Internal security in the EU: the priorities of the next 18 months

Following the previous note on borders, immigration and asylum we wil now proceed with the priorities announced by the Spanish presidency in the field of internal security of the EU. These come from the working document of the Spanish, Belgium and Hungarian Council Presidencies which will follow one after the other in the next 18 months. As usual, additional notes will provide a comprehensive overview of the different topics.

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The new powers of the Court of Justice after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty

The press release published on November 30th by the Court of Justice is worth reading by everybody interested in the European Law as well by the every individual whishing to bthe protection of its rights.
The very essential and clear text is the following:

The Treaty of Lisbon and the Court of Justice of the European Union

The Treaty of Lisbon, which was signed on 13 December 2007 by the 27 Heads of State or Government of the Member States of the Union, comes into force on 1 December 2009. It amends the two fundamental treaties – the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty establishing the European Community, with the latter to be known in future as the ‘Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union’ (TFEU). (1)
The Treaty of Lisbon makes changes to the organisation and jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

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New prospects for relations between the Court of Justice and national courts

Everyone knows the fundamental role of the Court of Justice in the construction of a European legal space. Indeed, thanks to its preliminary rulings which guide the work of national courts when they are called upon to enforce community law. Over the decades, the dialogue between European and national courts has ensured an increasingly faithfully interpretation of community law as well as the development of a true common legal culture.

After all, what value might have fundamental rights to stakeholders if judges are not capable to secure their correct application?

In this regard it must be recognised that the increased synergy between European and national judges (acting in this case as ‘European’ judges) together with the new powers of European Court of Justice in the area of freedom, security and justice resulted by the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon will definitely increase individual’s rights in this domain.

For example, in the field of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (the so-called “third pillar”), before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Court’s ability to issue preliminary rulings relied upon Member States’ discretion on the basis of Article 35 of the Treaty on European Union (*). Indeed up to the 30 November several of these Member States did not accept the Court’s competence competence.

Another example relates to the domains ‘communitarised’ in 1999 with the Treaty of Amsterdam (immigration, borders, asylum and judicial and criminal cooperation). Although in this case the situation was a bit better, Article 68 TEC (**) limited the possibility to obtain pre-trial interpretation only to judges of last appeal.

With the Treaty of Lisbon this situation has radically changed. With a Communication  appeared in the Official Journal on 5 December, the European Court of Justice has published a series of apparently non-binding guidelines aimed at establishing a daily relation between national and European judges.

In this regard, the guidelines concerning the urgent preliminary ruling procedure related to the area of freedom, security and justice are particularly interesting. They state:

The procedure is governed by Article 23a of Protocol (No 3) on the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union (OJEU 2008 C 115, p. 210) and Article 104b of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice. National courts may request that this procedure be applied or request the application of the accelerated procedure under the conditions laid down in Article 23a of the Protocol and Article 104a of the Rules of Procedure.”

Conditions for the application of the urgent preliminary ruling procedure

33. The urgent preliminary ruling procedure is applicable only in the areas covered by Title V of Part Three of the TFEU, which relates to the area of freedom, security and justice.

34. The Court of Justice decides whether this procedure is to be applied. Such a decision is generally taken only on a reasoned request from the referring court. Exceptionally, the Court may decide of its own motion to deal with a reference under the urgent preliminary ruling procedure, where that appears to be required.

35. The urgent preliminary ruling procedure simplifies the various stages of the proceedings before the Court, but its application entails significant constraints for the Court and for the parties and other interested persons participating in the procedure, particularly the Member States.

36. It should therefore be requested only where it is absolutely necessary for the Court to give its ruling on the reference as quickly as possible. Although it is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of such situations, particularly because of the varied and evolving nature of the rules of European Union law governing the area of freedom, security and justice, a national court or tribunal might, for example, consider submitting a request for the urgent preliminary ruling procedure to be applied in the following situations: in the case, referred to in the fourth paragraph of Article 267 TFEU, of a person in custody or deprived of his liberty, where the answer to the question raised is decisive as to the assessment of that person’s legal situation or, in proceedings concerning parental authority or custody of children, where the identity of the court having jurisdiction under European Union law depends on the answer to the question referred for a preliminary ruling.

However, it must be pointed out that these new competences will not be applied before five years  in the area of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters for acts adopted before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon (art. 10 Protocol 36).

Also with this temporally exception it is nonetheless clear that a new phase has now started also for European judges. The interpretation of community law can now be based on an even more authority Court which in turn can rely on the Treaty and the binding Charter on Fundamental Rights binding for all the institutions, including European and national judges.

