent public administration, open to all input that helps us deliver work of a consistently high quality, in full independence and impartiality. Our conduct must be unimpeachable. You have received the Code of Conduct of the Members of the European Commission. I expect all of us to honour both the word and the spirit of the Code.

You will have seen that the Political Guidelines include a new commitment to transparency. Transparency should be a priority for the new Commission and I expect all of us to make public, on our respective web pages, all the contacts and meetings we hold with professional organisations or self-employed individuals on any matter relating to EU policy-making and implementation. It is very important to be transparent where specific interests related to the Commission’s work on legislative initiatives or financial matters are discussed with such organisations or individuals.

Working in partnership for Europe

The Commission’s partnership with the other EU institutions and the Member States, as defined in the Treaties, is fundamental. The Union only succeeds when everyone is pulling in the same direction: this is why we should work in the months to come to forge a common understanding between the institutions about what we want to achieve and how we will go about it.

The Commission’s relationship with the European Parliament is the source of our democratic legitimacy. This must, therefore, be a political and not a technocratic partnership. I expect all Commissioners to invest in this relationship and to make themselves available for and to take an active part in plenary sessions, committee meetings and trilogue negotiations.

The meetings with the parliamentary committees over the weeks to come will be an opportunity for you to lay the foundations for a productive working relationship, to explain how your work will contribute to joint political priorities, and to demonstrate your commitment and suitability for your broader role as a Member of the College.

Effective policy-making also requires a deep understanding of every one of the Member States, of their common challenges and of their diversity. While fulfilling your obligation to participate in Commission meetings and engage with the European institutions, I want you all to be politically active in the Member States and in dialogues with citizens, by presenting and communicating our common agenda, listening to ideas and engaging with stakeholders.

In this context, I want all Commissioners to commit to a new partnership with national Parliaments: they deserve particular attention and I want, under your coordination as my first Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, important proposals or initiatives to be presented and explained in national Parliaments by Members of the Commission. This should also allow us to deepen the country-specific knowledge within our institution and to build mutual understanding and effective channels of communication between the national and the European level.

***

The European Union has come through one of the most testing periods in its history.

The effects of the economic and financial crisis are still causing great hardship in many parts of Europe. We live in a Union with a 29th state of unemployed people, many of them young people who feel side-lined. Until this situation has changed, this 29th state must be our number one concern, and we have to be very determined and very responsible in carrying out our work as Members of this Commission.

I am looking forward to working with you on the new start that our European Union needs now.

Jean-Claude JUNCKER

Annex: Table of allocation of portfolios and supporting services 

As first Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, Mr Timmermans will work closely with the other Vice-Presidents, and all Commissioners will liaise closely with him when it concerns the implementation of the better regulation agenda. In addition, for initiatives requiring a decision by the Commission in their area of responsibility, he will guide the work of the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality and the Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs.

Internal Audit Service (IAS)

————————————————

Jean-Claude Juncker, President-elect of the European Commission

Mission letter  for Vêra Jourová Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality

(EXCERPTS)

Dear Vêra,

You are becoming a Member of the new European Commission at a particularly challenging time for the European Union. …(see  general part of VP Timmermans letter)…

The Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality portfolio

You will be the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.

You will, in particular, contribute to projects steered and coordinated by the first Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as the Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness and the Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue.

For other initiatives requiring a decision from the Commission, you will, as a rule, liaise closely with the first Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In the Political Guidelines, I underlined that our shared values are the foundation of the EU.

These are spelled out in the Treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which underpins all our work. The EU needs to consistently respect and uphold the rule of law and fundamental rights. This is also an area where we need to be sensitive to the diversity of constitutional and cultural traditions in the 28 Member States.

A strong EU justice and consumer policy can build bridges between national legal systems and be a key part of reaping the full benefits of the Single Market, cutting red tape and facilitating cross-border business.

A sound and predictable justice system is also a prerequisite for economic growth and a business friendly environment.

During our mandate, I would like you to focus on the following:

  • Supporting the first Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in concluding the process of accession of the EU to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the Council of Europe, in making sure that all Commission proposals respect the Charter of Fundamental Rights and in consolidating the Commission’s role in protecting the Rule of Law. You will also work with the High-Representative for the Union’s Foreign Policy and Security/Vice-President to promote our values in our external relations.
  • Ensuring that, within the scope of EU competences, discrimination is fought and gender equality promoted, including by exploring how to unblock negotiations on the Commission proposal for the Horizontal Anti-Discrimination Directive.
  • Contributing, as part of the project team steered and coordinated by the Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, to the realisation of a connected digital single market by ensuring the swift adoption of the EU data protection reform and by modernising and simplifying consumer rules for online and digital purchases.
  • Concluding negotiations on a comprehensive EU-U.S. data protection agreement which provides justiciable rights for all EU citizens, regardless of where they reside, as well as reviewing the Safe Harbour arrangement.
  • Reinforcing, as part of the project teams steered and coordinated by the Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness and the Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, the contribution of EU justice policies to our jobs and growth agenda, including through an assessment of the performance of judicial systems in the context of the European Semester of economic policy coordination.
  • Coordinating all the Commission’s work in criminal matters and reinforcing judicial cooperation in this field. Putting an independent European Public Prosecutor’s Office in place by 2016 will be a significant step forward to protect the EU budget from fraud.

To help you to fulfil these responsibilities, the Directorate-General for Justice (DG JUST) will report to you, with some adjustments, as indicated in the table annexed to this letter.

Our principles: ethics and transparency… (see correspondent chapter of Timmermans mission letter)…

———————–ANNEX

DG Justice (JUST)

The relevant parts of the Consumer, Health and Food Executive Agency (CHAFEA)

Responsible for relations with: The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) The European Union Judicial Cooperation Unit (EUROJUST)

Changes for DG JUST- Unit MARKT F2 (Corporate Governance, Social Responsibility) moves from DG Internal Market and Services (MARKT) to DG JUST. - Directorate SANCO B (Consumer Affairs) moves from DG Health and Consumers (SANCO) to DG JUST, except for Unit SANCO B2 (Health Technology and Cosmetics), which moves from DG Health and Consumers (SANCO) to DG Enterprise and Industry (ENTR). - Unit JUST B3 (Anti-Drugs Policy) moves from DG JUST to DG Home Affairs (HOME). - Unit JUST D3 (Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and the part of Unit JUST D1 (Equal Treatment Legislation) dealing with the Directive establishing a general Framework for Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation, move from DG JUST to DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (EMPL

—————————————–

Mission letter for Dimitris Avramopoulos Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs

Dear Dimitris,

(see first part of  mission letter to Vice President Timmermans )

The Migration and Home Affairs portfolio

You will be the Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs. You will, in particular, contribute to projects steered and coordinated, in particular, by the first Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as to the work of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President. For other initiatives requiring a decision from the Commission, you will, as a rule, liaise closely with the first Vice-President, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Migration is one of the pressing challenges I have highlighted in my Political Guidelines. Europe needs to manage migration better, in all its aspects. A successful migration policy is both a humanitarian and an economic imperative. We need to show that the EU can offer both a compelling case to attract global talent, and a vision of how to robustly address the challenge of irregular migration. We need a new policy on migration that will address skill shortages and the demographic challenges the EU faces and that will modernise the way the EU addresses these challenges.

The other priority of your portfolio will be to help the Member States to manage and secure Europe’s borders. The Common Asylum EU framework needs to be fully applied and operational.

We also need to step up the fight against cross-border crime and terrorism. The EU can make a key contribution to citizens’ security in an area with clear ramifications for freedom of movement and fundamental rights.

The focus should be on concrete operational measures where the action of the EU can have an impact – and where we can show that this does not compromise our commitment to fundamental rights and values.

