Parliamentary Tracker: The “qualification” Directive of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is moving forward …

by Elisa SICLARI (FREE-Group trainee)

NB This post describes the current state of negotiations on the proposal of Commission to recast Directive 2011/95/UE “on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted”. Reference is made to the EU Member States positions as well as to the  most relevant amendments envisaged in the European Parliament by the LIBE Committee .

Foreword

The European system of asylum is the result of a long process beginning at an international level after the II World War and in particular due to the need to find a solution for all people displaced during the war atrocities.  As a matter of a fact, when United Nations created the 1951 Refugee Convention (Geneva Convention)[1] there was a clear limitation in scope referring to people persecuted in a specific area which was Europe and by events occurred before 1 January of 1951. With its Protocol of 1967 temporal and geographical limits has been removed and Geneva Convention reached an universal application on asylum.  Even the European Communities founding treaties made no reference to refugees and asylum seekers a first reference was made in the framework of the so called  “Political Cooperation” launched by the Single European Act which entered int force in 1987. But a clear legal basis for the European Union intervention in this domain was made by the Maastricht Treaty which entered into force on November 1st 1993 even if,  at the time it was still mainly an intergovernmental cooperation without a true association of the European Parliament and of the Court of Justice (under the so called “third Pillar” regime).

A progressive integration in the ordinary “Community” (“First Pillar”) regime was triggered by the Amsterdam Treaty which entered into force on the May 1st 1999

Already on 15 and 16 October 1999 in Tampere the European Council agreed to work towards the creation of a Common European Asylum System, on the basis of a full and inclusive application of the Geneva Convention of 1951 and its Protocol of 1967. Art. 63 of the (former) Treaty on the European Community was then the legal basis for the adoption of a first generation of EU legislation defining minimum rules on:
a) criteria and mechanisms to identify the Member State responsible for examining an application for asylum lodged by a third-country national in one of the Member States formerly covered by the so called “Dublin” Convention (see Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003) ; 
b) minimum standards on procedures for granting or withdrawing refugee status in the Member States (see Directive 2005/85/EC );
c) minimum standards on the conditions that third-country nationals will have to meet in order to aspire to refugee status (qualification standards) (see Directive 2004/83/EC );
d) minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers in the Member States (see Council Directive 2003/9/EC)  [2].

In a first five years phase (1999-2004) the Council acted unanimously, after consulting Parliament, but after this initial phase, the Treaty empowered the Council to decide that after 2004 the normal codecision procedure should apply and that it should thus henceforth adopt its decisions by qualified majority[3].

The second generation of EU legislation was adopted after a detailed assessment of the impact of the first generation of legislative measures and notably after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty as well as of the EU Charter of fundamental rights whose articles 18 and 19 strengthened the duty of the EU in this domain. Between 2011 and 2013 the following measures have been agreed between the European Parliament and of the Council:

  •  Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (recast of Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003) (so called “Dublin” Regulation) ;
  • Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection(recast of Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005) (so called “Procedures” Directive) ;
  • Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted(recast of Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 April 2004) (so called “Qualification” Directive);
  • Directive 2013/33/EU of 26 June 2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (recast of Council Directive 2003/9/EC of 27 January 2003) (so called “Reception” Directive).

All together these instruments form the current Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

However, unfortunately the mass influx of irregular migrants in 2015, showed all the weaknesses of the newly reformed CEAS notably because of the Member States lack of consistency and heterogeneous approach when transposing at national level the “Dublin” Regulation as well as the other asylum Directives. The  consequence of this has been an increasing  “asylum-shopping”, which incremented secondary movements of  migrants  moving to European countries where there are shortest durations of asylum procedures and best reception conditions. “Furthermore, although the Qualification Directive sets out rules on recognition and protection to be granted at Union level, in practice the recognition rate varies, sometimes to a considerable extent, between Member States”.  There are obstacles and blockades  even in the Resettlement and Relocation system for beneficiaries of international protection. The situation is straining to the limit European institutions and what is also serious and worrying is that the inability of the institutions to find a point of contact in this field, puts a strain on the respect for human rights of third-country nationals.

So, in the Post Lisbon  communication of the Commission of 6 April 2016 about reforming of CEAS and enhancing legal avenues to Europe, the main defined objective to reach is the transformation of the current system, (which is becoming extremely heavy on shoulders of Member States sharing the EU e external borders), into a new system which will work holistically by sharing equally the burdens among all the EU Member States. At the center of the new Common European Asylum System there should be not only the asylum seekers, but also people who are persecuted and are in need of international protection.

From a Directive towards a Qualification Regulation: the proposal of the Commission and reactions of others European institutions.

The aim of this first analysis is to focus on the recast of Directive 2011/85/UE, (Qualification Directive) which is the instrument throughout determining of Member States assess the application for asylum and allow to people in real need to benefit of specific rights in reason of their vulnerable situation. According ot the European Commission Member States have implemented Directive 2011/95 in many different ways and all these differences had lead to a different recognition rates among States, which encourage secondary movement of migrants. So, recasting Directive on qualification is one of the most important step in the reform of CEAS, as the first in order to guarantee an equal level of protection to all people in need by giving them the possibility to be safe and the possibility to have a new life avoiding speculation on the procedures of recognition.

The proposal of Commission to recast Directive 2011/95 starts by proposing the replacement of the Directive with a Regulation seen as the only instrument which can permit a convergence in this field.

The Regulation as a binding legislative will lead towards:

  • an harmonization of common criteria for recognizing applicants for international protection;
  • more convergence of the asylum decisions across Member States obliging authorities to take into account information on country of origin provided by the European Union Agency for Asylum and the European networks;
  • give protection only until there is the real risk of persecution without affecting a long term integration of beneficiaries of international protection;
  • reducing secondary movements of beneficiaries on one hand by determining the obligation to stay in Member States which is granting protection, on the other hand providing penalties linked to the Long term Residence Directive;
  • harmonization of the rights between beneficiaries of refugee status and subsidiary protection.

The Commission affirms that its proposal is founded on legal basis of: “[…]Article 78(2) (a) and (b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). These provisions establish that the EU enjoys powers to develop a common policy on asylum, subsidiary protection and temporary protection[…] Article 79 (2) (a) of the TFEU is added as a legal base due to the proposed amendment to the Long-Term Residents Directive 2003/109/EC related to beneficiaries of international protection.”. Furthermore, European intervention throughout a Regulation is offered to balance the situation among member States in respect of the principle of subsidiarity, and in order to achieve its scope in accordance with the principle of proportionality, such as affirmed by the Commission.

During the Asylum Working Party of the Council of the European Union, about these points set up by the Commission there were different reactions from States.

In a contribution of the Italian Parliament on 11/11/2016 there has been expressed the agreement about the intent to use a Regulation in this field, in order to reach more convergence among Member States and also about its legal basis.

On the contrary, in the first examination of the proposal for a Qualification Regulation by the Council of European Union on 15 December 2016(presidency Slovakia), Czech Republic and Estonia affirmed that this change is not justified and a Member State should have a margin of choice. This position was retreated by Estonia but not by Czech Republic and furthermore, in the examination of the compromise proposal of the Presidency on 24 March 2017 by Justice and Home Affairs Counsellors on 5/04/2017, Slovakia stances this position. Regarding to Spain it expresses “doubts about the suitability of the legal basis for turning the act into a regulation”. These positions are not changed in the last examination of the last compromise proposal of the Presidency on 27 April 2017 by JHA Consuellors on 10 May.

In the European Parliament, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (here and after Committee LIBE), chose Tanja Fajon (S&D) as the special rapporteur for the examination of the proposal of the Commission on the Qualification Regulation. She wrote the draft report after several debates with stakeholders and shadow rapporteurs, and she put in evidence a general agreement about the changing of the Directive into a Regulation[3]. During parliamentary debates has been underlined the fact that a proposal for a Qualification Regulation is seen as an important possibility to reach harmonization of criteria determining beneficiaries of international protection, and to give a better definition of rights that these people have to obtain.

In the conclusions of meetings of Tampere of the European Council in 1999, one of the intent was to give more opportunities to all people in need of international protection to ask for it, so it was decided to create a subsidiary protection to broaden the scope given by refugee status of Geneva Convention. Despite this objective, until today there are many differences between the two statuses concerning validity of residence permits, integration incentives and social assistance.

  1. A question of definitions: family members, acts of persecution, serious harm, environmental refugees.

In the framework of the legislation about international protection which is divided into two statuses, the definitions are essentials in the recast of the Directive on qualification and consequently the debate in the European Institutions is enriched by different perspectives.

First of all the definition of family members in the proposal of Commission at the Art. 2. 9(a),(b),(c),  has not undergone significant changes in confront to the Article 2(j) of the Directive 2011/95/UE.

From the Council there have been expressed some reservations about a definition of family members which was broadened to include as the family already existed before the applicant arrived on the territory of the Member States, and for example Belgium affirmed that: “the extension of the definition could lead to abuses. Such a situation should be regulated by the procedure for family reunification.”. Due to this fear, in the last examination by JHA Consuellors of the Presidency compromise proposal on 27 April of 2017, the Presidency intends to revert the text of the proposal to the old disposition of Directive Qualification, stressing on the fact that family members is a definition linked to a family created in the country of origin before the arrival in Europe, and concerns people who are on the same territory.

In the European Parliament, with the draft report of Tanja Fajon there have been proposed important changes about definition of family members. First of all she proposes to consider also families formed after their arrival on Member States excluding forced marriages in every case: this amendment was not included in the final report. In the amendment 39 added the point (ca) with includes siblings of beneficiary of international protection like family members, this prevision is linked also to the new recast of Dublin Regulation and was adopted in the Parliament’s report.

On. Zdechovsy (EPP)expressed his concern about these kinds of amendments, affirming that a definition such as that proposed could create confusion and as a consequence there can be an acceleration of the migratory emergency(Comm. LIBE 25/04/2017).

Referring to the definition of which circumstances can qualify a person eligible for refugee status there have been proposed many amendments at the Article 9. An important relevance to the phenomenon of human trafficking, considering it clearly like an act of persecution in light of Geneva Convention of 1951, is given by amendments of Barbara Spinelli (GUE) which were included in the final report:

  • The amendment at the point 9.2(a) intended to include among “acts of physical or psychic violence, including sexual violence and / or trafficking of human beings for exploitation purposes sexual[…]”;
  • The amendment at the point 9.7(f) it is specified: “acts directed specifically against a sex or childhood, such as recruitment of minors, mutilations genitals, forced marriages, trafficking minor and child labor, violence domestic, trafficking in human beings for ends of sexual exploitation, violations of the economic, social and cultural rights.”.

In the Commission proposal at the Article 10.1 d 2 on the reasons of persecution, about the definition of membership of a particular social group, the possibility to consider a membership based on sexual orientation is a disposition made with “might” and is oriented to exclude those acts considered to be in contrast with the national law of Member State.

In the compromise proposal of the Council of the UE, there have been some change in the orientation of Presidency and Member States. As a matter of a fact if the Presidency proposed to erase the disposition affirming that all criminal acts like “statutory rape” and “pedophilia” will fall into causes of exclusion but some Member States disagree. In particular Nederland and Slovakia affirmed that the erased sentence should be kept or used in a recital.