EDC

(*) EX Article 35 (TEU)
1. The Court of Justice of the European Communities shall have jurisdiction, subject to the conditions laid down in this Article, to give preliminary rulings on the validity and interpretation of framework decisions and decisions, on the interpretation of conventions established under this Title and on the validity and interpretation of the measures implementing them.
2. By a declaration made at the time of signature of the Treaty of Amsterdam or at any time thereafter, any Member State shall be able to accept the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice to give preliminary rulings as specified in paragraph 1.

3. A Member State making a declaration pursuant to paragraph 2 shall specify that either:

(a)any court or tribunal of that State against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law may request the Court of Justice to give a preliminary ruling on a question raised in a case pending before it and concerning the validity or interpretation of an act referred to in paragraph 1 if that court or tribunal considers that a decision on the question is necessary to enable it to give judgment, or

(b) any court or tribunal of that State may request the Court of Justice to give a preliminary ruling on a question raised in a case pending before it and concerning the validity of interpretation of an act referred to in paragraph 1 if that court or tribunal considers that a decision on the question is necessary to enable it to give judgment. Treaty on European Union 25

4. Any Member State, whether or not it has made a declaration pursuant to paragraph 2, shall be entitled to submit statements of case or written observations to the Court in cases which arise under paragraph 1.

5. The Court of Justice shall have no jurisdiction to review the validity or proportionality of operations carried out by the police or other law enforcement services of a Member State or the exercise of the responsibilities incumbent upon Member States with regard to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security.

6. The Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction to review the legality of framework decisions and decisions in actions brought by a Member State or the Commission on grounds of lack of competence, infringement of an essential procedural requirement, infringement of this Treaty or of any rule of law relating to its application, or misuse of powers. The proceedings provided for in this paragraph shall be instituted within two months of the publication of the measure.

7. The Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction to rule on any dispute between Member States regarding the interpretation or the application of acts adopted under Article 34(2) whenever such dispute cannot be settled by the Council within six months of its being referred to the Council by one of its members. The Court shall also have jurisdiction to rule on any dispute between Member States and the Commission regarding the interpretation or the application of conventions established under Article 34(2)(d).

(**) Article 68 TCE
1. Article 234 shall apply to this title under the following circumstances and conditions: where a question on the interpretation of this title or on the validity or interpretation of acts of the institutions of the Community based on this title is raised in a case pending before a court or a tribunal of a Member State against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law, that court or tribunal shall, if it considers that a decision on the question is necessary to enable it to give judgment, request the Court of Justice to give a ruling thereon.

2. In any event, the Court of Justice shall not have jurisdiction to rule on any measure or decision taken pursuant to Article 62(1) relating to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security.

3. The Council, the Commission or a Member State may request the Court of Justice to give a ruling on a question of interpretation of this title or of acts of the institutions of the Community based on this title. The ruling given by the Court of Justice in response to such a request shall not apply to judgments of courts or tribunals of the Member States which have become res judicata.

A new European Union after Lisbon?

After many years of skirmishes, referendums and tense debates, the Treaty of Lisbon finally entered into force on 1 December 2009.

The institutional framework of the European Union will finally become more transparent and streamlined although a few exceptions remain for the opt-outs granted to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland and Czech Republic.

The European Parliament will have (almost) full legislative powers and the European Court of Justice will monitor adherence to and respect of the rule of law in (almost) all domains falling under the European Union competence.

The European Community will therefore disappear after fifty-two years of honourable service. It will be incorporated within the European Union which will not hide its political vocation any further by pretending to be an economic body, as “eurosceptic” countries wanted it to be.

This arm wrestling, lasted for almost thirty years. It began with the Council of the European Union in London in 1981 when the foreign affairs ministers of Germany and Italy, namely Genscher and Colombo, presented a project for a “European Act”. Its aim was to develop political cooperation as well as promote the culture, fundamental rights and harmonisation of national legislations outside the domains already covered by the Community treaties, together with the fight against terrorism and criminality.
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The Justice and Home Affairs Council presented to the European Council the priorities for the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (Stockholm Programme 2010-2014)

During a meeting that started under the Nice regime and finished under Lisbon, the Council of Justice and Home Affairs has adopted the proposal for the multi-annual 2010-14 strategic work programme in the area of freedom, security and justice which has already been addressed by the European Parliament and that should be adopted during the European Council of 10 December in Stockholm.