During our mandate, I would like you to focus on the following:

  • Developing a new European policy on regular migration. Such a policy should help Europe address skills shortages and attract the talent that it needs. A first step will be to address the shortcomings of the “Blue Card” Directive: I would ask for a first review to be concluded within six months of the start of the mandate. Further steps will require reflection on the best ways to make the EU an attractive place for migration destination, on the basis of other existing models.
  • Boosting the effectiveness of the European border agency FRONTEX by developing a system to pool resources from Member States. We need to be able to put European Border Guard Teams into action quickly, with the participation of all Member States as a rule.
  • Working to ensure the full and consistent implementation of the Common European Asylum System. We should look at an extended role for the European Asylum Support Office, with a particular focus on working with and in third countries. We should also develop a strategy for improving our response to emergency situations.
  • Working with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/VicePresident and the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development on ways to improve cooperation with third countries on these aspects, including on readmission.
  • Focusing on the fight against crime with a clear link to EU policies, such as human trafficking, smuggling and cybercrime and helping to tackle corruption, also by strengthening police cooperation.
  • Identifying where the EU can make a real difference in fighting terrorism and countering radicalisation, ensuring the respect of fundamental rights. We should be able to define operational measures which can have a concrete impact on issues such as “foreign fighters”.
  • Working closely with the High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President, the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development and the Commissioner for Trade to strengthen the EU’s strategic partnership with Africa.

To help you fulfil these responsibilities, the Directorate-General for Home Affairs (DG HOME) will report to you, with some adjustments, as indicated in the table annexed to this letter.

Our principles: ethics and transparency …(see third part of the general letter)…

 ANNEX – (Administrative adjustments)

DG Home Affairs (HOME) The relevant parts of the Research Executive Agency (REA)

Responsible for relations with: The agency for the management of large IT systems (EU-LISA) The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (FRONTEX) The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) The European Police Office (EUROPOL) The European Police College (CEPOL)

Changes for DG HOME- Unit ENTR G4 (Policy and Research in Security) moves from DG Enterprise and Industry (ENTR) to DG HOME. - Unit JUST B3 (Anti-Drugs Policy) moves from DG Justice (JUST) to DG HOME.

Posted in 1. EU and MS legal Order and Institutional framework, 1.1 News from the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, 3. Fundamental rights - Charter, 5. Asylum & refugees rights' policies, 6. Borders control policies (Schengen), 7. Immigration policies, 8. Judicial cooperation, 8.1 Judicial cooperation in civil matters, 8.2 Judicial cooperation in criminal matters, 9. Internal security -police cooperation | 2 Comments

Two Codes to rule them all: the Borders and Visa Codes

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS HERE

Written by Steve PEERS

In today’s judgment in Air Baltic, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has taken the next logical step following its judgment late last year in Koushkaki, where it ruled that the EU’s visa code set out an exhaustive list of grounds for refusing a visa application.  Today the Court has confirmed that the same is true of theSchengen Borders Code. Moreover, the Court has clarified a number of general and specific points about the nature and interpretation of the two codes.

Facts and judgment

This case concerned an Indian citizen who flew from Moscow to Riga. He had a valid multiple-entry Schengen visa, which was attached to a cancelled Indian passport. He also had a second Indian passport, which was valid but which did not contain a visa. The Latvian border guards then refused him entry into Latvia, on the grounds that the valid visa had to be attached to the valid passport, not to the cancelled passport.

For good measure, the Latvian authorities also fined the airline, Air Baltic, for transporting him without the necessary travel documents. The airline appealed the fine, and lost at first instance. But an appeal court then sent questions to the Court of Justice to clarify the legal position.

The CJEU ruled first of all that the cancellation of a passport by a third country did not mean that the visa attached to the passport was invalid. This was because only a Member State authority could annul or revoke a visa, and because the visa code did not allow for the annulment of a visa in such cases anyway. The Court extended its ruling in Koushkaki to confirm that the grounds for annulling a visa were exhaustive; the same must be true of the grounds for revoking a visa.

Secondly, the Court ruled that the Schengen Borders Code did not require entry to be refused in cases like these. The different language versions of that code suggested different interpretations, but as always, the Court seeks a uniform interpretation of EU law regardless. In this case, the standard form to be given to persons who were refused entry at the border to explain why they were refused does not provide for refusal on the grounds that a valid visa was not attached to a valid passport.

Also, the Court pointed out that the idea of separate visas and passports was not unknown to EU law, since the visa code provides that in cases where a Member State refuses to recognise a passport as valid, a visa must be issued as a separate document. Checking two separate documents was not a huge burden for border guards, and refusing entry simply on the grounds that the valid passports and visas were in two separate documents would infringe the principle of proportionality.

Finally, the Court ruled that the national authorities of Member States do not have any residual powers to refuse entry to third-country nationals on grounds besides those listed in the Schengen Borders Code. The Court reached this conclusion, by analogy with Koushkaki, because: the standard form giving the grounds for refusing entry contains an exhaustive list of grounds for refusal; the nature of the Schengen system ‘implies a common definition of the entry conditions’; and this interpretation would support ‘the objective of facilitating legitimate travel’ referred to in the preamble to the visa code.

Comments

The Court’s ruling that the Schengen Borders Code provides for complete harmonisation of the rules on refusal of entry is not really surprising, particularly after the judgment in Koushkaki reaching the equivalent conclusion regarding the visa code. However, it should be noted that in today’s judgment, the Court does not repeat its qualification in Koushkaki that national authorities had wide discretion to interpret the common rules in question. Furthermore, the Schengen Borders Code is relevant not only to those third-country nationals who need visas for entry, but also those who do not, such as visitors from the USA, Canada and most of the Western Balkans.

In effect, the Court’s ruling confirms that the Schengen zone is in effect the equivalent of the EU’s customs union, as regards the movement of people. Of course, the customs union and the Schengen zone do not apply to the same countries, due to opt-outs from Schengen (UK and Ireland), the deferred admission to the Schengen system (Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia), and the rules on association with each system (Turkey is part of the EU’s customs union, while Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland apply the Schengen rules). But the basic concept is the same, with the obvious implications as regards exclusive external competence of the EU (although a Protocol to the Treaties conserves some external competence over borders for Member States), and uniform interpretation of the rules in the respective codes.

As to the more detailed aspects of this case, the Court is surely right to rule against the pedantry of insisting that where a person holds a valid visa and a valid passport, the visa must always be attached to the passport. The underlying objective to ensure that the person concerned meets the conditions of entry is satisfied regardless of whether the visa is attached to the passport or not. Also, the Court’s ruling that the Borders Code has to be interpreted in accordance with the principle of proportionality, and in light of the objective of facilitating legitimate travel, could have broader implications in other cases.

Finally, the necessary corollary of the judgments in Koushkaki and Air Baltic is that a third-country national who meets the conditions to obtain a visa and/or cross the external borders has the right to that visa and/or to cross those borders. So these issues are not governed by national administrative discretion, but by uniform EU rules. The strengthening of the rule of law in this field is very welcome.

Posted in 1.1 News from the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, 3.3 Free movement, 6. Borders control policies (Schengen), 7. Immigration policies, 7.1 Regular immigration, 7.2 Irregular immigration, 9. Internal security -police cooperation | Leave a comment

The Missed Opportunity of the “Ypres Guidelines” of the European Council Regarding Immigration and Asylum

Written by Philippe De Bruycker on July 29, 2014.
ORIGINAL Posted in EU, EU Migration Policies

The European Council of 26 and 27 June 2014 had to define the strategic guidelines for the legislative and operational planning within the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice for the next period (2014-2020 in line with the EU financial perspectives). It did so by also adopting a “Strategic Agenda for the Union in times of change” consisting of five priorities among which was a “Union of Freedom, Security and Justice”.

As no other name had been used, we called them the “Ypres Guidelines” because this was the Belgian city chosen by the President of the European Council to hold the summit commemorating World War 1. The Ypres guidelines succeed the Tampere conclusions (1999), The Hague programme (2004) and the Stockholm programme (2009) with which the European Council laid down the foundations and indicated the main directions for the development of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.

The preparatory discussion of these guidelines took place in a climate in which most stakeholders and observers considered that times have changed and a new programme was no longer necessary because the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice had reached a stage of maturity with the adoption of many legal and policy instruments. Following that line, the emphasis had to be put on the correct transposition of EU directives and the effective implementation of the instruments in place. The new guidelines reflect that priority but their added value is extremely limited. They constitute mainly a collection of previous general statements without commitment, as is the case with the guidelines on integration, return, resettlement, Frontex and the link between the internal and external dimensions of the immigration and asylum policy.

Even guideline n°3 on the main priority relating to the transposition and implementation of existing instruments is rather weak as it is silent on the crucial issue of how they should be evaluated and could therefore remain dead letter, which has already been the case in the past (see in particular a Commission Communication of 28 June 2006 followed by Council conclusions of 19 June 2007 , which were never implemented).