In the parliamentary debates, always about the Article 10 there have been amendments proposed by special Rapporteur Tanja Fajon on the point Art. 10.1 (d)2. She rejects this sentence justifying its suppression affirming that: “Linking sexual orientation to acts considered criminal is out of place and should be removed. Sexual orientation in legislation can never mean acts considered to be criminal and has no legal added-value since the concept of sexual orientation is clearly defined in European treaties and EU law, and thus also environment in national law.” On this point pursuing the same direction there have been many amendments, and the amendment 444 purposed by Barbara Spinelli, Cornelia Ernst furthermore add “gender expression” to the definition of “particular social group” in the light of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights ruling “where it was clarified that individuals can be at particular risk of ill-treatment (under Article 3 ECHR) in third countries where they are perceived as not conforming to the gender roles ascribed to them by society, tradition and even the legal system.” All these amendments were adopted in the final report.

Concerning the qualification for subsidiary protection (Art. 16) and so the definition of what is considered such as serious harm, another amendment proposed in the draft report of special Rapporteur of Tanja Fajon. The special Rapporteur would like to add to the Art.16  par.1 the point (ca) with which all consequences originated by a natural or man-made disaster are considered like a serious harm to life of a person. In this perspective are eligible to subsidiary protection the so-called environmental refugees. On. Barbara Spinelli (GUE) with the amendment 549 gave a list of which kind of events can be considered like natural or man-made disaster: “effects of climate change, land grabbing, water grabbing, desertification of the habitat, forced villagization as well as environmental disasters and pollution caused by war.” These amendments, both by Ms Fajon and Ms Spinelli, were not welcomed by the right and center-right wing groups and were not included in the final report.

  1. Duration of residence permits in the perspective of: stopping secondary movements, better integration, less burden on burocracy.

Member States in general support the idea of an harmonization between the refugee and subsidiary statuses about rights granted to beneficiaries of international protection. Despite this general orientation of European States, in the Commission’s proposal at the Art. 26 on Residence permits is expected a different period between refugee status and subsidiary status:

“(a) For beneficiaries of refugee status, the residence permit shall have a period of validity of three years and be renewable thereafter for periods of three years.

(b) For beneficiaries of subsidiary protection status, the residence permit shall have a period of validity of one year and be renewable thereafter for periods of two years.”

In the Council, the positions among Member States are not convergent. The tendency of Member States is to go forward a full harmonization giving both the same validity in order to stop secondary movements but until now there is not a total accordance about the length of these periods. As a matter of a fact there are some Member States which want to grant a validity for beneficiaries of refugee status of more than 5 years, and others Member States prefer to grant a validity of more than three years to both beneficiaries of refugee and subsidiary protection.

In the compromise proposal of the Council of UE (5 April), Netherlands affirms that: “The COM is proposing to keep differences between the rights attached to refugee status and subsidiary protection status. For NL, keeping the differences between both statuses will have the effect of considerable additional administrative burden for national systems.” Many Member States expressed that the prevision of three years of residence permit for refugees should be a minimum and Member States should have possibility to grant for a longer duration if they want (Italy). France purposes “for refugees the validity of the residence permit should be between five and ten years, renewable afterwards.”. Spain retains that the drafting could be “at least, three and five years”. This positions are not changed in the compromise proposal of the Council of 11 May. Concerning Residence permits issued for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection the validity was fixed between one and three years by the Council but France proposed to change it between one and five years. The Presidency underlined that in every case the issue of a permanent residence permit isn’t forbidden for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. In a interinstitutional file sent the Presidency asks to the Permanent Representatives Committee(COREPER), to agree on a compromise which foresees:

“An initial residence permit for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection status with a validity period prescribed between one (1) and five (5) years;

An initial residence permit for beneficiaries of refugee status with a validity period prescribed between five (5) and ten (10) years.

Residence permits can thereafter be renewed in accordance with national law and can include renewal for an unlimited period.” In the last proposal of the Council of 24 of May for refugee stats this period should be from 5 to 10 years, and for subsidiary status between 1 and 5 yeas, both these residence permits will be renewable in accordance with national law.

In the European Parliament amendments purposed in the draft report of Tanja Fajon, about period of residence permits issued, are oriented towards a total harmonization of two statuses as a matter of a fact, for both is expected a residence permit of 5 years renewable thereafter for periods of 5 years and were adopted in the final report. This proposal pursues certain objectives:

  • The first one is to give an effective possibility of integration for beneficiaries of international protection at the same level;
  • Giving an incentive to people to don’t change Member State avoiding secondary movements;
  • The convergence among Member States on the duration of residence permits taking in account of current practice across the Member States and “should not be based on a ‘race to the bottom’ principle”;
  • Avoid excessive burden on burocracy.

During reunion of the Committee LIBE of 25 April, many points of views of rapporteurs shadow and members of Parliament found accordance with this amendment, by putting in evidence others reasons why this is necessary or underlining what the special Rapporteur affirmed. Always by using an approach oriented for a better integration of beneficiaries of international protection, On. Sophia in ‘t Veld (ALDE), stressed that if Member States are not capable to guarantee protection for long periods they can’t oblige asylum beneficiaries to integrate themselves (such as expected in the Art. 38 comm.2). On the same line is the intervent of the On. Brigitte Sippel(S&D) who supports that if States can afford only a protection limited to a number of years, individual may be disincentive to integrate themselves into societies “fast-food”.

Even more, an harmonization about the two statuses and as a consequence of both Residence permits issued, “will help to streamline the bureaucratic job by avoiding lengthening of time and possible illegalities”, such as affirmed by rapporteur shadow Alessandra Mussolini(PPE).

On the contrary is different the approach of On. Jussi Halla-Aho (ECR), who reports that amendments presented by group of ECR about Residence Permits purpose a period of one year for beneficiaries of international protection, and On. Tomáš Zdechovsky(EPP) affirming that he does not agree on the harmonization of periods of residence permits between beneficiaries of two statuses cause States should be free to choose such durations.

  1. Amendment to the Council Directive 2003/109/EC concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents.

Another prevision of the Commission to avoid secondary movement is: “by clarifying the obligations of a beneficiary to stay in the Member State which has granted protection and providing for additional disincentives through the modification of the Long-term Residents Directive, by restarting the calculation of legal residence required there in case the beneficiary is found in another Member States without the right to reside or stay.”(Art. 44). For both statuses is expected possibility to ask for long-term residence permit but this is used with a double perspective: like a measure to allow integration but, moreover, such as a mechanism of control on movements within European Union. It can be also seen such as a form of punishment for beneficiaries of international protection if they don’t stay in Member States which granted them protection.

By this second perspective, amendments upon Directive 2003/109/EC appear more finalized to strengthen Dublin system creating a second channel to help the Eurodac system, with the scope to track people who benefit of international protection creating consequences directly on them.

By the Council there is agreement on the prevision of this kind of punitive mechanism. In the last proposal of the Council on 24 of May it has been added that each Member States shall bring into force their national law to comply with this provision by two years which is a more long time in confront of the Commission proposal(6 months).

During discussions in the European Parliament, on this aspect and on necessity to stop secondary movements, the rapporteur shadow Alessandra Mussolini(PPE) said that should be preferred an approach based on proportionality, which takes in consideration reasons why beneficiaries choice to move instead to act immediately throughout the punitive mechanism appointed by the Commission. Tanja Fajon added, at the amendment at the Art 44.1, that for beneficiaries of international protection should be taken into account the period before the recognition of the status in the calculation of the period planned to gain the status of long-term resident. This amendment was approved in the final report.

Point of view completely opposed was expressed by Jussi Alla-Aho(ECR) who affirmed that international protection needs to be temporary and that only beneficiaries really integrated should have possibility to ask for others kind of residence permits.

The prevision to oblige Member States to review refugee and subsidiary statuses.

In the proposal of the Commission at Art. 15 is foreseen a periodical obliged review of statuses of international protection, such decision is justified by the Commission affirming that despite in the Directive there were provisions about it often Member States did not respect them.

In view of the above, the Commission decided to set up Art. 15 in this way:

“Review of refugee status

In order to apply Article 14(1) “Revocation of, ending of or refusal to renew refugee status”, the determining authority shall review the refugee status in particular:

(a) where Union level country of origin information and common analysis of country of origin information as referred in Articles 8 and 10 of Regulation (EU) No XXX/XX [Regulation on the European Union Agency for Asylum] indicate a significant change in the country of origin which is relevant for the protection needs of the applicant;

(b) when renewing, for the first time, the residence permit issued to a refugee.”

In Council of European Union there has been support as regards a review triggered by a change in EU level County of origin information (Art. 15 a), but always concerning the point (a), in the Council of European Union many States BG, ES, IE, PT expressed their reservation about the fact that in this provision should be used the term “may” instead of the term “shall”. The Presidency supports that the review of cases should not be a “may” provision cause it would not lead to harmonization, as a matter of a fact in the last revision of the text on 24 May, the Council is maintaining it like a “shall” provision.  Even more Germany affirmed that should be more clarified the expression of  “significant change” due to which a State could withdraw statuses, and in the end it retains that Member States should take in consideration others sources of information and analyses like national information.

In the contribution of the Italian Parliament it expressed that also if there is a sharing about necessity to verify periodically the need of protection but this implementation, when politics of resettlement and relocation have failed, could be a danger for the reception systems of the Member States at the external borders and as a consequence on levels of assistance granted to asylum seekers. In this light, Italian Parliament suggests a more careful assessment o fan impact of this kind of provision; related to this point is also suggested to extend the period of residence permit for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection to avoid a burden on determining authorities.

Concerning point (b), this one has been deleted in the last proposal of the Council cause Member States are worried of the administrative burden it could entail if there were a general obligation to do a cessation check each time a residence permit is renewed.  Belgium expresses its reservation because “the introduction of regular review of the status is justified, but it is related to the provision of additional resources by the MS and additional administrative burden”. In the last proposal of the Council on 24 of May, always about point (b), it has been affirmed that it should be possible do some kind of review of the status also before extending the residence permit to correct errors and for important reasons pursuant to national law.

However, a number of Member States indicated that “the possibility to issue residence permits on other grounds (humanitarian or legal migration ground) upon cessation of the protection status should not be undermined, and of the importance of not unduly undermining integration prospects via the perception that the protection may only be temporary.”

In the European Parliament the discussion about a systematic review of protection has been not so different by that in Council of UE. The adopted amendments of the special Rapporteur Tanja Fajon are oriented to change this prevision into a “may” provision just where information on countries of origin at Union level and common analysis show a relevant change. It was proposed to change it in order to avoid excessive burden on determining authorities in particular of States at the external borders, but in addiction it should be changed cause could create a sense of instability and insecurity for beneficiaries of international protection. The possibility of a review obliged should be only when is registred an important changing of the security situation in the origin country of beneficiaries, such as affirmed by Rapporteur shadow Alessandra Mussolini, nevertheless, during the vote at Committee level, the Parliament decided to the delete the aforementioned paragraph b.

On the contrary Jussi Halla-Aho (ECR) during reunion of Committee LIBE of 25 April, retained that an assessment of the status once the residence permit has been renewed should be obligatory because is better an administrative burden instead of a burden due to efforces in helping people who don’t want to be integrated.

Another related point discussed was about the proposal of the Commission over the time of three months (Art. 14(5); 20(3)) given to the person whose the status is revoked due to change of circumstances, to try to change his/her status if other grounds can justify it.

By the Council of UE there was a complete deletion of both points related to the prevision of this grace period but Italy proposed to maintain the period.

