Future of EU migration, home and justice policies. Some questions to the new candidates commissioners..

by Steve PEERS, Henri LABAYLE and Emilio DE CAPITANI

The would-be Commissioners for immigration and home affairs and Justice will shortly be questioned by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in hearings, to determine whether the EP should vote to confirm them in office. MEPs have already asked some written questions and the would-be Commissioners have replied. Since most of the written questions were not very searching (except for a couple of questions on data protection issues), the Commissioners did not reply in much detail. However, the hearings are an opportunity for MEPs to ascertain the Commissioners’ plans, and to secure important political commitments, in these fields. To that end, we have therefore suggested a number of oral questions which MEPs should ask in the hearings.

Immigration and asylum

The Commission consider that migration policy should be framed by the (non binding) objectives of the global approach to migration (GAMM) and relations with third countries should be dealt with by “Mobility Partnership” which are more diplomatic declarations than binding acts. Would you propose a binding legal basis for treaties with the countries concerned, grounded on Articles 77, 78 and 79 of the TFEU?

What actions will the Commission take to ensure that EU legislation in this field is fully and correctly implemented by the Member States?

Will the Commission propose an immediate amendment to the EU visa code, to confirm that Member States are obliged to give humanitarian visas to those who need them and who apply at Member States’ consulates in third countries?

When will the Commission propose EU legislation to guarantee mutual recognition of Member States’ decisions regarding international protection, including the transfer of protection?

When will the Commission make proposals for a framework for sharing responsibility for asylum-seekers and persons who have been granted international protection, starting with those who have applied outside the territory of the Member States?

Will the Commission propose an immigration code, and what will its main contents be?

The Court of Justice has recognised that search and rescue obligations are interlinked with external borders surveillance (Case C-355/10). The EU adopted rules in this field which governing only border control coordinated by Frontex. Do you intend to propose that such rules should apply to all Member States’ border controls as a general rule, by formally amending the Schengen Borders Code ?

What immediate and longer-term steps will the Commission take to address the death toll of migrants crossing the Mediterranean?

Will the Commission propose to amend the EU legislation on facilitation of unauthorised entry to confirm that anyone who saves migrants from death or injury during a border crossing, or who otherwise acts from humanitarian motives, is exempt from prosecution?

Internal Security and Police cooperation Continue reading “Future of EU migration, home and justice policies. Some questions to the new candidates commissioners..”

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 ?

Continue reading “La nouvelle Commission Juncker et la JAI : que tout change pour que rien ne change ?”

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 Continue reading “The new Commission: first thoughts on Justice and Home Affairs issues”

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 JUSTUnit 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 HOMEUnit 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.

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.

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.