Contrary to guidelines n°8 on irregular migration and n°9 on external borders, one will also notice that guidelines n°6 and 7, on legal migration and asylum respectively, are not accompanied by specific requests. This reflects the true priorities of the EU and puts into evidence the disequilibrium between the different components of its migratory policy.

Despite their weaknesses, the Ypres guidelines may generate a lively academic debate as shown by the complete opposition between our own analysis and that of the Ceps, overestimating from our point of view their content considered as “a subversion of (a so-called) Lisbonisation of Justice and Home affairs”.

A quick review of the more specific guidelines leads us to formulate the following remarks:

Guideline n°7 focuses on highly skilled migration without requesting a revision of the so-called “Blue Card” directive on the admission of highly skilled workers like the new President of the Commission rightly did immediately. The implicit consideration that the EU does not need low or unskilled migration is also questionable when looking at the number of illegal migrants working in the European Union;

Guideline n°8 on asylum is characterised by a narrow understanding of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) reduced to the harmonisation process of Member States’ legislations and by the willingness to give asylum seekers the “same procedural guarantees and protection throughout the Union”, which, contrary to the general assumption on which the guidelines are built that no new legislation is necessary, would require legislative changes to the existing norms.

This guideline is however visionary by requiring a reinforcement of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) at the core of the emerging bottom-up approximation process of Member States’ practices, which is indispensable to complete the top-down legislative harmonisation undertaken in order to build a truly Common Asylum Policy. But this will once again require amending regulation 439/2010, which is the legal basis of the EASO… Reference to the mutual recognition of positive asylum decisions has unfortunately been deleted despite the requirements of the Treaties. This actually shows the level of distrust between the Member States;

Curiously, guideline n°8 on irregular migration mixes the root causes approach of migration with cooperation with third countries of origin and of transit of migrants in the field of migration and border management, while it is certainly necessary to prioritise the fight against smuggling and not just trafficking as has been the case. The worst point is the link established between those elements and the diminishing loss of lives of migrants in the Mediterranean. The European Council hopes that, in this way, it will save lives in the future, but for the moment and for many years, if not decades, to come it actually leaves the migrants to drown alone in the sea…

Guideline n°9 on external borders expresses the support of the European Council for the creation of the “Smart Borders” databases (the entry-exit system and the registered traveler programme) – which is not neutral as this is still a controversial issue (in particular with the European Parliament) – as well as support for the reinforcement of Frontex, which shows the contradictions between the European policies because the budget of this agency decreased between 2013 and 2014;
The second part of guideline n°9 on visas reflects the recent change in the perception of this policy in economic terms and requires its modernisation by facilitating legitimate travel. Unfortunately, the European Council only envisages a reinforcement of the local cooperation between the Schengen consulates, while it is the missing European institutional framework of that policy which needs to be invented;

It is difficult not to be disappointed by the Ypres Guidelines, on which it has been easy to build a consensus because they lack real content as noticed by another watchful observer of the EU policies on migration and asylum.

Their lack of ambition is confirmed in comparison with the proposals put forward by the Commission in a Communication entitled “An open and secure Europe: make it happen” of 11 March 2014, envisaging among other elements a platform for the exchange of information between Member States on labour market needs, a single area of migration based on mutual recognition rather than harmonisation and the creation of Schengen Visa Centres. Let us not even speak of future challenges that have been insufficiently taken into consideration, such as the concrete implementation of the principles of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibilities between Member States, or even completely ignored, such as the mobility of third-country nationals.

The Ypres guidelines could be a paradoxical turning point with no guidance given by the European Council at the moment it proclaims the Union of Freedom, Security and Justice as one of the top five priorities of the EU. This draw-down of the European Council is not neutral from an institutional point of view.

The Commission could be seen as the winner of the process because, with such guidelines, its new members will be freer than they have previously been to set the future agenda of the EU. This could, however, be a pyrrhic victory as the Commission may have lost the political support of the European Council it precisely needs in its daily face to face with the Council of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs, which has until now been the more reluctant institution in the building process of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.

Let us hope that this episode does not announce the beginning of the decline of EU immigration and asylum policies , which could enter into a phase of stagnation focused on daily business despite the twists and turns they may create on the political agenda because of the media coverage of some events.

The fact that the question “What to do now?” came up immediately after their adoption shows not only the absence of real content in these guidelines, but also that the moment chosen for their adoption was not the right one.

Despite the protests of the European Parliament, the European Council decided to maintain its agenda as foreseen, with the consequence that the guidelines were prepared by a Commission and a President of the European Council who were finishing their mandate, and without a Parliament able to contribute to the process because of the elections.

The publication by the EU Italian Presidency on 1 July 2014 of several papers to reflect on the priorities of the Union of freedom, security and justice confirms that the Ypres guidelines will probably be quickly forgotten.

The new Commission, particularly as one of its members will be specifically in charge of migration, could be tempted to present a brand-new and complete programme. It is, however, unlikely that the Member States would appreciate the Commission devising its own programme for the EU just after having been told that such technique was outdated. Therefore, one way out could be to elaborate on the basis of the Ypres guidelines with a much more complete and detailed action plan to be adopted jointly with the Council of Ministers, such has been the case with the action plan implementing The Hague programme. This would also be an occasion to involve more closely the new European Parliament and the members of its Libe Committee in the definition of the agenda in order to build an inter-institutional consensus around sensitive policies that need as much political support as possible.

By Prof. Philippe De Bruycker, Deputy Director of the Migration Policy Centre at the RSCAS/EUI The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.

Posted in 1.1 Decision Making Porcess - Planning, 1.1 News from the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, 5. Asylum & refugees rights' policies, 6. Borders control policies (Schengen), 7. Immigration policies, 7.1 Regular immigration, 7.2 Irregular immigration, 9. Internal security -police cooperation | Leave a comment

PEERS : Data protection rights and administrative proceedings

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS
Thursday, 17 July 2014

Steve Peers

What rights do asylum-seekers have as regards data protection law? This issue was clarified in today’s CJEU judgment in YS and M and S, which could also have broader relevance for any case which involves access to documents in the context of administrative procedures.

Both cases involved asylum-seekers in the Netherlands, who sought access to file notes concerning their case. However, they did not rely on the EU’s asylum procedures Directive, which states that asylum-seekers must be given the reasons for negative decisions and are entitled to access reports about the interviews held with them, but does not make mention of access to any other document. The second-phase procedures Directive, applicable to applications made after 20 July 2015, adds a right of access to country-of-origin information and expert advice which was used in making a decision on the asylum-seeker’s case, but still does not extend to a right to the entire file.

So they invoked the data protection Directive instead. The first question in this respect was whether the legal analysis in the file concerning their case was ‘personal data’ within the meaning of the Directive. According to the CJEU, it was not, for although that analysis ‘may contain personal data, it does not in itself constitute such data within the meaning of’ that Directive. That analysis ‘is not information relating to the applicant for a residence permit, but’ rather ‘information about the assessment and application by the competent authority of that law to the applicant’s situation’, based on the personal data available to the authorities.

The Court further opined that this was consistent with the purpose of the Directive, which was to ensure the right to privacy, including the check on the accuracy of the data and the correction of inaccurate data. A different approach would amount to ‘the right of access to administrative documents’, which was not the point of the Directive. It justified its analysis by analogy with the Bavarian Lager judgment, in which it had ruled that the Directive did not have the purpose of opening up the transparency of EU decision-making.

The second point was the extent of access to the personal data (as defined by the Court) which was being processed. On this point, the CJEU rejected the argument that the entire file document had to be made available, and instead stated that it was sufficient to give data subjects an intelligible summary of the personal data being processed.

Finally, the national court had asked about the possible application of Article 41 of the Charter, which sets out the right to good administration. The CJEU distinguished its prior case law, and asserted that this Charter right applied only to EU bodies, not to national administrations. But the right to good administration could still be invoked against national authorities as a general principle, as distinct from a Charter right.

Comments

The Court’s analysis of the main data protection issues here is not very convincing. There is nothing in the text of either the data protection Directive or the asylum procedures Directive that would suggest a distinction between administrative documents which contain personal data, and other types of collection of personal data. Quite clearly asylum-seekers do have an interest in knowing how their personal data is being processed in respect of an analysis of their application, and of correcting that personal data if it is correct.