The framework of amendments expected by members of the European Parliament about this point is very etherogeneus starting from a proposal of amendment presented by On. Jeroen Leaners (EPP), to give effect immediately the decision of withdrawal without a “period of grace” which can be granted by a decision of States; to a proposal of amendment of On. Jean Lambert(GREENS/EFA) and On. Barbara Spinelli(GUE) who want to extend the prevision of this period from three months to nine months.

The changes proposed for minors.

About minors, in the proposal of the Commission on a Qualification Regulation, and also by all the European institutions, is always stressed that in every case, starting from a presentation of request of international protection by a minor, the determining authorities of Member States will assess the “best interests of the child” as well as child specific form of persecutions. In this optical Member State shall consider “the principle of family unity, the minor’s well-being and social development, safety and security considerations”. Furthermore for minors beneficiaries shall be granted the access to the healthcare and the education system such as nationals of the Member States (Art.  35(2); 31(1)).

In the definition of family members of the text of the Commission at the Article 2(9)(b), is put forward that a minor children is considered as a family member of couples “on condition they are unmarried”. But in the European Parliament the amendment 37 made by the special Rapporteur Tonja Fajon in her draft report erase this sentence justifying that shouldn’t be take in consideration the “married or unmarried status of children when determining the members of a family”. These amendments were included in the final report.

There have been proposals from the Council and the European Parliament to amend Art. 36 concerning Unaccompanied minors, such as proposed by the Commission. From the date of the assignment of the unaccompanied minor’s legal guardian within five working days from the grant of international protection. The Directive 2011/95/ EU did not specify the period within which this assignment was to be made.

During the work in the Council of UE, in the compromise proposal on 21 February 2017, the debate over this period began with the proposal by the Presidency to extend it from five to fifteen working days. Greece affirmed that deadline proposed could be problematic, and Belgium “suggests to be prescribed one month maximum term from the entry into force of the decision for protection. For the purpose of the procedure for international protection, the unaccompanied child shall have a representative appointed to carry out his / her representative functions until the appointment of a guardian. It could be provided that the representative may, during the ongoing procedure, take action to appoint a guardian. In this way a guardian could be appointed before a decision on substance was taken.” In the last compromise proposal of the Presidency on 24 May 2017, the forecast for this period was suppressed leaving the Member States free to choose on that in respect of national law.

In the European Parliament  the changes proposed concern first of all to make as soon as possible the assignment of the legal guardian for the unaccompanied minor, considering the five-day non-working term. It is also requested that this assignment is made not only as a result of the granting of international protection but from the date of the application or the entry of the child into the Member State. In every case, this second assignment must be carried out as soon as possible and only when it is not possible to keep the guardian assigned to the minor upon his entry into the Member State, also to avoid too many changes of tutors that could be problematic for minors. In addition, it is required by the European Parliament, that the assigned tutor shall be evaluated within the first month of activity as well as periodically. All amendments were included in the Parliament report.

In the Parliament’s final report, with regard to the housing of unaccompanied minors it is proposed not only that the structures are adequate but that they are “opened” structures in accordance with the vulnerability of children and their safety.

Finally, in the proposal of the commission to the Art.36(5) regarding the search for the unaccompanied minor’s family it is foreseen, if it had not already been initiated, that it shall start as soon as possible after the recognition of child protection. In the final report of the European Parliament such research should be started as soon as the child submits the application.

Conclusions: a possibility to made Europe a safe point of arrival and not a Fortress with walls to override.

In the perspective to give a common guidance for Member States, the adoption for a Qualification Regulation is the better way to reach harmonization and convergence among States. This convergence should be well oriented towards those good practices which some States implemented under the Directive 2011/95/UE and to a more attention for human rights, rather than an approach created only with the purpose to stop secondary movements. This problem should be more properly considered in the reform of Dublin System, if it wants to be preserved the current approach.

The starting point given by the proposal of the Commission is an important input to the European Parliament which has a wide space to work and consequently the possibility to improve the current framework.

In the Parliament of UE and in the Council about certain points are emerged points of views which can find a link. Sometimes thanks to the will of Member States to avoid excessive burdens on determining authorities and on Member States to the external borders such as avoid secondary movements, or thanks to the shared aim to find solutions more guarantees for beneficiaries of international protection.

On the other hand it’s clear is not so simple to find a contact point with some more extremist positions due to the fear to create provisions that in some way could encourage immigration and in particular economic migration.

In view of the fact that we are facing a very particular historical period (wars and environmental disasters), and consequently in the future the immigration crisis is not short to the end, it is open to question if take in consideration a more opened definition of family could be maybe an additional resource for beneficiaries of international and humanitarian protection.

The “trilogue” between the co-legislators is about to start and a possible compromise and vote on the proposal of Regulation Qualification could take place before the end of the year. It would desirable it would  be in favour of more guarantees for human beings and respectful of human rights, and that could happen thanks to the amending job made in European Parliament.

NOTES

[1]Which finds its ground in the article 14 of the Universal Declaration.

[2]http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=LEGISSUM:a11000&from=IT

[3]Amendment 103 purposed by Barbara Spinelli, Malin Björk about to the Recital 1 where the adoption of the Regulation is not justified with the aim of an harmonization also“[…]to reduce incentives to circulation within the Union European”, but is more human rights oriented standing that it is necessary to grant an harmonization “[…]on the basis of high standards of protection”.

The Brexit talks: opening positions on the status of UK and EU citizens

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS

by Professor Steve Peers

Introduction

One of the most high-profile issues relating to Brexit, which could potentially have the biggest direct impact on the lives of the greatest number of people, is the issue of what happens to UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in UK after Brexit. This is one of the first issues to be addressed in Brexit talks, and both sides have now adopted their positions: the EU in the form of a Council decision on the mandate for the Commission negotiators, back on May 22, and the UK in the form of a UK government proposal, released on June 26. As we can see from these dates, it’s entirely false to suggest (as the UK Foreign Secretary has done, for instance) that this UK government proposal came first, with no EU position yet: it’s quite the opposite. (Equally it’s false to suggest, as the Brexit Secretary does, that among the EU institutions, only the EU Commission is demanding that the ECJ have a role in the agreement).

This EU position also covers the issues of the financial consequences of Brexit and its purely transitional aspects (ie court cases pending on Brexit Day), which no published UK proposal has addressed yet. However, I will focus solely on the citizens’ rights issues for now. For the sake of simplicity, the relevant parts of the EU position are repeated in the Annex to this blog post.

There is a basic choice to be made whether the position of UK and EU citizens after Brexit is based on the ‘acquired rights’ approach (ie retaining their status under EU law) or an approach based on equality with nationals. As we will see, the EU takes the former approach, while the UK takes the latter, even though during the referendum campaign the Leave side promised acquired rights to both EU citizens in the UK (‘no change’, ‘no less favourable’) and UK citizens in the EU.

The EU position

Basically, the EU position follows the ‘acquired rights’ approach, adopting a broad interpretation of that concept to include rights which will vest in future as well as those ‘in the process of being obtained’, specifically permanent residence status which can be obtained under EU free movement law after five years’ continuous legal residence. It explicitly covers both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, including those who previously resided on one side or the other. Protection will be based on equal treatment compared to nationals – reflecting the second option for approaching the issue – for the lifetime of each person, via ‘smooth and simple administrative procedures’.

The EU position goes on to define the personal scope of the deal: those covered by the EU citizens’ Directive (workers, self-employed and economically inactive people – implicitly subject to the limits in the Directive for ‘benefit tourists’, as discussed here), also including family members who arrive before or after Brexit Day. It will also repeat the scope of the EU social security Regulation, which addresses social security coordination in cross-border situations as distinct from immigration status, including frontier workers (ie those who work in the UK but live in France, or vice versa).

The material scope of the deal (ie the rights to be protected) should include residence rights based on the Treaties or the citizens’ Directive, as well as the procedural rules on documenting those rights; the social security coordination rules, including export of benefits and cumulating social security contributions made in different countries; the supplementary rights in the Regulation on free movement of workers, including workers’ children’s access to education; access to self-employment; and recognition of qualifications which were obtained before Brexit Day or which are in the process of being recognised on that date.

As for enforcement, the EU side wants this issue to be enforced by the ECJ, and the rules in the withdrawal agreement to be enforced in accordance with pre-Brexit case law of the Court. A separate position paper makes clear that this refers to all of the Court’s current jurisdiction, in particular references from national courts to the ECJ and Commission challenges to the UK.

The UK position

Firstly, the UK paper states that it will not alter the Common Travel Area arrangements between the UK and Ireland (and the Crown Dependencies), including ‘the rights of British and Irish citizens in each others’ countries rooted in the Ireland Act 1949’. To that end, ‘Irish citizens residing in the UK will not need to apply for settled status to protect their entitlements’. (It should be noted that some have questioned how much the Ireland Act in fact protects Irish citizens’ immigration status in the UK).

Next, the document suggests its legal form: the government ‘undertakes to treat EU citizens in the UK according to the principles below, in the expectation that the EU will offer reciprocal treatment for UK nationals resident in its member states’. It’s not clear if this is a unilateral offer conditioned on the assumption that the EU side will match it, or whether it is a proposal to be subject to negotiations with the view to being included in the withdrawal treaty. (At some other points, the document refers to ‘negotiations’ and to an ‘international law’, however).

In detail, the UK government states first that it will comply with EU free movement law until Brexit Day. Next, post-Brexit it ‘will create new rights in UK law for qualifying EU citizens resident here before our exit. Those rights will be enforceable in the UK legal system and will provide legal guarantees for these EU citizens’, alongside ‘commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement which will have the status of international law’. The paper rules out ‘jurisdiction in the UK’ for the ECJ. Furthermore, the government paper pledges to treat ‘all EU citizens equally’ compared to each other, although it is not clear how this fits with the special dispensation for Ireland referred to at the outset.

While ‘qualifying EU citizens will have to apply for their residence status’, the ‘administrative procedures’ to this end ‘will be modernised and kept as smooth and simple as possible’. But this will be a national process: ‘a separate legal scheme, in UK law, rather than the current one for certifying the exercise of rights under EU law’. This means that the UK government ‘will tailor the eligibility criteria so that, for example, we will no longer require evidence that economically inactive EU citizens have previously held “comprehensive sickness insurance” in order to be considered continuously resident’. The words ‘for example’ there suggest that there might be other (unspecified) differences between the criteria for obtaining status in the UK for EU citizens.

As part of the process, ‘all qualifying EU citizens will be given adequate time to apply for their new residence status after’ Brexit. This will take the form of a ‘guarantee that qualifying individuals will be granted “settled status” in UK law (indefinite leave to remain pursuant to the Immigration Act 1971).’ This means ‘they will be free to reside in any capacity and undertake any lawful activity, to access public funds and services and to apply for British citizenship’.

To get this status, ‘the EU citizen must have been resident in the UK before a specified date’, which is yet to be defined; but it will be in between March 29 2017 when the Article 50 letter was sent, and March 29 2019, Brexit Day (the government is expressly intending to negotiate this with the EU). They must also ‘have completed a period of five years’ continuous residence in the UK before they apply for settled status, at which point they must still be resident’. Since the criteria are national, not based on EU law, the calculation of this period might differ. As for ‘those EU citizens who arrived and became resident before the specified date’ but who have not accrued five years’ continuous residence on Brexit Day, they ‘will be able to apply for temporary status in order to remain resident in the UK until they have accumulated five years, after which they will be eligible to apply for settled status’.

