During a meeting that started under the Nice regime and finished under Lisbon, the Council of Justice and Home Affairs has adopted the proposal for the multi-annual 2010-14 strategic work programme in the area of freedom, security and justice which has already been addressed by the European Parliament and that should be adopted during the European Council of 10 December in Stockholm.
Following the Tampere Programme (1999) and that of the Hague (2004) the 82 pages of the new programme should define, under article 68 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union “[…] the strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning within the area of freedom, security and justice”.
A rather arduous exercise given that article 67 of the same Treaty establishes that this “area” should be carried out “[…] with respect for fundamental rights and the different legal systems and traditions of the Member States”.
Now, a glance through the many suggestions of the documents highlights the existing strains between European perspectives and national resistances. This becomes apparent by analysing the ambiguity of the formulation used, the silences and the rhetorical – rather than concrete – calls to the protection of rights and fight against discrimination at the European level.
The institutional perspective which was pretty much absent in the master proposal of the Commission (with the Irish referendum still pending at that point) as well as in the proposals prepared by the Future Group, finally peeps out with some unrehearsed recalls to the role of the European and national parliaments.
This democratic control visibly frightens the authors of these kind of document especially in relation to sensible domains such as judicial and police cooperation. This is because diplomats and civil servants with wide cultural, experience and technical skills, often perceive any openness to political dialogue as if they were taking a leapt into the unknown, even when they are genuine pro-Europeans.
A further demonstration of the persistence of these resistances comes from the almost desperate and then failed attempt to conclude a transatlantic agreement on a very sensible issues such as the exchange of financial data to fight terrorism, which took place during the last hours in force of the Treaty of Nice on the 30 November.
Nevertheless, the phase has now been ridden out and the actors of the three institutions should come to terms with this and increase their mutual trust, as it has already happened in other even more sensible domains for the European development, such as the internal market.