To argue that the data protection Directive does not give access to administrative documents is a straw man argument. The question is not whether it aims to give access to all administrative documents, but only whether it gives access to those which contain personal data. The comparison with the Court’s Bavarian Lager judgment makes no sense either, for in that case data protection formed an express exception to the EU legislation on access to documents, and the two rights were in conflict.

The Court’s judgment on the second point is more convincing, in light of the wording of the data protection Directive, which only requires an intelligible summary of the personal data being processed to be made available.

Finally, the Court’s analysis of Article 41 of the Charter is a brave attempt to clear up the prior inconsistencies and confusion on this point, for instance in its recent judgment on procedural rights as regards subsidiary protection applications. Undeniably the Charter provision does only apply to EU bodies, not to Member States, but the Court nevertheless guarantees that the right to good administration can be claimed against the latter by clarifying that the right to good administration is nonetheless a general principle of EU law.

This is, apparently, the first time that the Court has confirmed that some rights are not in the Charter, but are protected as general principles of EU law. This raises important questions as to which other rights might be protected in that way, what the difference between the parallel rights to good administration might be, and whether the general principles have a different legal effect than Charter rights. But in the specific context of asylum proceedings, and more generally in many other areas of EU law, it is useful that the Court confirmed that applicants can still enforce (by a different means) the right to good administration against national authorities.

Posted in 3.2 Data protection, 3.5 Good Administration, 5. Asylum & refugees rights' policies | Leave a comment

Steve PEERS : The UK opt in to pre-Lisbon EU criminal law

ORIGINAL Published on Statewatch : analysis by Steve Peers Professor of EU Law and Human Rights Law, University of Essex
July 2014

Introduction

The United Kingdom (UK) has exercised its power to opt out of all of the EU measures on policing and criminal law adopted before the Treaty of Lisbon (‘pre-Lisbon third pillar measures’), but has also sought to opt back into a number of these measures. That application to opt back in has recently been agreed in principle. What will be the impact of these changes for the UK’s participation in EU policing and criminal law?

The Legal Framework

Before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the UK was a full participant in almost all EU policing and criminal law measures. The exception was a small part of those measures ‘building on the Schengen acquis’, ie measures set out in, or amending, implementing or closely related to the Schengen Convention on the abolition of border controls. Most of those Schengen-related measures applied to the UK from the start of 2005, except for the rules on cross-border hot pursuit by police officers (which the UK did not opt into) and the rules on the Schengen Information System (SIS) database (because the UK wanted to wait until a second-generation SIS was operational first, and this didn’t happen until 2013).

The Treaty of Lisbon changed the legal framework for the adoption of EU policing and criminal law, applying to this field the normal jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and, for the most part, the ordinary legislative procedure of the EU, which entails joint powers for the European Parliament and no vetoes for Member States in the Council.

The UK would only agree to these major changes in return for two forms of opt-out. The first opt-out relates to policing and criminal law measures adopted after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. This opt-out allows the UK to decide on a case-by-case basis, after each proposal is made, whether it seeks to opt in or out. If the UK initially decides to opt-out, it can always seek to opt in again (needing the Commission’s approval) at any time after the measure is adopted.

The second form of opt-out takes the form of a ‘block’ opt-out for those measures adopted before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. This is intrinsically linked to a five-year transition period concerning those measures, which is applicable to all Member States.

This second opt-out is set out in Article 10 of Protocol 36 to the Treaties, which is set out in full in Annex I. The Article states first of all that the normal powers of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the Commission will not apply for five years after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, to pre-Lisbon third pillar measures. This means that the Commission does not have power to bring infringement procedures against Member States to the CJEU during this time. Nor does the CJEU have jurisdiction over questions from national courts concerning EU law in this area, except where Member States chose to opt in to this jurisdiction (18 Member States have opted in, and the Court has delivered a number of judgments in this field). Also, the transitional rules cease to apply to an act which is amended after the Treaty of Lisbon comes into force, and a number of such acts have indeed been amended. This transitional period ends on 1 December 2014.

Secondly, Article 10 of Protocol 36 sets out a potential opt-out for the UK (but not for any other Member States) at the end of this five-year period. If the UK notifies the Council by 1 June 2014, all the pre-Lisbon third pillar acts cease to apply to it as of 1 December 2014, unless those acts have been amended and the UK has opted in to those amended measures. In this event, the Council shall decide the ‘necessary consequential and transitional arrangements’, and may also decide that the UK has to ‘bear the direct financial consequences, if any, necessarily and unavoidably incurred’ as a result. In both cases, the Council acts by a qualified majority vote on a proposal from the Commission. The UK does not participate in the first of these measures (consequential arrangements), but would participate in the second (financial consequences).

Thirdly, the UK can seek to opt back into to some of the measures it has opted out of ‘at any time afterwards’. If it does so, then the rules for opting into Justice and Home Affairs measures in either the Protocol on the Schengen acquis or the Protocol on Title V (JHA measures) apply. In practice, that means that the Council, acting unanimously, decides on re-admission of the UK to measures building on the Schengen acquis (ie measures set out in, or amending, implementing or closely related to the Schengen Convention on the abolition of border controls), while the Commission (with no role for the Council, unless the Commission refuses the UK’s request) decides on readmission of the UK to pre-Lisbon third pillar measures which do not build on the Schengen acquis. The Protocol concludes by stating that in such a case, the EU institutions and the UK ‘shall seek to re-establish the widest possible measure of participating of the [UK] in the aquis of the Union in the area of freedom, security and justice, without seriously affecting the practical operability of the various parts thereof, while respecting their coherence’.

The block opt-out in practice

The UK government indicated in 2012 that it was inclined to invoke the block opt-out, and then seek to opt in to a number of measures. In 2013, it officially invoked the block opt-out (well before the deadline of 1 June 2014), and indicated the 35 measures which it wished to opt back into. Informal negotiations then took place between the UK, the Council and the Commission, in particular during the Greek Council Presidency in the first half of 2014. The discussions were complicated somewhat by the UK’s request to begin participation in the second-generation SIS (known as SIS II) shortly before 1 December 2014, along with its request to amend the rules relating to SIS II alerts on the European Arrest Warrants in accordance with new EU legislation.

Following these negotiations, the UK has agreed in principle with both the Council and Commission on what it will opt back into. In theory, the Council and Commission decisions will both be adopted officially on 1 December 2014, unless there is some change of heart within one or both institutions.

The agreement with the Council takes the form of a draft Decision, which amends the original Council Decision admitting the UK to participate in parts of the Schengen acquis, as well as the later Council Decision putting part of the Schengen acquis into force in the UK. Annexes II and III to this analysis set out versions of these Council Decisions, which shows how their texts will be amended (the Council will later publish its own codified text of the amended Decisions).

The crucial substantive point here is that the UK will continue to be committed to participating in the Schengen Information System, which provides for exchange of information on European Arrest Warrants, wanted persons and missing objects. It will also continue to be bound by the main criminal law and police cooperation provisions of the Schengen acquis.

As for the other measures, the Commission has reported back on its discussions with the UK, providing a list of measures agreed with the UK. This constitutes almost all of the EU measures on mutual recognition in criminal matters (most notably the European Arrest Warrant), the creation of EU agencies (Europol, Eurojust) and exchange of information or databases, with a few exceptions: the Framework Decisions on mutual recognition of pre­trial decisions and probation and parole decisions, and the so-called ‘Prum’ Decisions on cross-border exchange of information on DNA, licence plate information and fingerprints.

It appears that there has been a modest amount of negotiation on the lists of measures which the UK sought to opt out of. As regards the Council Decision, one measure on the operational functioning of the SIS has been added to the list. The Commission’s deal with the UK includes a decision to opt in to three measures implementing the Europol Decision, as well as the Decision establishing the European Judicial Network. These additional measures which the UK agreed to opt in to are essentially technical, except for the European Judicial Network, which the UK government believes is essentially a useless talking shop.

Also, it should be noted that some pre-Lisbon measures were amended while discussions were going on, in particular the EU’s Convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters and its amending Protocol. The UK did not want to opt back in to these measures, but this objection is now moot, since the UK participates in the EU Directive on the European Investigation Order, which has replaced some of the corresponding provisions of those measures. So this means that it will continue to participate in the Convention and Protocol, without having to opt back in.