On the other hand, those EU citizens who arrive after the [un]specified date ‘will be allowed to remain in the UK for at least a temporary period and may become eligible to settle permanently, depending on their circumstances – but this group should have no expectation of guaranteed settled status’. This category of people will therefore be treated quite differently than under the EU proposal.

As for family members, any ‘family dependants’ who join a qualifying EU citizen in the UK before Brexit ‘will be able to apply for settled status after five years’ (including where the five years falls after our exit), irrespective of the specified date’. Again, it is unclear what the definition of ‘family members’ will be. However, family members arriving after Brexit will be subject to the same immigration rules as the family of UK citizens, ‘or alternatively to the post-exit immigration arrangements for EU citizens who arrive after the specified date’. This suggests a willingness to negotiate special rules on this issue with the EU.

There will be an exclusion for ‘those who are serious or persistent criminals and those whom we consider a threat to the UK’; this might not match the rules permitting exclusion of criminals and security threats set out in the EU legislation and ECJ case law. As for ‘benefits, pensions, healthcare, economic and other rights, in the expectation that these rights will be reciprocated by EU member states, the Government intends that:’ settled EU citizens ‘will continue to have access to UK benefits on the same basis as a comparable UK national under domestic law’; those EU citizens who arrived before the specified date will ‘continue to be able to access the same benefits that they can access now – (broadly, equal access for workers/the self-employed and limited access for those not working)’, on their route to settled status. If they later get settled status, they will have access to benefits ‘on the same terms as comparable UK residents’. Also, export of benefits to the EU ‘will be protected for those who are exporting such UK benefits on the specified date, including child benefit, subject to on-going entitlement to the benefit’. (Note that the right to export benefits will implicitly not be offered to those who arrive after the specified date).

Furthermore, ‘the UK will continue to export and uprate the UK State Pension within the EU’; this mainly concerns UK citizens retiring abroad, but some EU citizens will have acquired such rights from their UK employment too.  Other forms of social security coordination will continue, including aggregation of national insurance contributions for UK benefits and state pensions, even if granted after Brexit, and healthcare arrangements set out in UK and EU law; in particular, the UK will ‘seek to protect the ability of individuals who are eligible for a UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before the specified date to continue to benefit from free, or reduced cost, needs-arising healthcare while on a temporary stay in the EU’. Negotiations on ‘an ongoing arrangement akin to the EHIC scheme’ are planned, but there is no reference to negotiations on the other social security issues, even though it may prove technically and administratively difficult to aggregate contributions and pay benefits without a formal basis for cooperation. It is not clear if the UK plans to continue applying any of the relevant EU legislation as such; if it does not, negotiations and implementation of the rules will be more complicated.

Next, as regards education, the UK government ‘will ensure qualifying EU citizens who arrived in the UK before the specified date will continue to be eligible for Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) student loans and ‘home fee’ status in line with persons with settled status in the UK’, as well as maintenance support (where it exists) ‘on the same basis they do now’. Equal treatment in tuition fees will still apply to those EU students who are enrolled during the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic years ‘for the duration of their course’, along with ‘a parallel right to remain in the UK’ for those students ‘to complete their course’. (There’s no reference to a right to stay for other purposes after Brexit). The UK government ‘will seek to ensure that citizens with professional qualifications obtained in the EU27 prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will continue to have those qualifications recognised in the UK (and vice versa)’. This matches the EU position, albeit with more equivocal language.

As for documentation, EU citizens will need to obtain evidence of ‘settled status’ eventually, but they do not need to apply now, although an application process will be set up prior to Brexit ‘to enable those who wish to do so to get their new status at their earliest convenience’. Those who have already got documentation of permanent residence will have to apply again, but ‘we will seek to make sure that the application process for settled status is as streamlined as possible’. Fees will be set ‘at a reasonable level’. There will be a grace period of perhaps two years while all EU citizens resident under the old system have an opportunity to transition to the new one. If they fail to apply to be covered by the new system, they lose their permission to stay.

Finally, the UK will ‘discuss similar arrangements with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland’ which are also subject to free movement rules ‘on a reciprocal basis’.

As for UK citizens in the EU, the government says they ‘must be able to attain a right equivalent to settled status in the country in which they reside’ and ‘continue to access benefits and services across the member states akin to the way in which they do now.’ The UK will also seek to ensure their continued right to establishment and cross-border provision of services within the EU.

Comments

Since the EU position refers to the continuation of existing law, there are few ambiguities in its meaning (besides those inherent in that existing law anyway – for instance, the exact status of same-sex marriages is pending before the ECJ, as discussed here). There are still some vague points, however. Firstly, is the reference to those who have previously resided in the EU or UK meant to be free-standing, or does it simply refer to the more detailed rules set out in the EU legislation referred to? (For instance, a UK pensioner living in Spain might be receiving a UK pension on the basis of contributions made some years ago).

Secondly, it seems that the reference to rights based on the Treaties covers non-EU parents of UK children in the UK, ie the so-called Ruiz Zambrano cases (see further discussion here). Thirdly, would UK citizens resident in the EU on Brexit Day still retain the right of free movement between Member States – ie would a UK citizen in France on that day retain full free movement rights to move on to Germany in future? Finally, how would each side distinguish between those UK and EU citizens with acquired rights on Brexit Day, and those (principally those who move afterward) who do not have such rights?

In comparison, the UK position is necessarily vaguer, since it does not refer to EU law as such. As noted above, therefore, some of its key features are unclear, notably the definition of the grounds for ‘settled’ status, the scope of persons who might be excluded from that status, and family members. Much of the UK position uses ‘weasel words’ like ‘seek to ensure’ or ‘akin’.

To the extent that its content can be discerned, the UK position is indisputably offering worse terms both for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU. First of all, the cut-off date in the EU position is Brexit Day, whereas it might be earlier in the UK position. The UK suggests that EU citizens in the UK might not be treated equally even if they have permanent residence status by the cut-off date, since they will have to transfer to settled status; the application process to that end would not be necessary in the EU position. While the UK will exempt people from the requirement to have Comprehensive Sickness Insurance, it has been argued that the current UK law on this point breaches EU law anyway.

For those EU citizens who do not have settled status by the cut-off date, or who arrive after the cut-off date but before Brexit Day, they will be worse off than under the EU proposal, since they will not be covered by EU free movement law as regards the acquisition of EU permanent residence status. All categories of EU citizen will have a diminished right to family reunion after Brexit Day.

For UK citizens in the EU, the UK position that they should get settled status in the relevant EU country would not necessarily ensure a right equivalent to EU free movement law permanent residence status. Moreover, those who have not obtained such status as of Brexit Day will not necessarily be able to obtain it as easily as EU citizens do, since free movement law would no longer apply. The word ‘akin’ as regards equal treatment is also vague. While the UK would aim to keep their right of establishment and freedom to provide services, there is no reference to the broader free movement rights arguably inferred by the EU position.

The two sides obviously also differ on the role of the ECJ: it would keep its full current role under the EU proposal, while lose its jurisdiction in the UK under the UK proposal. The latter would leave it with jurisdiction over UK citizens in the EU, and arguably a possible limited role in dispute settlement. Note that the UK implicitly is willing to consider an alternative method of dispute settlement: this could be a new court, a form or arbitration, or use of the existing EFTA Court, which applies EU internal market and related law in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, subject to a requirement to apply ECJ case law adopted before the date of the agreement and to take later case law into account. (This latter requirement matches the EU position, and nearly matches the UK plans for the Great Repeal Bill).

Taken as a whole then, the UK position is much vaguer and offers significantly less to both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU than the EU position does, although the gap is much wider for those who do not yet have EU permanent residence status. There is also an enforcement gap as regards the role of the ECJ, although there are precedents (notably the EFTA Court, agreements with Switzerland and Turkey) for the EU not insisting that its citizens living outside the EU have their rights enforced by the ECJ. Any compromise would most likely be based on: a) the EU side accepting an alternative means of enforcement of rights other than the ECJ; b) a cut off date of Brexit Day; and c) the two sides agreeing to base protection on the acquired rights approach with certain exceptions (family members admitted after Brexit, more stringent rules for those with criminal convictions).

 

Annex

EU negotiation position

20 The Agreement should safeguard the status and rights derived from Union law at the withdrawal date, including those the enjoyment of which will intervene at a later date (e.g. rights related to old age pensions) as well as rights which are in the process of being obtained, including the possibility to acquire them under current conditions after the withdrawal date (e.g. the right of permanent residence after a continuous period of five years of legal residence which started before the withdrawal date). This should cover both EU27 citizens residing (or having resided) and/or working (or having worked) in the United Kingdom and United Kingdom citizens residing (or having resided) and/or working (or having worked) in one of the Member States of the EU27. Guarantees to that effect in the Agreement should be reciprocal and should be based on the principle of equal treatment amongst EU27 citizens and equal treatment of EU27 citizens as compared to United Kingdom citizens, as set out in the relevant Union acquis. Those rights should be protected as directly enforceable vested rights for the life time of those concerned. Citizens should be able to exercise their rights through smooth and simple administrative procedures.

21 The Agreement should cover at least the following elements:a) Definition of the persons to be covered: the personal scope should be the same as that of Directive 2004/38 (both economically active, i.e. workers and self-employed, as well as students and other economically inactive persons, who have resided in the UK or EU27 before the withdrawal date, and their family members who accompany or join them at any point in time before or after the withdrawal date). In addition, the personal scope should include persons covered by Regulation 883/2004, including frontier workers and family members irrespective of their place of residence.

b) Definition of the rights to be protected: this definition should include at least the following rights:

i) the residence rights and rights of free movement derived from Articles 18, 21, 45 and 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and set out in Directive 2004/38 (covering inter alia the right of permanent residence after a continuous period of five years of legal residence and the right as regards access to health care) and the rules relating to those rights; any document to be issued in relation to the residence rights (for example, registration certificates, residence cards or certifying documents) should have a declaratory nature and be issued under a simple and swift procedure either free of charge or for a charge not exceeding that imposed on nationals for the issuing of similar documents;

ii) the rights and obligations set out in Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems and in Regulation 987/2009 implementing Regulation 883/2004 (including future amendments of both Regulations) covering inter alia, rights to aggregation, export of benefits, and principle of single applicable law for all the matters to which the Regulations apply;

iii) the rights set out in Regulation 492/2011 on freedom of movement for workers within the Union (e.g. access to the labour market, to pursue an activity, social and tax advantages, training, housing, collective rights as well as rights of workers’ family members to be admitted to general educational, apprenticeship and vocational training courses under the same conditions as the nationals of the host State);

iv) the right to take up and pursue self-employment derived from Article 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

  1. For reasons of legal certainty, the Agreement should ensure, in the United Kingdom and in the EU27, the protection, in accordance with Union law applicable before the withdrawal date, of recognised professional qualifications (diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualification) obtained in any of the Union Member States before that date. The Agreement should also ensure that professional qualifications (diplomas, certificates or other evidence of formal qualification) obtained in a third country and recognised in any of the Union Member States before the withdrawal date in accordance with Union law rules applicable before that date continue to be recognised also after the withdrawal date. It should also provide for arrangements relating to procedures for recognition which are ongoing on the withdrawal date. (…)
  1. The Agreement should include provisions ensuring the settlement of disputes and the enforcement of the Agreement. In particular, these should cover disputes in relation to the following matters:

– continued application of Union law;

– citizens’ rights;

– application and interpretation of the other provisions of the Agreement, such as the financial settlement or measures adopted by the institutional structure to deal with unforeseen situations.

