Ten years after the first European Council in Tampere it is interesting to read again those declarations with which Heads of State and Government defined the ambitions of the European Union in this area.
“[…]The enjoyment of freedom requires a genuine area of justice, where people can approach courts and authorities in any Member State as easily as in their own. Criminals must find no ways of exploiting differences in the judicial systems of Member States. Judgements and decisions should be respected and enforced throughout the Union, while safeguarding the basic legal certainty of people and economic operators. Better compatibility and more convergence between the legal systems of Member States must be achieved.
People have the right to expect the Union to address the threat to their freedom and legal rights posed by serious crime. To counter these threats a common effort is needed to prevent and fight crime and criminal organisations throughout the Union. The joint mobilisation of police and judicial resources is needed to guarantee that there is no hiding place for criminals or the proceeds of crime within the Union.
The area of freedom, security and justice should be based on the principles of transparency and democratic control. We must develop an open dialogue with civil society on the aims and principles of this area in order to strengthen citizens’ acceptance and support. In order to maintain confidence in authorities, common standards on the integrity of authorities should be developed[…]”.
There is no doubt that these aspirations are a long way from being implemented, but it would not be fair to underestimate the progress, although not equal, made by the European Union in a relatively short timeframe. But what is the most important aspect is that despite the obvious difficulties, the European Union has reinstated its commitment through the years and that Member States are progressively deleting those reserves that characterised the starting process of the ALSJ. Further proof of this statement is art. 68 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which, depending on the Irish referendum, could enter into force together with the European Charter on Fundamental Rights in January.
It is interesting to point out that if, during the first phase of the ALSJ, the greatest worry concerns the creation of a more trustful frame among Member States by developing mutual trust, building areas and instruments to work together during the phase which starts with the Treaty of Lisbon, European policies put individual rights at the centre.
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