Interesting elements emerge on the implementation of the Stockholm Programme (2010-2014) from the working document of the Council presidency. It is necessary, as it is often the case for official documents, to interpret the silences as well as some cryptic or general information. It therefore follows a summary of the main proposals with some complementary explanatory notes.
Following the previous note on borders, immigration and asylum we wil now proceed with the priorities announced by the Spanish presidency in the field of internal security of the EU. These come from the working document of the Spanish, Belgium and Hungarian Council Presidencies which will follow one after the other in the next 18 months. As usual, additional notes will provide a comprehensive overview of the different topics.
It was only recently, on 9 December during a hearing in front of the Internal Security Commission of the Senate, that the US administration was reassuring senators of the efficiency of the system of prevention of terrorist attacks, specifically concerning air transportation.
From the hearing emerged that enormous progresses have been made since the constitution of the Counter Terrorism Centre of (CST) in 2003 since information coming from different disparate resources (from intelligence, such as CIA and National Security Agency, to security, such as FBI, , the Homeland Security Department and the State Department) have all been collected in one single watch list.
The necessity to set up common minimum standards as regard to procedural rights applying in criminal proceedings throughout the European Union was already clear for the European Parliament in 2001 when, following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the European Union adopted a series of measures such as the European Arrest Warrant and the Framework Decision on terrorism.
However, nobody did anything in this field for several years because the European Commission as well as the Member States believed that national legislations were sufficient.
This was everything but self-evident. Indeed, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg as well as the increasing number of refusals to apply the European Arrest Warrant issued by a judge of another Member State, especially after the EU enlargement to 27 Member States in 2004 suggested quite the opposite.
The European Commission has recently published a Communication summarising the most relevant information in the field of migration and asylum which shall be transmitted by the Member States on the basis of the European Council Decision of 2006.
This Decision was adopted following the self-evident remark that national measures in the areas of immigration and asylum are likely to have an impact on other Member States given the absence of border checks in the Schengen area, the close economic and social relations between Member States and the development of common visa, immigration and asylum policies.
Hence, the systematic exchange of information seemed an obvious necessity in order to increase the Member States’ reciprocal understanding of these policies and improve their coordination, influence the quality of the EU legislation and increase mutual trust.
With the launch of a recent Green Paper, The European Commission invites Member States and all concerned stakeholders to define a European strategy concerning the collection of admissible evidence in criminal matters in a cross-border context.
The Commission Communication recalls that already with the Tampere Conclusions in 1999 the European Council clearly set out the necessity to facilitate mutual trust and recognition of national decisions to overcome the obstacles derived from the differences between national legal systems and promote the fight against cross-border criminality.
The press release published on November 30th by the Court of Justice is worth reading by everybody interested in the European Law as well by the every individual whishing to bthe protection of its rights.
The very essential and clear text is the following:
The Treaty of Lisbon, which was signed on 13 December 2007 by the 27 Heads of State or Government of the Member States of the Union, comes into force on 1 December 2009. It amends the two fundamental treaties – the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty establishing the European Community, with the latter to be known in future as the ‘Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union’ (TFEU). (1)
The Treaty of Lisbon makes changes to the organisation and jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Everyone knows the fundamental role of the Court of Justice in the construction of a European legal space. Indeed, thanks to its preliminary rulings which guide the work of national courts when they are called upon to enforce community law. Over the decades, the dialogue between European and national courts has ensured an increasingly faithfully interpretation of community law as well as the development of a true common legal culture.
After all, what value might have fundamental rights to stakeholders if judges are not capable to secure their correct application?
In this regard it must be recognised that the increased synergy between European and national judges (acting in this case as ‘European’ judges) together with the new powers of European Court of Justice in the area of freedom, security and justice resulted by the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon will definitely increase individual’s rights in this domain.
For example, in the field of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (the so-called “third pillar”), before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Court’s ability to issue preliminary rulings relied upon Member States’ discretion on the basis of Article 35 of the Treaty on European Union (*). Indeed up to the 30 November several of these Member States did not accept the Court’s competence competence.
Another example relates to the domains ‘communitarised’ in 1999 with the Treaty of Amsterdam (immigration, borders, asylum and judicial and criminal cooperation). Although in this case the situation was a bit better, Article 68 TEC (**) limited the possibility to obtain pre-trial interpretation only to judges of last appeal.
With the Treaty of Lisbon this situation has radically changed. With a Communication appeared in the Official Journal on 5 December, the European Court of Justice has published a series of apparently non-binding guidelines aimed at establishing a daily relation between national and European judges.
In this regard, the guidelines concerning the urgent preliminary ruling procedure related to the area of freedom, security and justice are particularly interesting. They state:
The procedure is governed by Article 23a of Protocol (No 3) on the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union (OJEU 2008 C 115, p. 210) and Article 104b of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice. National courts may request that this procedure be applied or request the application of the accelerated procedure under the conditions laid down in Article 23a of the Protocol and Article 104a of the Rules of Procedure.”
Conditions for the application of the urgent preliminary ruling procedure
33. The urgent preliminary ruling procedure is applicable only in the areas covered by Title V of Part Three of the TFEU, which relates to the area of freedom, security and justice.
34. The Court of Justice decides whether this procedure is to be applied. Such a decision is generally taken only on a reasoned request from the referring court. Exceptionally, the Court may decide of its own motion to deal with a reference under the urgent preliminary ruling procedure, where that appears to be required.
35. The urgent preliminary ruling procedure simplifies the various stages of the proceedings before the Court, but its application entails significant constraints for the Court and for the parties and other interested persons participating in the procedure, particularly the Member States.