  1. In these matters, the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (and the supervisory role of the Commission) should be maintained. For the application and interpretation of provisions of the Agreement other than those relating to Union law, an alternative dispute settlement should only be envisaged if it offers equivalent guarantees of independence and impartiality to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
  1. The Agreement should foresee that any reference to concepts or provisions of Union law made in the Agreement must be understood as including the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union interpreting such concepts or provisions before the withdrawal date. Moreover, to the extent an alternative dispute settlement is established for certain provisions of the Agreement, a provision according to which future case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union intervening after the withdrawal date must be taken into account in interpreting such concepts and provisions should be included.

OPINION 2/15: MAYBE IT IS TIME FOR THE EU TO CONCLUDE SEPARATE TRADE AND INVESTMENT AGREEMENTS

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EUROPEAN LAW BLOG  ON JUNE 20, 2017

By Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi

Opinion 2/15 is already causing quite a stir in legal academia. While some take an EU law perspective, others look at it from the perspective of investment law or public international law. In this short post I will not focus on purely legal issues. Instead, I will look at the Opinion’s effects on the EU’s investment policy and propose a change in the Commission’s approach to the negotiation of international economic agreements.

The Current Approach and Its Drawbacks

 The EU is not new to negotiating preferential trade agreements (PTAs). However, negotiating free trade agreements that include investment chapters (FTIAs), resembling bilateral investment treaties (BITs), is a new and challenging experience for the EU. In its relations with Canada, Vietnam, Singapore, the USA, and Japan the EU has chosen an ‘all-in’ approach, seeking the negotiation and conclusion of comprehensive and lengthy trade agreements which are bolstered with extensive provisions on sustainable development, labour standards, the protection of intellectual property rights, and investment protection.

Combining trade and investment under one roof is not a novel phenomenon. In a previous co‑authored paper, Maxim Usynin and I have analyzed over 150 PTAs world-wide and we found that ever since the dawn of NAFTA, countries and REIOs such as Japan, Canada, US, Australia, and ASEAN have included investment chapters in most of their PTAs, while others, such as India, China, CARICOM, Chile and the EU are increasingly doing so. The reasons for this approach can be plentiful: states might want to export their norms, stronger parties might want to impose pre-existing templates on weaker parties, states might want to replace existing international economic agreements, or it might be more cost effective to conclude one set of negotiations, covering a vast array of fields, instead of having a sector-based approach.

Choosing an ‘all-in’ approach is not in itself problematic, provided that the issues and fields discussed in such agreements are not contentious internationally or domestically. Problems do occur, however, when a contentious issue is included in one of these agreements. According to Putnam’ s seminal article, a country entering into international negotiations takes part in a two-level game because it needs to simultaneously satisfy the international partner(s) and domestic constituencies. If a certain issue covered by the negotiations, such as ISDS, is highly contentious domestically, then the negotiation process might become more time and resource consuming or might even end up in a deadlock. If ISDS is not a contentious issue then the domestic ‘win-set’ for both parties is large and mostly overlapping. Thus, it is highly likely that in such a case the contracting parties will agree on the inclusion of ISDS in the PTA and conclude the agreement in a timely and resource efficient fashion. For example, the China-New Zealand FTA (includes ISDS) was negotiated in only 3 years. However, if ISDS is a contentious domestic issue in State A, but not in State B, then the inclusion of ISDS in the agreement is less certain. The negotiation outcomes in this scenario will vary according to how the perception of the contentious issue in State A changes over time and according to whether State B conditions the existence of the agreement on the inclusion of the contentious issue. In this latter case State B might be willing to change its stance if certain concessions are given by the other party. In case the inclusion of ISDS might compromise the conclusion of the trade agreement or might lead to protracted and costly negotiations, states could choose to have a sequential approach to their economic relationship, as observed in late Chilean FTAs. The parties can include ‘anchor’ clauses on future talks or consultations on investment protection (e.g. Chile-Turkey FTA, Article 61).

In case of the EU one can talk about a multi-level game, in which the Commission – as the EU negotiator – needs to ensure that new international economic agreements satisfy the third-state contracting party, on the one hand, as well as the Member States, their constituencies, and the EU level institutions, on the other. Thus far the Commission’s attempt to satisfy all the different levels is not entirely successful. On the international level contracting parties such as Canada and Singapore are clearly frustrated. In the case of Canada, the 2014 version of the treaty text had to be revised so as to include the EU’s new Investment Court System (ICS) and the negotiations ended up taking seven years. Furthermore, the Belgian and possibly the Slovenian governments are about to ask for a CJEU Opinion on the compatibility of CETA’s ISDS mechanism with EU law. Singapore had to wait two years in order for Opinion 2/15 to be handed down and now it faces a renegotiation of the agreement so as to include the ICS. Furthermore, a Japanese official has recently declared that they would favour a classical type of ISDS mechanism in their FTIA with the EU, instead of the ICS. Even more problems will result from including the ICS in the negotiations with more powerful actors, such as China and the USA (currently on hold). Domestically things do not look brighter. Civil society and NGOs have been protesting against including ISDS in EU FTIAs, followed by groups of academics and regional parliaments.

All in all it is fair to conclude that the inclusion of ISDS and investment protection in EU trade agreements is causing enormous headaches for the Commission, it is tarnishing the EU’s image as a reliable treaty partner and it causes domestic discontent. In light of these, some authors have argued for a removal of ISDS from these agreements.

 Proposal: Split the FTIAs into Separate Trade and Investment Agreements 
Continue reading

Counter-terrorism and the inflation of EU databases

Original published on Statewatch (*) on May 2017

By Heiner Busch (@Busch_Heiner) and Matthias Monroy (@matthimon)  (Translation from DE by Viktoria Langer)

The topic of counter-terrorism in Europe remains closely linked to the development and expansion of police (and secret service) databases. This was the case in the 1970s, after 11 September 2001 and has also been the case since 2014, when the EU Member States started working on their action plans against ‘foreign terrorist fighters’.

The first effect of this debate has been a quantitative one: the amount of data in the relevant databases has increased explosively since 2015. This can be seen by looking in particular at available data on the Europol databases, like ‘Focal Points’ (formerly: Analytical Work Files) of the Europol analysis system. Since 2015 they have become one of the central instruments of the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) which was established in January 2016. ‘Hydra’, the ‘Focal Point’ concerning Islamist terrorism was installed shortly after 9/11. In December 2003 9,888 individuals had been registered, a figure that seemed quite high at the time – but not compared with today’s figures. [1] In September 2016 ‘Hydra’ contained 686,000 data sets (2015: 620,000) of which 67,760 were about individuals (2015: 64,000) and 11,600 about organisations (2015: 11,000).

In April 2014 an additional ‘Focal Point’, named ‘Travellers’, was introduced, which is exclusively dealing with “foreign terrorist fighters” (FTF). One year later ‘Travellers’ included 3,600 individuals, including contact details and accompanying persons. In April 2016 the total number increased by a factor of six. Of the 21,700 individuals registered at the time, 5,353 were “verified” FTFs. In September 2016, of 33,911 registered individuals, 5,877 had been verified as FTFs.

Since 2010 Europol and the USA have operated the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP), which evaluates transfers made via the Belgian financial service provider SWIFT. Until mid-April 2016 more than 22,000 intelligence leads had been arisen out of that programme, of which 15,572 since the start of 2015. 5,416 (25%) were related to FTFs.

In contrast to Europol’s analytical system, the Europol Information System (EIS, the registration system of the police agency) can be fed and queried directly from the police headquarters and other authorities of EU Member States. Here, more than 384,804 ‘objects’ (106,493 individuals) were registered at the start of October 2016, 50% more than the year before. The increase is partly due to the growing number of parties participating in the EIS. In 2015 13 Member States were connected; in 2016 19 Member States. Some of the EU States, like the UK, also let their national secret services participate in the system. 16 Member States currently use automatic data uploaders for input. The number of third parties involved has also increased (in 2015 there were four, in 2016 there were eight). Interpol, the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security are some of them.

Europol has reported further growth in the number of “objects” linked to terrorism in the EIS. According to the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU’s schedule for the improvement of information exchange and information management, in the third quarter of 2016 alone these grew another 20% to 13,645. [2] The EIS includes 7,166 data sets about individuals linked to terrorism, of which 6,506 are marked as FTFs or their supporters, or are assumed to be so. For May 2016 the CTC stated a figure of 4,129. [3] The increase in terrorism linked data can also be seen in the Schengen Information System (SIS) – in the alerts for “discreet checks or specific checks” following Article 36 of the SIS Decision. According to this, suspect persons are not supposed to be arrested. However, information about accompanying persons, vehicles etc. are recorded to provide insight into movements and to keep tabs on the contacts of the observed person. At the end of September 2016 the number of such checks by the police authorities (following Article 36(2)) was 78,015 (2015: 61,575, 2014: 44,669). The number of alerts of the national secret services based on Article 36(3) was 9,516 (2015: 7,945, 2014: 1,859). “Hits” on such alerts and additional information are supposed to be sent directly to the alerting authorities and not as usual to national SIRENE offices (which deal with the exchange of supplementary information regarding alerts in the SIS). This option was only introduced in February 2015.

The Schengen states used the instrument for discreet surveillance or specific checks very differently. On 1 December 2015 44.34% of all Article 36 alerts came from authorities in France, 14.6% from the UK, 12.01% from Spain, 10.09% from Italy and 4.63% from Germany. [4] How many of these alerts actually had a link to terrorism remains unclear; a common definition has not yet been found. However, the Council Working Party on Schengen Matters agreed on the introduction of a new reference (“activity linked to terrorism”) for security agencies’ alerts. According to Federal Ministry for the Interior, German alerts are marked with this reference when concrete evidence for the preparation of a serious act of violent subversion (§§129a, 129b Penal Code) can be presented. [5]

‘Unnoticed in the Schengen area’ Continue reading

Worth Reading: Justice against sponsors of terrorism (JASTA and its international impact)

European Parliament Research Service (EPRS)  Briefing published on October 2016

SUMMARY

On 27 September 2016, the United States Congress overrode the presidential veto to pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), the culmination of lengthy efforts to facilitate lawsuits by victims of terrorism against foreign states and officials supporting terrorism. Until JASTA, under the ‘terrorism exception’ in the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, sovereign immunity could only be denied to foreign states officially designated by the USA as sponsors of terrorism at the time or as a result of the terrorist act. JASTA extends the scope of the terrorism exception to the jurisdictional immunity of foreign states so as to allow US courts to exercise jurisdiction over civil claims regarding injuries, death or damages that occur inside the USA as result of a tort, including an act of terrorism committed anywhere by a foreign state or official.

The bill has generated significant debate within and outside the USA. State or sovereign immunity is a recognised principle of customary international law and, for that reason, JASTA has been denounced as potentially violating international law and foreign states’ sovereignty; some countries have already announced reciprocal measures against the USA. The terrorism exception to state immunity was already a controversial concept, with only the USA and Canada having introduced legislation on the matter.

In this briefing:
What is JASTA?
The law on state immunity and the terrorism exception
Debate in the United States
Reactions in third countries
Considerations for the European Union
The European Union’s approach to victims’ rights
Main references

What is JASTA?