Furthermore, the UK government agreed to consider opting in to further measures in future. These include the two Prum Decisions on exchange of information, by 1 December 2015. If the UK does not opt in, it has agreed to repay some EU funds which it received for the purpose of preparing to participate. The other measure which the UK has agreed to consider joining is the Framework Decision on mutual recognition of probation and parole measures. On this measure, there is no reference to any deadline for review.

In effect, it will fall to the next UK government to decide on these issues (the next general election will be in May 2015). It will always be open to the UK government to opt back in to more measures if it wishes.

However, the UK government withdrew its request to participate in two measures (a Decision on a hate-crime network, and a Decision on special police intervention units) during the discussions. This decision may well have been taken so that the government can still claim that it is only opting back in to a total of 35 measures.

It should also be noted that the UK’s opt back in to some of the pre-Lisbon measures concerned could be very short-lived, since there are proposals to replace these measures which the UK has opted out of, but which have not yet been agreed. This is the case particularly with Europol and Eurojust. Negotiations are further advanced on the Europol proposal, where it looks as if the UK’s concerns may have been addressed, with the consequence that the UK would opt in to the future Europol Regulation after its adoption. However, it is too early to say if the UK might eventually opt in to the future Eurojust Regulation.

Finally, it should be noted that the UK’s attempt to opt in to SIS II only a few weeks before the general opt-in decisions, coupled with its demand for special treatment on this issue, failed, as previously documented in a Statewatch analysis. While the UK failed to get its way on that issue, it appears to have been largely successful in opting back into exactly what it wished to opt back in to.

Other transitional issues

Finally, the EU institutions will aim to clarify the legal position generally as from the end of the transition period. They will publish in the EU Official Journal a list of ‘Lisbonised’ measures, ie pre-Lisbon third pillar acts which have been amended since the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force. Also, the institutions had intended to consider which pre-Lisbon measures could now be considered obsolete, and which therefore could be repealed. But it appears that this latter process has not yet taken place.

The net result is a rather confusing situation, both in terms of the complexity of the EU ‘acquis’ in this area and of the UK’s role in it. There will be a complete list published of pre-Lisbon measures which are not yet Lisbonised, but no step has been taken (or can now be taken in time, before the end of the transitional period) to pull out the legal weeds from this garden. There will be two separate Decisions listing pre-Lisbon measures which the UK has opted back into, but it would also be useful to have a list of post-Lisbon measures which apply to the UK. It would not unduly task the Council and/or Commission to make the effort to publish online a constantly updated list of the measures which do or not apply to the UK (as well as Ireland and Denmark, which also have opt-outs), and five years was certainly enough time to examine the pre-Lisbon acquis to see which measures were obsolete.

Documentation

UK notification of opt-out: Council document 12750/13: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2014/jul/eu-council-Prot36-uk-notification-12750- 13.pdf
Draft Council decision on UK opt back in to Schengen acquis: Council document 10115/14
http://www.statewatch.org/news/2014/jul/eu-council-Prot36-6-draft-decision-schengen-acquis-10115-  14.pdf
Commission report on negotiations with UK on opting back in: Council document 10168/14: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2014/jul/eu-council-Prot36-9-art10-com-10168-14.pdf

Overview of opt-in process: Council document 10167/14:
http://www.statewatch.org/news/2014/jul/eu-council-Prot36-8-Art10-complementary-report-10167-14.pdf
List of pre-Lisbon third pillar measures which have been ‘Lisbonised’, or which are the subject of a proposal to ‘Lisbonise’ them: Council document 9930/14: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2014/jul/eu-council-Prot-4-lisbonised-third-pillar-acquis-9930- 14.pdf
UK SIS II discussions: http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-241-eu-uk-opt-out.pdfPrevious Statewatch Analyses:
The UK opt-out from Justice and Home Affairs law: the other Member States finally lose patience (March 2014): http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-241-eu-uk-opt-out.pdf
The UK’s planned ‘block opt-out’ from EU justice and policing measures in 2014 (October 2012): http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-199-uk-opt-out.pdf
The Mother of all Opt-outs? The UK’s possible opt-out from prior third pillar measures in June 2014 (February 2012):
http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-168-eu-uk-opt-out.pdf

Annex I – Protocol 36, Article 10
As a transitional measure, and with respect to acts of the Union in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters which have been adopted before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the powers of the institutions shall be the following at the date of entry into force of that Treaty: the powers of the Commission under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union shall not be applicable and the powers of the Court of Justice of the European Union under Title VI of the Treaty on European Union, in the version in force before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, shall remain the same, including where they have been accepted under Article 35(2) of the said Treaty on European Union.

The amendment of an act referred to in paragraph 1 shall entail the applicability of the powers of the institutions referred to in that paragraph as set out in the Treaties with respect to the amended act for those Member States to which that amended act shall apply.

In any case, the transitional measure mentioned in paragraph 1 shall cease to have effect five years after the date of entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

At the latest six months before the expiry of the transitional period referred to in paragraph 3, the United Kingdom may notify to the Council that it does not accept, with respect to the acts referred to in paragraph 1, the powers of the institutions referred to in paragraph 1 as set out in the Treaties. In case the United Kingdom has made that notification, all acts referred to in paragraph 1 shall cease to apply to it as from the date of expiry of the transitional period referred to in paragraph 3. This subparagraph shall not apply with respect to the amended acts which are applicable to the United Kingdom as referred to in paragraph 2.

The Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, shall determine the necessary consequential and transitional arrangements. The United Kingdom shall not participate in the adoption of this decision. A qualified majority of the Council shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, may also adopt a decision determining that the United Kingdom shall bear the direct financial consequences, if any, necessarily and unavoidably incurred as a result of the cessation of its participation in those acts.

The United Kingdom may, at any time afterwards, notify the Council of its wish to participate in acts which have ceased to apply to it pursuant to paragraph 4, first subparagraph. In that case, the relevant provisions of the Protocol on the Schengen acquis integrated into the framework of the European Union or of the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice, as the case may be, shall apply. The powers of the institutions with regard to those acts shall be those set out in the Treaties. When acting under the relevant Protocols, the Union institutions and the United Kingdom shall seek to re­establish the widest possible measure of participation of the United Kingdom in the acquis of the Union in the area of freedom, security and justice without seriously affecting the practical operability of the various parts thereof, while respecting their coherence.

Annex II

Codified version of Council Decision on UK participation in Schengen acquis Additions in bold/underline; deletions in strikeout
Council Decision of 29 May 2000 concerning the request of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to take part in some of the provisions of the Schengen acquis (2000/365/EC)

SEE MORE HERE

 

Posted in 1.1 News from the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, 7.2 Irregular immigration, 8.2 Judicial cooperation in criminal matters, 9. Internal security -police cooperation | Leave a comment

1rst December 2014 is approaching: will the EU’s “creative ambiguity” on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters finally draw to an end ?

Also published on EU Blog analysis as :“Metamorphosis of the third pillar: The end of the transition period for EU criminal and policing law”

by Emilio De Capitani

On 1st December 2014, after five years of “legal gestation”, the previous “third pillar” of EU law will finally transform itself from an intergovernmental larva into a supranational butterfly. But will this really ensure a coherent policy, correctly applied by Member States and in full compliance with human rights?

More precisely, in compliance with Article 10 of Protocol 36 to the Treaties (1), added by the Lisbon Treaty, all the EU measures dealing with police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters adopted before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty will be treated like all the other EU legislative measures as far as the jurisdiction of the CJEU is concerned. Their transposition should be verified on the ground and, in case of problems, the Commission will be entitled to bring the Member States to the CJEU, which will also have the power to interpret these measures following references for a preliminary ruling from all national courts (only some national courts can send questions at present).

Moreover, with the end of the last transitional period for the Area of Freedom Security and Justice (AFSJ) it will be possible on the basis of real and transparent data to decide if dozens of measures (such as the European arrest warrant or the PRUM decision) which have been negotiated in a different political and legal context should be revised to comply with the new EU constitutional framework.
Quite surprisingly the aforementioned deadline – which will inevitably have a profound impact on the Member States’ policies and on the rights of the EU citizens – is approaching without any sort of public debate by the civil society, the national parliaments or the academia.