36. It should therefore be requested only where it is absolutely necessary for the Court to give its ruling on the reference as quickly as possible. Although it is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of such situations, particularly because of the varied and evolving nature of the rules of European Union law governing the area of freedom, security and justice, a national court or tribunal might, for example, consider submitting a request for the urgent preliminary ruling procedure to be applied in the following situations: in the case, referred to in the fourth paragraph of Article 267 TFEU, of a person in custody or deprived of his liberty, where the answer to the question raised is decisive as to the assessment of that person’s legal situation or, in proceedings concerning parental authority or custody of children, where the identity of the court having jurisdiction under European Union law depends on the answer to the question referred for a preliminary ruling.
However, it must be pointed out that these new competences will not be applied before five years in the area of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters for acts adopted before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon (art. 10 Protocol 36).
Also with this temporally exception it is nonetheless clear that a new phase has now started also for European judges. The interpretation of community law can now be based on an even more authority Court which in turn can rely on the Treaty and the binding Charter on Fundamental Rights binding for all the institutions, including European and national judges.
(*) EX Article 35 (TEU)
1. The Court of Justice of the European Communities shall have jurisdiction, subject to the conditions laid down in this Article, to give preliminary rulings on the validity and interpretation of framework decisions and decisions, on the interpretation of conventions established under this Title and on the validity and interpretation of the measures implementing them.
2. By a declaration made at the time of signature of the Treaty of Amsterdam or at any time thereafter, any Member State shall be able to accept the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice to give preliminary rulings as specified in paragraph 1.
3. A Member State making a declaration pursuant to paragraph 2 shall specify that either:
(a)any court or tribunal of that State against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law may request the Court of Justice to give a preliminary ruling on a question raised in a case pending before it and concerning the validity or interpretation of an act referred to in paragraph 1 if that court or tribunal considers that a decision on the question is necessary to enable it to give judgment, or
(b) any court or tribunal of that State may request the Court of Justice to give a preliminary ruling on a question raised in a case pending before it and concerning the validity of interpretation of an act referred to in paragraph 1 if that court or tribunal considers that a decision on the question is necessary to enable it to give judgment. Treaty on European Union 25
4. Any Member State, whether or not it has made a declaration pursuant to paragraph 2, shall be entitled to submit statements of case or written observations to the Court in cases which arise under paragraph 1.
5. The Court of Justice shall have no jurisdiction to review the validity or proportionality of operations carried out by the police or other law enforcement services of a Member State or the exercise of the responsibilities incumbent upon Member States with regard to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security.
6. The Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction to review the legality of framework decisions and decisions in actions brought by a Member State or the Commission on grounds of lack of competence, infringement of an essential procedural requirement, infringement of this Treaty or of any rule of law relating to its application, or misuse of powers. The proceedings provided for in this paragraph shall be instituted within two months of the publication of the measure.
7. The Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction to rule on any dispute between Member States regarding the interpretation or the application of acts adopted under Article 34(2) whenever such dispute cannot be settled by the Council within six months of its being referred to the Council by one of its members. The Court shall also have jurisdiction to rule on any dispute between Member States and the Commission regarding the interpretation or the application of conventions established under Article 34(2)(d).
(**) Article 68 TCE
1. Article 234 shall apply to this title under the following circumstances and conditions: where a question on the interpretation of this title or on the validity or interpretation of acts of the institutions of the Community based on this title is raised in a case pending before a court or a tribunal of a Member State against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law, that court or tribunal shall, if it considers that a decision on the question is necessary to enable it to give judgment, request the Court of Justice to give a ruling thereon.
2. In any event, the Court of Justice shall not have jurisdiction to rule on any measure or decision taken pursuant to Article 62(1) relating to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security.
3. The Council, the Commission or a Member State may request the Court of Justice to give a ruling on a question of interpretation of this title or of acts of the institutions of the Community based on this title. The ruling given by the Court of Justice in response to such a request shall not apply to judgments of courts or tribunals of the Member States which have become res judicata.
Two weeks after the entry into force of the new Lisbon Treaty the main objective of which is to increase the democratic accountability of all the EU institutitions the European Parliament has invited the Council and the Commission to work together on the reform of the EU legislation in this sensitive matter building on the new art. 15 (*) of the Treaty on the functionning of the European Union.
Not surprisingly the debate has showed that the Strasbourg plenary is still alone in the search of more transparency.
The proof of it is the fact that on its side the Commission did’nt move of one comma of its 2008 contested initiative legislative proposal and even confirmed it as a basic text of the legislative work also under the Lisbon Treaty even if it is now clearly outdated face to the last two years of progressive judgments of the Court of Justice and to the Lisbon Treaty which impose the principle of transparency to all the EU Institutions, bodies and Agencies.
On its side the Council has taken an even more restrictive approach by adopting the minimum of possible amendments to its internal rules of procedures following the entry into force of the new Treaty and of some of its directly applicable rules (such as the one referring to the legislative proceedings), followed by the European Council itself where the Head of State and Governement have taken the confidentiality as a general principle in their internal rules.
Something is moving , at last, as far as protection of fundamental rights is concerned for people who have been erroneously registered by the EU or by the United nations in the so called “terrorist lists”.
It is happening after years of quarrels raised at political level by the European Parliament, the Council of Europe’s Assembly and even by the UN General Assembly and after several judgments notably by the European Court of Justice, as it happened with the landmark Kadi ruling in September 2008.
It is worth remembering that these lists are established by the UN Security Council acting in the framework of Title VII of the UN Charter which deals with the binding measures to be taken to preserve “…the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression”.
These measures aimed notably at fighting international terrorism have been routinely adopted after 9/11 in the framework of the UNSC Resolution 1267/99 (which refers the establishment of “UN” terrorists lists by specialized Committees of the Security Council) and Resolution 1373/01 (which requires all the UN Member States to establish their own “national” terrorists lists).