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) represents an attempt by the US Congress to reduce the number of obstacles faced by victims of terrorism when bringing lawsuits in the USA against foreign states and officials supporting terrorism. The bill amends the federal judicial code (USC) to expand the scope of the terrorism exception (Title 28 USC, section 1605A) to the jurisdictional immunity of a foreign state. It will give US courts jurisdiction over civil claims regarding injuries, death, or damages that occur inside the United States as a result of a tort, including an act of terrorism, committed anywhere by a foreign state or official. It also amends the federal criminal code to permit civil claims (Title 18 USC, section 2333) sought by individuals against a foreign state or official for injuries, death or damages from an act of international terrorism (unless the foreign state is immune under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, as amended by JASTA). Additionally, the bill authorises federal courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over, and impose liability on, a person who commits, or aids, abets, or conspires to commit, an act of international terrorism against a US national (thus expanding the liability of foreign government officials in civil actions for terrorist acts). However, the foreign state will not be subject to the jurisdiction of US courts if the tortious act in question constitutes ‘mere negligence’. JASTA contains a stay of actions clause that can apply if the USA is engaged in good faith discussions with the foreign state or any parties as to the resolution of the claims. A stay can be granted for 180 days, and is renewable. JASTA will apply to any civil action ‘arising out of an injury to a person, property, or business, on or after September 11, 2001’.

The JASTA bill was approved by the US Senate in May 2016 (S. 2040) and by the House of Representatives in September 2016, but was vetoed by President Obama. The bill passed after Congress overrode the presidential veto on 27 September 2016. There are however indications that some changes to the law are already being considered by lawmakers. Several countries, including some EU Member States have expressed concern about the bill. The existing US terrorism exception to state immunity is already considered to be contrary to customary international law and is an isolated practice among other states.

The law on state immunity and the terrorism exception Continue reading

Systèmes d’information européens sécurité-immigration : lorsqu’ “interopérabilité” ne rime effectivement pas avec “interconnexion”

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON “EU Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy” BLOG

by Pierre BERTHELET

“Il convient d’exploiter toutes les possibilités offertes par d’éventuelles synergies entre les systèmes d’information nationaux et européens, sur la base de l’interopérabilité”. Ces propos ne datent pas des conclusions du dernier Conseil JAI sur ce thème, celles du 9 juin 2017, mais bien d’une communication de la Commission remontant au mois de mai 2005. La problématique de l’interopérabilité des bases de données JAI est par conséquent tout sauf neuve. Elle revêt néanmoins une acuité particulière à la lumière des efforts axés sur le renforcement de l’efficacité et de l’efficience de la gestion des données dans l’UE. Comme le fait remarquer une étude juridique de mai 2017, le volume des données échangées entre les Etats membres et stockées au sein des systèmes européens d’information s’est accru considérablement depuis les attaques de Paris de 2015.

L’interopérabilité s’insère ainsi dans l’optique d’une rationalisation d’informations désormais abondantes au niveau de l’Union. Elle constitue un chantier majeur de la construction européenne en matière de gestion des systèmes d’information. Plus exactement, l’interopérabilité – et l’interconnexion par ailleurs – peuvent être envisagées sous la forme de poupées russes : l’interconnexion est un élément de la réponse des institutions européennes apportée en matière d’interopérabilité qui, elle-même, constitue un volet de la réforme actuelle ayant trait à la gestion des systèmes européens d’information. Elle est un concept générique qui s’inscrit dans le cadre de travaux interinstitutionnels visant à améliorer les mécanismes d’échange et de traitement de l’information, en toile de fond du développement considérable qu’ont connu ces systèmes cette dernière décennie. Son caractère ambigu tient au fait qu’elle renvoie autant au projet lui-même qu’à l’objectif porté par ce projet. Or, force est de constater que, depuis 2016, le degré d’avancement du chantier entrepris dans le domaine de l’interopérabilité est déjà élevé (1). Quant à l’interconnexion, il s’agit, à la lumière des récents textes l’évoquant, d’un processus loin de recueillir l’assentiment unanime (2).

1. L’interopérabilité des systèmes, un degré d’avancement du projet déjà élevé

Bien qu’évoquée depuis plusieurs années, l’interopérabilité des systèmes est un projet ayant connu un regain d’intérêt récent. Elle correspond à un processus interinstitutionnel  initié il y a quelques mois seulement (a). L’objectif est de rendre la gestion de l’information dans le domaine de la sécurité, des frontières et des flux migratoires davantage performante (b).

a. Un processus interinstitutionnel initié il y a quelques mois seulement

Avant d’entrer de plain-pied dans l’analyse, il importe de préciser les termes employés, à savoir l’interopérabilité d’une part et l’interconnexion d’autre part. Une communication de novembre 2005, consacrée au renforcement de l’efficacité et de l’interopérabilité des bases de données européennes fournit un éclairage à ce sujet. Dans ce texte destiné, déjà à l’époque, à lancer un débat en profondeur sur la forme et l’architecture à long terme des systèmes d’information, la Commission définit la connectivité comme un terme générique renvoyant à la connexion de systèmes aux fins de transfert de données. En France, le Conseil d’État considère, dans une décision du 19 juillet 2010, l’interconnexion «comme l’objet même d’un traitement qui permet d’accéder à, exploiter et de traiter automatiquement les données collectées pour un autre traitement et enregistrées dans le fichier qui en est issu ».

Tirant cette définition d’un document élaboré par l’European Interoperability Framework (qui est la concrétisation du plan d’action eEurope approuvé par le Conseil européen de Séville de 2002, et visant promouvoir les services publics en ligne), l’interopérabilité signifie, selon cette communication de novembre 2005, la « capacité qu’ont les systèmes d’information et les processus opérationnels dont ils constituent le support d’échanger des données et d’assurer le partage des informations et des connaissances ».

Ceci étant dit, les travaux actuels trouvent leur origine dans une communication de la Commission du 6 avril 2016 visant à lancer un débat sur l’existence de lacunes ainsi que de défaillances systémiques au sujet des bases de données JAI. Plus exactement, il s’agit d’œuvrer dans l’amélioration de l’architecture de gestion des données de l’UE concernant le contrôle aux frontières et de la sécurité intérieure. Le périmètre est ainsi réduit à un pan de l’ELSJ, et ce, même si la dimension judiciaire est évoquée ponctuellement à travers le projet d’interconnexion des casiers judiciaires européen. En outre, il est étendu partiellement aux systèmes d’information nationaux, l’objectif étant d’assurer une fluidité de l’information à la fois au niveau horizontal (les systèmes européens) et au niveau vertical (entre les systèmes européens et les systèmes nationaux).

Pour mener à bien cette réflexion, la Commission a réuni le mois suivant sa communication d’avril 2016, un « groupe d’experts de haut niveau sur les systèmes d’information et l’interopérabilité ». Ce groupe d’experts, qui a mené ses travaux conformément aux prescriptions d’une feuille de route sur l’échange d’information et l’interopérabilité, approuvée par le Conseil JAI du 10 juin 2016, a rassemblé des représentants des Etats membres (y compris les pays Schengen non membres de l’UE), ceux des agences européennes (Frontex, eu-LISA, Europol, EASO et FRA), le Coordinateur pour la lutte antiterroriste et le CEPD (et ont été associés aux travaux, le secrétariat général du Conseil et celui de la commission LIBE du Parlement européen au titre d’observateur). L’objectif de ce projet relatif à l’interopérabilité, précise le Conseil, vise à appuyer les investigations opérationnelles, notamment dans le domaine de la lutte antiterroriste, et d’apporter rapidement aux autorités nationales de terrain (garde-frontières, policiers, agents de l’immigration et procureurs notamment) toutes les informations nécessaires en temps et en heure pour mener à bien leurs missions.

Les travaux du groupe ont trouvé un soutien politique fort émanant à la fois du président de la Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, ainsi que du Conseil européen. Le premier, dans son discours sur l’état de l’Union en septembre 2016, peu avant la tenue du Conseil européen informel de Bratislava, a souligné l’imminence de la présentation par la Commission, du système européen d’information et d’autorisation concernant les voyages (ETIAS). Le second, dans des conclusions de décembre 2016, a appelé « à poursuivre les efforts en matière d’interopérabilité des systèmes d’information et des bases de données » (point 9). Ce groupe à haut niveau a rendu son rapport final le 11 mai 2017, dont le contenu a nourri l’analyse de la Commission dans l’élaboration de son septième rapport publié une semaine plus tard, sur les progrès accomplis dans la mise en place d’une union de la sécurité réelle et effective. Enfin, le Conseil, jugeant l’interopérabilité comme essentielle à la sécurité, a approuvé, le 9 juin 2017, les conclusions précitées dans lesquelles il approuve les solutions dégagées par le groupe d’experts et ce, en vue d’une gestion de l’information davantage performante.

b. Une gestion de l’information se voulant davantage performante

L’importance de l’interopérabilité des systèmes d’information est clairement rappelée par la Commission dans ce septième rapport. En réalité, ce constat est dressé quelques mois plus tôt, dans sa communication d’avril 2016, qui elle-même, fait suite à différentes conclusions du Conseil. Ainsi, concernant le seul SIS II, dans celles d’octobre 2014, le Conseil a envisagé une connexion entre ce système et la base de données « faux documents » d’Interpol (SLTD), de manière à ce que les utilisateurs finaux aient accès simultanément aux deux systèmes lors d’une même recherche. Dans celles approuvées peu avant, en juin 2014, il a invité les États membres utiliser pleinement le SIS II dans le cadre de la lutte contre le terrorisme, invitation répétée au demeurant dans la déclaration commune de Riga, adoptée après les attaques contre le journal Charlie Hebdo. Quant aux conclusions du 20 novembre 2015, approuvées après les attaques du Bataclan et la fuite consécutive de Salah Abdeslam avec l’aide de deux complices venus de Belgique, le Conseil a souligné l’importance d’une consultation systématique du SIS II lors des contrôles frontaliers.

À cette fin, la Commission, en se référant à certains de ces textes ainsi qu’à la déclaration commune sur les attentats terroristes du 22 mars 2016 à Bruxelles préconisant de renforcer l’interopérabilité, a présenté dans sa communication d’avril 2016, dans laquelle elle identifie un ensemble d’incohérences et de dysfonctionnements, parmi lesquelles, des fonctionnalités non optimales des systèmes européens d’information et un problème de la qualité des données auquel s’ajoute des lacunes dans l’architecture de l’UE en matière de gestion des données liée notamment à l’absence pure et simple d’une série de systèmes d’information. Quant à ceux existants, leur fonctionnement doit être amélioré. C’est le cas du SIS II, dont Europol n’a pas encore fait pleinement usage, alors même que l’agence dispose d’un droit d’accès à celui-ci. En outre, certains systèmes existent partiellement, mais ils ne sont pas encore pleinement opérationnels. C’est le cas des systèmes nationaux mis en place dans le cadre des décisions dites « de Prüm » et pour lesquelles plusieurs États membres ne remplissent toujours pas leurs engagements. Le paysage européen des systèmes d’information se caractérise donc par une multiplicité de dispositifs, des niveaux d’achèvement différents et des modes de fonctionnement distincts. Il en résulte une mosaïque complexe, car ces systèmes sont soumis à des régimes juridiques variables, rendant l’ensemble difficilement intelligible.