Even at EU level during the last Justice and Home affairs Council where the point was on the agenda no delegations took the floor nor the recent European Council referred to it in the Guidelines framing the future of the freedom security and justice area.

UK opt-in, opt-out and re-opt-in…

Why this silence? It is more than likely that such a “diplomatic” reserve and understatement are due to the fact that the UK is currently negotiating with the Council and the Commission which will be its final position on the former EU third pillar measures. (see here) It is was indeed to comply with the UK’s “red lines” that in October 2007 in the final phase of the Lisbon Treaty negotiations, a five year period freezing the Commission and CJEU enforcement powers was inserted in Protocol 36 (transitional measures).

At that time the UK government’s aim was (and probably still is) to protect its common law systems, and its police and judicial processes from the risk of the CJEU’s “judicial activism”. According to a House of Lords report, the UK Government asked it because the “vast majority” of pre-Lisbon police and judicial cooperation (PCJ) measures were not drafted with CJEU jurisdiction in mind and had often been agreed at the “lowest common denominator” in order to secure unanimity. As a result, much of the drafting was “not of a high standard and may be open to expansive interpretation by the ECJ” (see point 91 of House Of Lords Report “EU police and criminal justice measures: The UK’s 2014 opt-out decision” HL Paper 159).

Very skilfully the UK also obtained in the same Protocol the right to opt out from all the former third pillar measures before May 2014 as well as the possibility of a second thought, after December 1st 2014 of agreeing with the Council (for Schengen related measures) and with the Commission a new opt-in on some (or all) the former third pillar measures. However, according to Protocol 26 the UK re-opt-in could be granted only “without seriously affecting the practical operability” of the third pillar measures and by “respecting their coherence”.

Last year the UK Government submitted to the Council its Opt-Out decision and is now informally negotiating the possible re-opt-in for around 35/37 third pillar measures (see here)

It is too early to know which will be the result of the EU-UK negotiations. However if the Council and the Commission will accept the UK re-opt-in request (which for some measures can be delayed after the end of 2015) the situation will not be extremely different from the one existing before the block opt-out – except that the UK will now be subject to the Commission and CJEU enforcement powers.

The difficult quest of the former third pillar acquis ….

The UK’s (and Denmark’s) peculiar situation aside, the definition of the pre-Lisbon acquis for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters will be extremely important also for the other EU member States and, quite probably for the European Parliament (EP) and for the national parliaments. The EP is, since the end of 2009, a co-legislator also for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters but will not be associated with the implementation of Protocol 36. As for national parliaments, they will now share with the EP wide scrutiny powers (Articles 70, 71 85 and 88 TFEU) on these policies, and will at last have the opportunity to check what happened in the EU outside their national borders and even more inside their national territory. Maybe the December 1st deadline could then be an occasion at least for some of them to verify if these EU measures have been correctly transposed and, if they have to be amended (as it still possible for measures such as Europol and Eurojust which are currently renegotiated at EU level).

A revised list of the former third pillar measures has been recently established by the Commission in cooperation of MS representatives. The 123 measures currently covered by Protocol 36 are very diverse: some of them are of quasi legislative nature (such as the Framework Decisions) some others (such as the international agreements or Conventions, and the Council Decision) even if not legislative, are binding, and some others are of uncertain nature as it is the case for the “Joint Actions” adopted under the Maastricht Treaty regime.

As far as the content is concerned these measures deal with:

- mutual recognition of national decisions (such as the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) the European Supervision Order, the mutual recognition of freezing orders; fines; confiscation orders, probation orders; and of prison sentences…);
– harmonization of the definitions of certain criminal offenses and minimum penalties;
– criminal procedures;
– cross-border cooperation, in particular between police and law enforcement agencies, including the exchange of information and the investigation of crime;
– EU agencies (Europol, Eurojust and the European Police College (CEPOL));
– agreements with third countries on information sharing, mutual legal assistance and extradition
The Commission’s list is not final because between now and December 1st some of the measures could still be replaced by texts currently under negotiation. Moreover the Commission has also announced that some of them – which can be considered obsolete – will be repealed.

…the problem of their transposition and operability …

To assess the “operability” of these measures the European Commission has to verify if they have been correctly transposed by the Member States. The Commission is already collecting the relevant information even if it is not yet entitled to open infringement procedures in case of non compliance by the Member States.

It is worth recalling that in some cases (such as for the European Arrest Warrant) the Commission has already submitted several implementing reports. For other cases, the Commission has only recently adressed to the Member States some pre-alert communications which should be taken in account to avoid judicial proceedings after December 1st 2014.

The first pre-alert Commission report deals with the Framework Decisions 2008/909/JHA, 2008/947/JHA and 2009/829/JHA on the mutual recognition of judicial decisions on custodial sentences or measures involving deprivation of liberty, on probation decisions and alternative sanctions and on supervision measures as an alternative to provisional detention. These Framework Decisions (FD) have to be seen as a package of coherent and complementary legislation that addresses the issue of detention of EU citizens in other Member States and has the potential to lead to a reduction in pre-trial detention or to facilitate social rehabilitation of prisoners in a cross border context (see here).

The first FD (transfer of Prisoners) allows a Member State to execute a prison sentence issued by another Member State against a person who remains in the first Member State. On the other hand, it establishes a system for transferring convicted prisoners back to their Member State of nationality or habitual residence (or to another Member State with which they have close ties) to serve their prison sentence. Article 25 of the Transfer of Prisoners FD in conjunction with Article 4(6) and 5(3) of the European arrest warrant, allows a Member State to refuse to surrender its nationals or residents or persons staying in the latter if the other Member State undertakes to enforce the prison sentence in accordance with the same FD.

The second FD (Probation and Alternative Sanctions) applies to many alternatives to custody and to measures facilitating early release (e.g. an obligation not to enter certain localities, to carry out community service or instructions relating to residence or training or professional activities). The probation decision or other alternative sanction can be executed in another Member State, as long as the person concerned consents.

The third FD (European Supervision ) concerns provisional release in the pretrial stage. It will enable a non-custodial supervision (e.g. an obligation to remain at a specified place or an obligation to report at specified times to a specific authority) to be transferred from the Member State where the non resident is suspected of having committed an offence to the Member State where he normally resides. This will allow a suspected person to be subjected to a supervision measure in his home Member State until the trial takes place in another Member State, instead of being placed into pre-trial detention.

It is worth recalling that at the time of the Commission Communication, well after the relevant deadlines, respectively 10, 14 and 16 Member States have not yet transposed the Framework Decisions.

Another pre-alert Commission report deals with the implementation of the Framework Decision 2008/675/JHA of 24 July 2008 on taking into account of convictions in the Member States of the European Union in the course of new criminal proceedings. This Framework Decision aims to ensure that similar legal effects are given to domestic convictions and convictions from other Member States. Its article 3 is based on the principle of simple assimilation of convictions and imposes as a matter of principle that the legal effects of foreign convictions must be equivalent to the legal effect of domestic convictions. More than 3 years after the implementation date, 6 Member States have yet to notify the measures transposing the obligations of this Framework Decision: BE, ES, IT, LT, MT and PT.

A third pre-alert Commission report deals with the Framework Decision 2009/948/JHA of 30 November 2009 on prevention and settlement of conflicts of jurisdiction in criminal proceedings. This FD addresses the situations where potentially several Member States are competent to conduct criminal investigations in respect of the crime and proceedings against the alleged perpetrators. This poses challenges not only in terms of coordination and effectiveness of criminal prosecutions, but also with regard to respect for the fundamental principle of criminal law, also enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (“the Charter”), that a person may not be prosecuted and convicted twice for the same offense (Ne bis in idem). More than 1 year after the implementation date, 13 Member States yet to notify the measures transposing the obligations of this Framework Decision: BG, DK, EE, EL, ES, FR, IE, IT, LT, LU, MT, SE and the UK. Seven Member States informed the Commission of the process of preparing relevant transposition measures at national level (BG, EL, ES, FR, LT, MT and SE). However, none of these Member States adopted the measures or notified the Commission at least before April 2014.