Following the Tampere Programme (1999) and that of the Hague (2004) the 82 pages of the new programme should define, under article 68 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union “[…] the strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning within the area of freedom, security and justice”.

A rather arduous exercise given that article 67 of the same Treaty establishes that this “area” should be carried out “[…] with respect for fundamental rights and the different legal systems and traditions of the Member States”.

Now, a glance through the many suggestions of the documents highlights the existing strains between European perspectives and national resistances. This becomes apparent by analysing the ambiguity of the formulation used, the silences and the rhetorical – rather than concrete – calls to the protection of rights and fight against discrimination at the European level. 

The institutional perspective which was pretty much absent in the master proposal of the Commission (with the Irish referendum still pending at that point) as well as in the proposals prepared by the Future Group, finally peeps out with some unrehearsed recalls to the role of the European and national parliaments.

This democratic control visibly frightens the authors of these kind of document especially in relation to sensible domains such as judicial and police cooperation. This is because diplomats and civil servants with wide cultural, experience and technical skills, often perceive any openness to political dialogue as if they were taking a leapt into the unknown, even when they are genuine pro-Europeans.

A further demonstration of the persistence of these resistances comes from the almost desperate and then failed attempt to conclude a transatlantic agreement on a very sensible issues such as the exchange of financial data to fight terrorism, which took place during the last hours in force of the Treaty of Nice on the 30 November.

Nevertheless, the phase has now been ridden out and the actors of the three institutions should come to terms with this and increase their mutual trust, as it has already happened in other even more sensible domains for the European development, such as the internal market.

The outlook of Transatlantic cooperation after the Treaty of Lisbon

Among the most promising, albeit less debated consequences linked to the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, is the new role played by the European Parliament in relation to the conclusions of international agreements in the field of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

Until now the European Parliament has undeniably been a mere observer. Indeed, since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999, the European Council has never consulted the European Parliament on the basis of Articles 24 and 38 of the Treaty on the European Union which compels such a consultation only when strategic aspects for the Union are involved. By contrast, with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliament shall become a decisive actor given that international agreements will be subject to approval by Parliament.

It may be considered that the European Parliament did not play an enhanced role in the agreements recently concluded on 28 October with the United States in the field of mutual recognition and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. However, the Parliament will, due to the Treaty of Lisbon, be involved in the conclusion of agreements such as Passenger Name Records (PNR) concerning the exchange of passengers’ data, the access to financial data handled by the inter-banking transfer system SWIFT as well as the exchange of data linked to security checks when dealing with the extension of the United States Visa Waiver Programme to European citizens belonging to countries which are not yet part of this programme.

This working programme will then be completed by the opening of the negotiations on the future transatlantic agreement in the field of data protection which will provide the framework for these complex relations. 

The pressure on the European Parliament has already started with the approval of a Ministerial Declaration in Washington on 28 October which already defines the objectives that need to be reached in this field.  The same declaration has been re-launched by the Conclusions of the European Union/United States Summit which took place on 3 November and will be also be part of the key themes of the Stockholm Programme which the European Council should adopt on 10 December defining the priorities of the area of freedom, security and justice for the next five years.

Will the European Parliament be capable of getting back in the running and engage, with an original dialogue, with the European Council, the European Commission and the Administration of the United States?

It is still too early to answer; however there are clear signs pointing towards a strong willingness of the Strasbourg Assembly to adequately carry out its monitoring and propulsive role acknowledged by the Treaty, rather than being a simple observer.

The proof is that in tandem with the Inter-ministerial Troika, a delegation of the parliamentary Committee on Civil Liberties met high representatives of the United States Administration as well as members of the Congress to have first hand experience of the above-mentioned issues as well as of future agreements.

The initiative has been taken into serious account by the US Administration to the extent that on the 6 November Ms. Janet Napolitano, the third United States Secretary of Homeland Security, attended a hearing in Brussels held by the LIBE Committee to present the results and perspectives of the first year of the Obama Administration in relation to this delicate domain and underwent a barrage of questions that the MEPs had collated during the previous weeks.

Evidently this is not yet an original form of ‘diplomacy’ but it is getting closer to it. Within the next few months it will be possible to see the extent to which all this is just rhetoric or on the contrary -as has happened in the past- a clear position of the European Parliament will paradoxically reinforce both the negotiating role of the European Union and support a greater openness towards European needs not just by the US Administration but also by Congress.