Cette superposition de systèmes conduit à une architecture européenne fragmentée au sujet de la gestion des données. Chacun système fonctionne en silo, faisant que les informations contenues sont peu interconnectées. Ce compartimentage des données a des conséquences problématiques concrètes. Ainsi, l’auteur de l’attaque terroriste de Berlin de décembre 2016, Anis Amri, a eu recours à pas moins de quatorze identités différentes. Ces fausses identités ont permis à ce ressortissant tunisien de se déplacer aisément en Allemagne, puis de prendre la fuite hors du pays avant d’être abattu à Milan. Or, comme le fait observer le quatrième rapport de la Commission sur la sécurité, ses déplacements auraient pu être détectés si les systèmes employés étaient dotés d’une fonctionnalité permettant une recherche simultanée dans plusieurs d’entre eux, au moyen d’identificateurs biométriques.

L’interopérabilité apparaît dès lors comme une réponse aux défis sécuritaires, en particulier terroristes, pour lesquels le recours aux systèmes d’information est un élément indispensable de la réponse à fournir.

La réforme de la gestion de l’information est effectuée au moyen d’une approche horizontale, via les travaux du groupe d’experts de haut niveau. Elle s’effectue aussi de manière sectorielle, à travers l’adoption de textes instituant des systèmes d’information (ou modifiant ceux existants).

En premier lieu, des systèmes sont en projet ou en cours de réalisation. Peuvent être mentionnés la proposition présentée en janvier 2016, étendant aux ressortissants de pays tiers le Système européen d’information sur les casiers judiciaires (ECRIS-TCN), la proposition révisée établissant le système d’entrée/sortie (EES) et présentée en avril 2016 (en parallèle à une modification du règlement de mars 2016 relatif au Code Frontières Schengen), la proposition de règlement instituant l’ETIAS présentée quant à elle en novembre 2016, ou le système d’index européen des registres de la police (EPRIS) dont l’ébauche correspondrait au projet auquel la France prend part et dénommé ADEP (Automated Data Exchange Process).

En deuxième lieu, d’autre systèmes existent, mais ils doivent être réformés. Il s’agit en particulier d’Eurodac (une proposition de règlement, présentée en mai 2016, permettant notamment de stocker l’image faciale, est en cours de discussion entre le Conseil et le Parlement européen), et du SIS II (un paquet législatif, présenté en décembre 2016, composé de quatre propositions de règlement est également en cours de discussion, prévoyant l’obligation pour les États membres d’émettre des alertes concernant des personnes liées à des infractions terroristes).

Or, le processus de refonte opéré des différents systèmes (et la création de ceux n’existant pas encore) est pensé dans la perspective de l’interopérabilité et même de l’interconnexion. Par exemple, concernant le SIS II, une disposition de la proposition de règlement créant l’ETIAS, prévoit que l’unité centrale ETIAS puisse opérer des recherches dans le SIS II. De prime abord, l’interconnexion des systèmes est, au vu de cet exemple, effective, ou du moins, en voie de l’être. Or, ce n’est pas cas en réalité et il s’agit plutôt de l’exception qui confirme la règle.

2. L’interconnexion des systèmes, un projet suscitant peu l’enthousiasme institutionnel

L’interconnexion est une option visant à atteindre le stade de l’interopérabilité des systèmes d’information. Cependant, il s’agit d’une option parmi d’autres (a), et qui ne reçoit qu’un accueil institutionnel pour le moins prudent (b).

a. L’interconnexion, une option parmi d’autres

L’interconnexion, au sens défini ci-dessus, apparaît seulement comme une option parmi celles avancées par la Commission dans sa communication d’avril 2016. Plus exactement, le texte en présente quatre aux fins de parvenir à une situation d’interopérabilité : l’interface de recherche unique, le service partagé de mise en correspondance de données biométriques, le répertoire commun de données d’identité et enfin l’interconnexion des systèmes d’information proprement dite.

Dans le premier cas, l’interface de recherche unique, il s’agit de permettre à une autorité nationale d’interroger plusieurs systèmes d’information de manière simultanée. Ce système, qui existe en France avec l’application COVADIS (Contrôle et vérification automatiques des documents sécurisés), permet au service interrogeant d’obtenir sur un seul écran les résultats des requêtes, ceci dans le respect des droits d’accès propre à ce service. Cette hypothèse de l’interface unique a, au demeurant, reçu l’assentiment des ministres français et allemand dans le cadre de leur « initiative sur la sécurité intérieure en Europe » du 23 août 2016.

Le service partagé de mise en correspondance de données biométriques vise, quant à lui, à proposer au service utilisateur, une interrogation des systèmes à partir des identifiants biométriques. Pour l’heure, chaque système européen dispose de son propre dispositif d’identification. L’objectif est, au moyen de ce service partagé, d’effectuer des recherches dans les différents systèmes d’information et de mettre en évidence les coïncidences, par exemple sous forme de hit/no hit, entre ces données.

Le troisième cas a trait à l’établissement d’un répertoire commun de données d’identité en tant que module central dans lequel figure un portefeuille de données (nom, prénom, date et lieu de naissance par exemple). Ces données constituent un socle commun à tous les systèmes, les autres données étant, quant à elles, stockées au sein de modules spécifiques à chacun d’eux. Comme le précise le rapport du Sénat du 29 mars 2017 consacré à l’espace Schengen, la proposition de règlement créant l’ETIAS envisage ce dispositif, du moins entre ce système et l’EES.

Enfin, la dernière option a trait précisément à l’interconnexion des systèmes d’information. L’avantage est de permettre la consultation automatique des données figurant dans un système, par l’intermédiaire d’un autre système. L’interconnexion, ajoute ce rapport du Sénat, présente l’intérêt d’assurer un contrôle croisé automatique des données, limitant ainsi le volume d’informations circulant au sein des réseaux. À cet égard, la proposition de règlement relatif à l’EES envisage une interconnexion avec le VIS. Cette option est évoquée, mais elle va être, dans une large mesure du moins, délaissée.

b. L’interconnexion, une option en grande partie délaissée

Sans pour autant être totalement écartée (en particulier dans la proposition de règlement relatif à l’EES), l’interconnexion ne rencontre pas un franc succès et c’est le moins que l’on puisse dire. D’abord, elle n’a pas l’assentiment du groupe d’experts de haut niveau. Dans leur rapport intermédiaire, remis en décembre 2016, celui-ci avait considéré l’interconnectivité des systèmes comme une solution ponctuelle. Le rapport final consacre ce point de vue en rejetant l’idée d’une généralisation de l’interconnexion et il privilégie trois solutions qui font écho aux autres options avancées par la Commission, à savoir un portail de recherche européen, un service partagé de mise en correspondance de données biométriques et un répertoire commun de données d’identité. Plus exactement, l’interface de recherche unique est préférée à l’interconnexion, ce qui va dans le sens de la position du Conseil qui, dans sa feuille de route sur l’échange d’informations, s’était déclaré pour cette solution de l’interface unique. Reste que si cette dernière avait les faveurs du Conseil et ce, au regard des autres options, les experts ont, pour leur part, conservé l’idée d’un répertoire commun de données et la mise en correspondance de données biométriques comme des pistes exploitables à court terme, et non à moyen et long termes comme le suggérait la feuille de route.

Ensuite, l’interconnexion ne trouve pas non plus un écho favorable auprès de la Commission. Celle-ci fait sienne, à cet égard, les recommandations figurant dans le rapport du groupe d’expert, en se bornant à préciser que des réunions tripartites Conseil-Parlement-Commission au niveau technique devraient avoir lieu en automne 2017, en vue de dégager une vision commune avant la fin de l’année 2017, ceci afin de parvenir à cet objectif d’interopérabilité des systèmes à l’horizon de l’année 2020. La Commission reprend donc à son compte les options retenues par le groupe à haut niveau, en se bornant à fixer cette date-butoir, étant entendu par ailleurs que celle-ci correspond à l’échéance à laquelle l’EES devrait être opérationnel. À cette fin, une proposition législative sur l’interopérabilité devrait être présentée, en parallèle à une proposition de révision du VIS, à une proposition sur l’ECRIS, ainsi qu’à une autre visant à renforcer le mandat de l’agence européenne eu­LISA.

Au final, concernant les systèmes d’information européens sécurité-immigration, l’interopérabilité ne rime pas avec l’interconnexion. Cette lapalissade reflète parfaitement la volonté des institutions européennes préférant à la centralisation, la synergie ainsi que l’avaient souligné en leur temps, la déclaration de mars 2004 sur la lutte contre le terrorisme, le programme de La Haye et la déclaration du Conseil de juillet 2005 suite aux attentats de Londres. La voie choisie par ces institutions est bien résumée par le Commissaire à la sécurité, Sir Julian King, qui avait déclaré le 29 mai 2017 dans une allocution devant les députés de la commission LIBE, « ce que l’on ne propose pas, c’est une base de données gigantesque où tout serait interconnecté ».

Legislative Tracker : an interinstitutional agreement on the new EU “Entry-Exit” system is approaching …

by Beatrice FRAGASSO (Free-Group trainee)

On 6 April 2016 the European Commission put forward the Smart Borders Package, a set of measures intended to provide a more effective and modern external border management. One of the proposals consists in the introduction of the Entry/Exit System (EES), a centralized information system based on biometrics that would be interconnected with VIS and focus on third-country nationals.

The creation of the european Entry-Exit system will require the adoption of  two draft Regulations, one (COM/2016/0194) setting up the EES and amending Regulation (EC) No 767/2008 and Regulation (EU) No 1077/2011, the other (COM/2016/0196) amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 (Schengen Borders Code) to embody this new system. The proposals has been accompanied by an Impact assessment.

The introduction of the EES aims at speeding up and reinforcing border check procedures for non-EU nationals travelling to the EU, by improving the quality and efficiency of controls as well as the detection of document and identity fraud.  The new texts replace the proposals presented by the European Commission in February 2013 and for which the co-legislators had voiced technical, financial and operational concerns.

The European Parliament defined its negotiating mandate on the latest Commission Proposals  on 27 February 2017: the LIBE Committee adopted his reports (on establishing EES and amending 2016/399) and decided to enter into negotiations with the Council on the basis of these mandates.

The rapporteur Agustín Dían De Mera García Consuegra stated before the LIBE Committee (11 May 2017) that progresses have been made during the “trilogue” negotiations and that the good cooperation between delegations will probably allow to come to a political agreement by the end of the summer. Two “political” trilogues as well as nine technical meetings have already taken place and a third political “trilogue” is scheduled for 31 May 2017. Needless to say no public recording is accessible on the debates which took place during these trilateral meetings

Further information on other aspects of the procedure is accessible on the European Parliament Research Service site HERE.

The scope of the Entry-Exit System (EES)

The EES will apply to non-EU nationals crossing the external borders of the Member States of the EU for a short stay (maximum 90 days period in any period of 180 days), both those that require a visa and those that are exempted.

How it will work

The introduction of the EES aims to:

  1. address border check delays and improve the quality of border checks for third-country nationals;
  2. ensure systematic and reliable identification of “overstayers”;
  3. reinforce internal security and the fight against terrorism and serious crime.

The system is intended to register the name, type of travel document, biometrics (four fingerprints and a visual image) and the date and place of entry and exit.

These actions will facilitate the border crossing of bona fide travelers, detect over-stayers and identify undocumented persons in the Schengen area. The system will also record refusals of entry.