In all these pre-alert Communications the Commission has abundantly made clear that the non-implementation of the Framework Decisions by some Member States is problematic since those Member States who have properly implemented the Framework Decisions cannot benefit from their co-operation provisions in their relations with those Member States who did not implement them in time. As a consequence, when cooperating with a Member State who did not implement in time, even those Member States who did so will have to rely on the random and often lengthy practice of traditional mutual legal assistance in criminal matters without a reliable guarantee of a timely detection of bis in idem cases, which should already take place at early stages of criminal proceedings. Such a practice increases significantly a risk of double jeopardy.

…and the problem of their “coherence” and compliance with the EU Charter.

But the priority for the EU legislator in the coming months should be to verify if the former third pillar measures which were negotiated without taking in account the now binding Fundamental rights Charter are consistent with the new EU institutional and legal framework.

Even if some scholars and politicians try to sell the idea that there is a substantial continuity between the pre Lisbon and Post Lisbon era this is certainly not the case for the AFSJ, where the entry into force of the Charter has marked a clear change of perspective. A proof of this has been recently offered by the recent CJEU jurisprudence in the asylum domain where the presumption of compliance with fundamental rights by another Member State has been considered rebuttable in circumstances where fundamental rights are under threat (CJEU Judgment in NS) or to recall the data retention judgment, where the EU data retention Directive was annulled for violation of the principle of proportionality and of the Charter. If this is the position of the CJEU how many of the 123 measures in the Commission list will require a substantial revision to be considered “coherent” with the new post – Lisbon legal and constitutional framework?

Please don’t throw out real rights for fake security…

Pre-Lisbon measures should also be subject to the parliamentary scrutiny at European and national level as it is required since five years by Article 70 of the TFEU (2) . They should also be effective as they can affect EU citizens’ security and fundamental rights. However it is difficult to ascertain if the interference with EU citizens’ rights has been proportionnate and effective. As the post-Snowden saga has now abundantly showed, “intelligence led policing” and “operational cooperation” cover practices which can be extremely intrusive without offering clear results to the European and/or to the national parliaments.
Moreover what is even more worrying is that parliamentarians do not examine whether their country is playing any role in the so called EU “Internal security strategy” (see the latest Commission report here) or in the so called “policy cycle” which are less transparent than the “joint actions” negotiated under the Maastricht regime… Are these “soft law” initiatives still justified forty years after the first TREVI cooperation was launched in these domains? Or, after Lisbon, can the EU citizens expect from the EU and its Member States a legislative framework which can at the same time deliver effective security and protect fundamental rights?

This was announced by the new treaties and by the Charter five years ago and what EU citizens are deemed to obtain; it is then the duty of the incoming Commission and of the newly elected European Parliament to do what the European Council didn’t dare to propose.

NOTES
(1) PROT. 36 (Transitional Measures) Article 10
1. As a transitional measure, and with respect to acts of the Union in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters which have been adopted before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the powers of the institutions shall be the following at the date of entry into force of that Treaty: the powers of the Commission under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union shall not be applicable and the powers of the Court of Justice of the European Union under Title VI of the Treaty on European Union, in the version in force before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, shall remain the same, including where they have been accepted under Article 35(2) of the said Treaty on European Union.
2. The amendment of an act referred to in paragraph 1 shall entail the applicability of the powers of the institutions referred to in that paragraph as set out in the Treaties with respect to the amended act for those Member States to which that amended act shall apply.
3. In any case, the transitional measure mentioned in paragraph 1 shall cease to have effect five years after the date of entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.
4. At the latest six months before the expiry of the transitional period referred to in paragraph 3, the United Kingdom may notify to the Council that it does not accept, with respect to the acts referred to in paragraph 1, the powers of the institutions referred to in paragraph 1 as set out in the Treaties. In case the United Kingdom has made that notification, all acts referred to in paragraph 1 shall cease to apply to it as from the date of expiry of the transitional period referred to in paragraph 3. This subparagraph shall not apply with respect to the amended acts which are applicable to the United Kingdom as referred to in paragraph 2.
The Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, shall determine the necessary consequential and transitional arrangements. The United Kingdom shall not participate in the adoption of this decision. A qualified majority of the Council shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, may also adopt a decision determining that the United Kingdom shall bear the direct financial consequences, if any, necessarily and unavoidably incurred as a result of the cessation of its participation in those acts.
5. The United Kingdom may, at any time afterwards, notify the Council of its wish to participate in acts which have ceased to apply to it pursuant to paragraph 4, first subparagraph. In that case, the relevant provisions of the Protocol on the Schengen acquis integrated into the framework of the European Union or of the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice, as the case may be, shall apply. The powers of the institutions with regard to those acts shall be those set out in the Treaties. When acting under the relevant Protocols, the Union institutions and the United Kingdom shall seek to re establish the widest possible measure of participation of the United Kingdom in the acquis of the Union in the area of freedom, security and justice without seriously affecting the practical operability of the various parts thereof, while respecting their coherence.

(2) Article 70 TFEU

Without prejudice to Articles 258, 259 and 260, the Council may, on a proposal from the Commission, adopt measures laying down the arrangements whereby Member States, in collaboration with the Commission, conduct objective and impartial evaluation of the implementation of the Union policies referred to in this Title by Member States’ authorities, in particular in order to facilitate full application of the principle of mutual recognition. The European Parliament and national Parliaments shall be informed of the content and results of the evaluation.

Posted in 1. EU and MS legal Order and Institutional framework, 1.1 News from the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, 3. Fundamental rights - Charter, 8.2 Judicial cooperation in criminal matters, 9. Internal security -police cooperation | Leave a comment

Steve PEERS :New EU rules on maritime surveillance: will they stop the deaths and push-backs in the Mediterranean?

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS

by Steve Peers

Introduction

A new EU Regulation, published on EU’s Official Journal of June 27th , sets out new rules on maritime surveillance and rescue operations coordinated by Frontex, the EU’s borders agency. What effect will these rules have on reducing the tragic death toll of migrants in the Mediterranean? And what will happen to the asylum claims of those rescued or intercepted in the high seas?

These new rules are a response to the continued argument that the EU must bear at least some of the blame for the deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, Member States’ authorities and Frontex have often been blamed for violent behaviour or ‘push-backs’: the forced return of migrants’ vessels to unsafe countries, which were condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in its 2012 judgment in Hirsi v Italy.

The Regulation replaces prior rules adopted by the Council alone in 2010, in the form of a Decision implementing the Schengen Borders Code,which was annulled by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) after the European Parliament (EP) challenged it on procedural grounds. According to the Court, an EU act concerning human rights and coercive measures had to be adopted by means of the EU’s legislative process.

That meant that the European Commission had to propose a legislative measure, which it did in April 2013. At first, a hard-line group of Member States opposed most of the provisions in this proposal concerning search and rescue and disembarkation (ie the rules on the destination of migrants who were intercepted and rescued), even after the particularly tragic loss of 300 migrants’ lives in autumn 2013. However, these Member States relented, and the European Parliament also pressed to retain and improve upon the Commission’s proposal.

The new Regulation was subsequently agreed, and will come into force on 17 July. But does it mean that the EU will be doing enough to address the loss of life and push-backs in the Mediterranean?

This post addresses these issues in turn, and concludes with an assessment of the issue of the accountability of Frontex. It is an updated and amended version of a previous Statewatch analysis on the new rules.

Search and rescue Continue reading

Posted in 1. EU and MS legal Order and Institutional framework, 1.1 News from the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, 2. Values & principles of the European Union, 3. Fundamental rights - Charter, 6. Borders control policies (Schengen) | Leave a comment

Europe v Facebook: the beginning of the end for NSA spying on EU citizens?

Original published on EU LAW ANALYSIS
Wednesday, 18 June 2014

by Steve Peers

Since the revelations about the extent of spying by the American National Security Agency (NSA) revealed by Edward Snowden, doubts have increased about the adequacy of the data protection regime in the United States, in particular as regards its impact on EU citizens, who are subject to the more favourable regime established by the Data Protection Directive. One aspect of these doubts concerns the ability of the NSA to examine the content of communications processed by social media companies based in the USA, such as Facebook.

Today’s decision by the Irish High Court to send questions in the ‘Europe v Facebook’ case to the CJEU raises the possibility that the NSA’s access to EU citizens’ personal data might soon come to an end. But it’s not clear if the CJEU will address the most essential issues directly, because the case raises a number of complex legal issues that need to be examined in more detail.