 Emilio De Capitani

It’s a long way to… Lisbon

Ten years after the first European Council in Tampere it is interesting to read again those declarations with which Heads of State and Government defined the ambitions of the European Union in this area. 

“[…]The enjoyment of freedom requires a genuine area of justice, where people can approach courts and authorities in any Member State as easily as in their own. Criminals must find no ways of exploiting differences in the judicial systems of Member States. Judgements and decisions should be respected and enforced throughout the Union, while safeguarding the basic legal certainty of people and economic operators. Better compatibility and more convergence between the legal systems of Member States must be achieved.

People have the right to expect the Union to address the threat to their freedom and legal rights posed by serious crime. To counter these threats a common effort is needed to prevent and fight crime and criminal organisations throughout the Union. The joint mobilisation of police and judicial resources is needed to guarantee that there is no hiding place for criminals or the proceeds of crime within the Union.

The area of freedom, security and justice should be based on the principles of transparency and democratic control. We must develop an open dialogue with civil society on the aims and principles of this area in order to strengthen citizens’ acceptance and support. In order to maintain confidence in authorities, common standards on the integrity of authorities should be developed[…]”. 

There is no doubt that these aspirations are a long way from being implemented, but it would not be fair to underestimate the progress, although not equal, made by the European Union in a relatively short timeframe. But what is the most important aspect is that despite the obvious difficulties, the European Union has reinstated its commitment through the years and that Member States are progressively deleting those reserves that characterised the starting process of the ALSJ. Further proof of this statement is art. 68 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which, depending on the Irish referendum, could enter into force together with the European Charter on Fundamental Rights in January. 

It is interesting to point out that if, during the first phase of the ALSJ, the greatest worry concerns the creation of a more trustful frame among Member States by developing mutual trust, building areas and instruments to work together during the phase which starts with the Treaty of Lisbon, European policies put individual rights at the centre. 

Against such a vast, complex and with uncertain borders domains, this rubric shall make a selection which will be inevitably arbitrary but that should at least provide information on what the Institutions considered relevant or controversial.

Sometimes information, documents will be accompanied by brief notes or abstracts from press releases or articles that have included a specific news.

EDC

The European Council JHA informal debate of 16/17 July on the Stockholm Programme and Member States’ national contributions

An informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs ministers was held on 15-17 July in Stockholm with the aim to delineate the political orientation of the five years programme that the European Union will negotiate during the Swedish Presidency in relation to the area of Justice and Home Affairs, which will result in the Stockholm Programme. 

The Presidency focuses on putting the citizen at the centre of its agenda and specifically it has been discussed of: 

1. Security and Protection of Freedoms of European citizens

Europe’s home affairs ministers delegations discussed issues including how to increase the effectiveness of cooperation between EU countries in the fight against cross-border crime, while at the same time strengthening the rights of the individual by implementing measures to increase mutual trust between different legal systems and reinforce data protection. Furthermore, protection of children rights has been underlined has a priority of the European Union.

 2. Immigration and Asylum

The debate focused on the necessity to strengthen practical cooperation between Member States fully respecting human rights. To this end differences related to the concession of asylum status between Member States should be eliminated, in particular it must be ensured that asylum seekers, as far as possible, receive the same treatment and have their applications assessed according to the same criteria, irrespective of which Member State they arrive. This goal will be reached through a further development of the Common European Asylum System. The duty of offering protection to those escaping from persecutions and those that need International protection has been also recalled.

Equilibrium between an efficient management of borders and the protection of human rights shall be respected.  Solidarity and the division of responsibility both among Member States and between the EU and countries outside the Union must be consolidated through the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum.

The Presidency recalls for a global approach to migration where the fight against illegal immigration goes hands to hands with the full respect of human rights.

3. Justice

Delegations have highlighted the need to strike the right balance between law enforcement measures and measures to safeguard individual rights and the rule of law.  To reach the rights balance among these aspects, the Presidency proposes a number of measures and initiatives, such as: EU accession to the European Convention of Human Rights; protection of the rights of victims of crime; protection of personal data and privacy.

In addition, the Presidency reiterate the necessity of implementing measures to provide real access to justice for citizens, such as: facilitate the Exchange of information among judicial authorities of the Member States; an effective judicial and police cooperation; the guarantee of an equal access to information during judicial procedures. 

The Presidency continues consultations, particularly with the European Parliament. Issues related to the Stockholm Programme will be examined by the European Parliament and the National parliaments at the COSAC meeting on 4-5 October and during the mixed parliamentary meeting (mixed committee) on 9-10 November.

Leda Bargiotti