Currently, the only possibility for national authorities to calculate the duration of stay of a third-country national in the Schengen area (and to verify their potential overstay), is the stamping of their travel document with the dates of entry and exit. This method is deemed to be slow and error-prone, since the entry/exit stamps may be unreadable or counterfeit. Under the new proposal, the current system of manual stamping of passports would be replaced by registration in a database and most of the data will be automated.

By using self-service systems and e-gates, third country national travelers would have their data verified, their picture or fingerprint taken and a set of questions asked. While using the self-service system, all mandatory checks would be triggered in the security databases (SIS, Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database). By the time the traveler is guided towards a border control lane, all his information would have reached the border guard, who may ask additional questions before granting the passenger access to the Schengen area.

The automation of the preparatory steps is expected to reduce the workload of border guards. This would mean that that Member States would not have to hire extra border guards to accommodate the growing traveler flows. It is also expected to reduce the long queues before passengers reach the border checkpoint.

Interoperability

The system would be interconnected with the Visa Information System (VIS) database, which would help reduce duplication of data processing, in accordance with the ‘privacy by design’ principle.

The European Parliament position (Libe Committee Debate)

The parliamentary debate showed that in the Commission proposal there are some controversial elements that the LIBE committee tried to address in the draft report approved on 27 February 2017.

The rapporteur Agustín Dían De Mera García Consuegra (EPP, Spain) presented the draft report before the LIBE Committee on 8 December 2016. According to him, establishing an EES will benefit travellers (they will spend less time waiting at borders), as well as border Member States and transit Member States, because of the speeding of the entire process. Border guards would carry on their tasks more easily. The aim of the draft report is to strike a balance between speeding up the process and guaranteeing security, protecting at the same time fundamental rights. In particular, one of the main concerns of the rapporteur is to ensure high standards for data protection: many of the amendments have been tabled in order to protect data in the system with reference to interoperability, data retention period and access to data by law enforcement authorities. According to the Rapporteur his amendments follow the indications given by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS- Giovanni Buttarelli), in order to boost legal certainty in data protection area and to the role of EDPS and National Data Protection Authorities.[i] Another objective highlighted by the rapporteur is to guarantee more technical certainty, in order to know exactly who can access to the system as well as the circumstances of the access (logs). The procedure to follow in case of temporary failure, then, still has to be clarified. The rapporteur then pointed out the necessity to establish high standards for the procedure used to take facial images and fingerprints. Finally, it has been remarked the key-role played by Eu Lisa (here the Agency’s report on the Smart Borders Pilot Project), that will be responsible to manage the system.

The S&D “shadow rapporteur” Tanja Fajon (Slovenia) stated that she’s not convinced by the argument put forward by the Commission to justify the link between crime and border management. The purpose of the proposal is the border management, not the law enforcement and the proposal should clarify the way in which data will be processed in these two different situations. The difference between people who’s travelling legally and people who’s violating rules should be remarked, in order to guarantee fundamental rights. She criticized the retention period as disproportionate.

Mrs Fajon, then, pointed out that it’s necessary to better inform travellers about how the smart border system will change the current situation and which impact the regulation will have on their rights to enter and exit. People need to be aware about their rights and duties and about the consequences of possible infringments.  Finally, she stated that some measures risk to be unpractical in some Member States (as for example Slovenia) whose borders with non-Schegen countries are always busy, especially during summer.

The ECR “shadow rapporteur” Jussi Halla-Aho (Finland) stated that ECR supports an Entry/Exit System and that probably it was needed even before the abolition of internal controls. His group finds that law enforcement authorities should have a sufficient access to the database for a sufficient period of time. The amendments tabled by the rapporteur are well considered and balanced and ECR appreciate that the rapporteur has tried to make the instrument coherent with the existing tools, for example Eurodac: Regulations have to be harmonised and they have to work one with the others.

According to the ALDE shadow rapporteur Angelika Mlinar (Austria) the amendments improve the Commission proposal. But there are still some problematic issues to address, concerning the protection of fundamental rights and in particular the disproportionate and unjustified retention period that is equally applied to all the scope of the regulation. In addiction, the former 2013 proposal had one single purpose (speeding up border management procedures), while the current proposal has also an unjustified law enforcement purpose. Her political group presented amendments in order to:

– Limit and optimise the collection of biometrical data.
– Limit the law enforcement access to what is strictly necessary, ensuring safeguards.
– Reduce the data retention period.

Also the Greens’ shadow rapporteur Jan Philipp Albrecht (Germany) highlighted that the most controversial points are the long data retention period and the possibility for law enforcement authorities to access these data for other purposes. The risk is that the EES will create a huge (and very expensive) database with a long retention period that won’t be effective for the purpose of smart border management. Finally, the shadow rapporteur pointed out that data protection in EES should meet the same high standards in the data protection package recently adopted (and which should be transposed at national level for May 2018).

Where we are…

The LIBE Committee adopted the report establishing EES and the report amending 2016/399 on 27 February 2017 and the modifications proposed by the committee echo the parliamentary debate. Data should be stored for only two years, and not the five years proposed by Commission. MEPs also want to ensure that the text is in line with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation, for example by allowing the data subject the right to access his or her own data.

MEPs found that the purposes of data processing in the new system should also be clarified. Migration handling should be the first purpose and law enforcement an additional one. The two should be treated separately, as the conditions for the use and storage of the data are not the same.

The Council Position

According to a preparatory document of the Council (leaked by Statewatch, file 6572/17), it emerges that the most controversial issues concern the territorial scope of the EES (an issue linked to the question of the access to VIS for those Member States which do not yet fully apply the Schengen acquis but for which the verification in accordance with the applicable Schengen evaluation procedures has already been successfully completed) and the calculation of the duration of the short-stay.

A Guidance on these sensitive issues was then obtained at COREPER level on 1 February 2017. Concerning the territorial scope of application, COREPER gave clear guidance on the need to include into it all Member States that, while not applying the Schengen Acquis in full, meet nonetheless the cumulative conditions listed in Art. 60 of the draft EES Regulation (i.e.: have successfully completed the verification in accordance with applicable Schengen evaluation procedures, (ii) have put into effect the provisions of the Schengen acquis relating to SIS and (iii) to the VIS).

If these conditions are met, the Member State concerned can deploy the EES, with the consequences that such deployment implies, including with reference to the calculation of the duration of stay in its territory.  As a consequence, the automated calculator set out in Art. 10 of the EES draft Regulation will be a common one, covering the stays in any Member State operating the EES. According to the internal Council document, some delegations still oppose this solution on legal and practical grounds, notably because of its implications for other legal instruments and for the current practice in particular in the area of visa policy. However, the Presidency considers that the policy guidance given by Coreper, supported by a clear majority, should be followed.

MS Bilateral agreements with third Countries 

Another outstanding issue is whether the bilateral visa waiver agreements will be compatible with the EES (Art 54). At the trilogue meeting that took place on 29 September 2016 (file 12571/16), the Chair presented a drafting proposal by the Presidency that would set up a procedure which allows to keep those agreements into force while making the EES work. The Commission rejected the proposal because the proposal would comprehend only a few agreements, excluding those which provide for a stay less than 90 days, creating more problems than it was deemed to solve.

Secondly, the proposal would have been cumbersome both for Member States and third country nationals concerned and had the practical consequence of extending the effects of bilateral agreements to Member States that were not party to them. On the contrary, Member States showed a general support to the Presidency solution.

Access by national Law enforcement authorities

EES would be used by the same authorities that already use VIS: consular posts and border control. Moreover, it would allow law enforcement authorities as well as Europol to perform restricted queries in the database for criminal identification and intelligence to prevent serious crime and terrorism.

The conditions to grant access to the EES to law enforcement authorities (Chapter IV of the proposal) are one of the most controversial point of the proposal. According to the preparatory document of the Council (file 6572/17), some delegations have expressed the wish to further simplify it [the access to the EES by law enforcement authorities] in order to facilitate investigations in cases of serious crimes and terrorist offences. However, recent deliberations have shown a good degree of support for the Presidency compromise proposal, in which, upon request of a majority of delegations, the conditions for access have been softened to the maximum extent compatible to the current legal framework and case-law.

The European Parliament expressed major concerns with reference to Chapter IV and the Council in a document dated 22 may 2017 (file 9415/17) proposed a compromise.

In particular, the Council position would be maintained on:

(a) the reference to ‘designated authorities’ rather than ‘law enforcement authorities’;
(b) the possibility to access the EES even when the search in national databases results in a hit;
(c) the possibility to proceed to access the EES once the Prum search is launched; and
(d) the possibility to also check against refusal of entry records.

On the other hand, some amendments proposed by the European Parliament would be broadly accepted (some with amendments). These suggestions are in particular:

(a) limiting the urgency procedure to cases where there is an ‘imminent danger’ related to a terrorist offence or other serious criminal offence and requiring the ex post verification to take place within two working days.
(b) providing that there must be reasonable grounds to consider that consulting the EES will (rather than may) contribute to the detection, investigation or prevention of a terrorist/other serious criminal offence. Actually, it should be noted that ‘reasonable grounds’ would still be enough and certainty is not required. Moreover, a substantiated suspicion that the person falls within the scope of the EES would still be sufficient to fulfil this requirement.

Transfer of data to third countries and international organisations (Article 38) and to Member States not bound by, or not operating the EES (Article 38a)

The European Parliament opposes the possibility to transfer information to third countries and international organisations for the purpose of returns, unless there is a decision by the Commission regarding the adequate protection of personal data in that third country or a binding readmission agreement.

In particular, the European Parliament opposes the possibility to transfer such information on the basis of an arrangement similar to readmission agreements, arguing that these are not binding and do not contain the necessary data protection safeguards. The European Parliament also insists on the provision of guarantees by the third country concerned to use the data only for the purposes for which it is transferred, and that such transfers should only be possible once the return decision is final, and subject to the consent of the Member State that entered the data.

The EP also maintains its position against the transfer of information to third countries or to Member States not operating, or bound by, the EES, in cases of immediate threat of terrorist or other serious criminal offences (Article 38(4a) and Article 38a).

Reassurances have been provided that the relevant data protection legislation must still be respected (General Data Protection Regulation in case of returns/readmission and Data Protection Directive in case of terrorism/serious criminal offences), but this has not convinced the European Parliament.

Another concern raised by the European Parliament regards the fact that the conditions required to access the EES by national authorities (set out in Chapter IV) are not all reproduced for the transfer of such data to third countries, international organisations and Member States not operating the EES or to which the EES does not apply.

Data Retention (Article 31)

The European Parliament in its position reduces the data retention period from five years to:
– four years for third-country nationals who overstay;
– two years for third country nationals who respect the period of authorised stay.

According to a document dated 22 May 2017 (file 9415/17), the Council is still managing to find a compromise.

NOTE

[i] In its opinion 06/2016 of 21 September 2016, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) recognizes the need for coherent and effective information systems for borders and security. However, the EDPS underlines the significant and potentially intrusive nature of the proposed processing of personal data under the EES, which must therefore be considered under both Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

According to EDPS opinion, necessity and proportionality of the EES scheme are to be assessed globally, taking into consideration the already existing large-scale IT systems in the EU.

The EDPS, then, notes that EES data will be processed for two different purposes, on the one hand for border management and facilitation purposes and on the other hand for law enforcement purposes. The EDPS strongly recommends clearly introducing the difference between these objectives, as these purposes entail a different impact on the rights to privacy and data protection.