As a starting point, the basic legal regime governing transfers to Facebook is the ‘Safe Harbour’ system, which takes the form of a Commission Decision finding that all American companies certifying their participation in a system for complying with basic data protection principles maintain an ‘adequate’ level of data protection. This is one of the ‘adequacy decisions’ that the Commission can make pursuant to the rules on the data protection Directive on transfers of personal data outside the EU (see further my recent blog post on the planned reforms to this system). Despite the doubts arising from the Snowden revelations, the Commission’s most recent report on the Safe Harbour system did not suggest that the system should be abandonned

Not everyone accepts these assertions, however. An Austrian citizen, Mr. Schrems, complained about the transfer of his personal data as a Facebook user pursuant to the Safe Harbour rules to the Irish data protection authority, which was competent in this matter because Facebook has a subsidiary in Ireland. The national authority argued that it could not take a decision on this complaint, because it was bound by the Commission’s decision. Moreover, it argued that the complaint was ‘frivolous’.

Mr. Schrems then challenged the authority’s decision before the Irish High Court. In its ruling today, the national judge therefore decided to send a question to the CJEU. Essentially, the question is whether the national data protection authority is bound by the Commission’s Decision, and whether that authority can conduct its own examination.

The first obvious question in this case is whether the American system infringes EU data protection law. Basing itself on the recent Digital Rights judgment of the CJEU, in which that Court ruled that the EU’s data retention Directive was invalid, the national court clearly believes that it does. While acknowledging the important anti-terrorist objectives of the law, the judge, when examining national constitutional law states that it is ‘very difficult’ to see how such mass surveillance ‘could pass any proportionality test or survive any constitutional scrutiny’. Indeed, such surveillance has ‘gloomy echoes’ of the mass surveillance carried out in ‘totalitarian states such as the [East Germany] of Ulbricht and Honeker’.

The judge equally believes that the US system is a violation of EU law, with no adequate or accessible safeguards available to EU citizens, and no consideration of EU law issues built in to the review process that does exist.

Is this analysis correct? There are two fundamental issues here which the national court doesn’t consider: the scope of the data protection directive, and the derogations from that Directive. On the question of scope, the CJEU previously found in its Passenger Name Records (PNR) judgment that the EU/US agreement which provided for the transfer of data from airlines to the US authorities was outside the scope of the data protection Directive, because it regulated essentially only the activities of law enforcement authorities, and the Directive does not apply to the ‘processing of personal data…in the course of an activity which falls outside the scope’ of EU law, such as…public security, defence, State security…and…criminal law’. On the other hand, the CJEU ruled that the data retention directive was correctly based on the EU’s internal market powers, since it essentially regulated the activity of private industry, albeit for public security objectives. While in this case, it might be argued that the American law in question falls within the first type of law, the Safe Harbour agreement clearly falls within the second. So it is a sort of hybrid question, but on balance the issue falls within the scope of the Directive, since the measure at issue is essentially the Safe Harbour agreement.

Secondly, the external transfer rules in the EU Directive do not refer expressly to the issue of derogations from data protection rights on public security grounds. Yet presumably some such derogations can exist, given that the Directive itself provides for public security derogations as regards the standard EU rules. Surely the security exceptions applied by third countries don’t have to be exactly the same as those applied by the Directive. But some form of minimum standard must apply. For the reasons set out by the national judge, however, there is a strong argument that the US rules fall below the standard of anything which the EU can accept as ‘adequate’.

Because the national judge takes these two issues for granted, there is no question sent to the CJEU on whether the American regime is either within the scope of the Directive, or violates the minimum standards of adequacy which the EU can accept as regards third states. But both these issues are absolutely essential in the debate over the post-Snowden relationship between the US and EU. It would therefore be desirable if the CJEU addressed them nonetheless.

Next, another problematic issue here is which set of EU data protection rules should apply: the external transfer rules, or the more stringent standard rules? The national court, along with the data protection authority, applies the external transfer rules, given Facebook’s certification under the Safe Harbour system. However, it is doubtful whether this is correct.

As is well known, in the recent Google Spain judgment, the CJEU ruled that the standard rules applied to Google’s search engine function, given that it had an ‘establishment’ in Spain, according to the Court’s interpretation of the rules. As I then argued on this blog, it probably follows from that judgment that the standard rules apply at least to some social networks like Facebook. In any event, the issue will arise again when the revised jurisdiction and external transfer rules, mentioned above, apply. However, the complainant and the national court assume that the external transfer rules apply. Perhaps the CJEU should also examine this issue of its own motion.

Another problematic issue is the question of how to challenge the inadequacy of data protection in practice in the US, which is the subject of the only question sent to the CJEU. The Safe Harbour agreement addresses this point directly, since it allows national data protection authorities to suspend data transfers as regards an individual company, in accordance with existing national law, if either the US government or the US enforcement system has found a violation of that agreement, or if:

there is a substantial likelihood that the Principles are being violated; there is a reasonable basis for believing that the enforcement mechanism concerned is not taking or will not take adequate and timely steps to settle the case at issue; the continuing transfer would create an imminent risk of grave harm to data subjects; and the competent authorities in the Member State have made reasonable efforts under the circumstances to provide the organisation with notice and an opportunity to respond.

However, Irish national law does not provide for such a system, but simply sets out an irrebutable presumption that the Commission’s adequacy decision is sufficient. This rule may well have played a part in convincing Facebook and the subsidiaries of other US companies to set up in Ireland in the first place.
The challenge argued that the national data protection authority nevertheless had to exercise such powers, and so the national judge asked only whether this was possible. Logically, there can be only one answer, by extension from the NS judgment: Member States cannot create an irrebutable presumption that prevents the exercise of Charter rights, so the national data protection authority must have the powers in question.

In the alternative, or arguably additionally, it must be possible to challenge the validity of the Commission’s adequacy decision in the national courts, which would then have an obligation, if they thought that challenge was well-founded, to send questions on that point to the CJEU. (See the Foto-Frost judgment).

The next problematic issue is the role of the national constitutional protection for human rights. Clearly the national judge believes that the American system breaches the protection for the right to privacy guaranteed in the Irish constitution. Nevertheless, the national court proceeds to examine the issue primarily from the perspective of EU law. So if the CJEU rules against the challenge to the American law on the merits, or does not address those merits for procedural reasons, should the national court proceed to apply Irish law?

In principle, national constitutional law cannot apply here, since EU law, as the national court recognises, has extensively harmonised this issue. This means that, according to the Melloni judgment of the CJEU, only the EU’s human rights standards, in the form of the Charter, can apply. National constitutional standards cannot. But national courts in Ireland (and elsewhere) might be unwilling to accept that outcome.

National law would only apply if the CJEU rules that this issue falls entirely outside the scope of the Directive, as discussed above. If, on the other hand, the processing falls within a public security derogation from the Directive, the EU Charter would apply, by analogy with the CJEU’s recent judgment in Pfleger (discussed here), in which it ruled that the Charter applies to national derogations from EU free movement law. This parallels the argument (discussed here) that national data retention law falls within the scope of EU law, following the Digital Rights judgment, because it is a derogation from the EU’s e-privacy Directive.

Finally, the consequences of any future finding by the national data protection authority that transfers under the Safe Harbour decision must be suspended as regards Facebook must be considered. Assuming that the US had not changed its law in the meantime, Facebook would have a dilemma: should it comply with its US legal obligations, or face the suspension of transfers of data from Europe? Possibly it could avoid this dilemma by ensuring that it only processed EU residents’ data within the EU, potentially avoiding the scope of US law. But this might be expensive, and in any event the US might seek to extend the scope of its law to cover such cases. These issues would inevitably arise for other major US companies as well.

Any real prospect that Facebook transfers from the EU might be blocked would cause a major earthquake in EU/US relations, making the concerns about the recent Google Spain judgment look like a minor tremor. It may be that the only solution is for the US to take more seriously its ongoing discussions with the EU on data protection issues, with a view to reaching a solution that reconciles its security concerns with the basic principles of privacy protection.

Posted in 1. EU and MS legal Order and Institutional framework, 1.1 News from the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, 2. Values & principles of the European Union, 3. Fundamental rights - Charter, 3.2 Data protection, 8.2 Judicial cooperation in criminal matters, 9. Internal security -police cooperation | Leave a comment