Action Plan on the Stockholm Programme released by Statewatch

European Commission: Stockholm Programme: Statewatch Analysis: Action Plan on the Stockholm Programme: A bit more freedom and justice and a lot more security (pdf) by Tony Bunyan: “The “harnessing of the digital tsunami” as advocated by the EU Future Group and the surveillance society, spelt out in Statewatch’s “The Shape of Things to Come” is embedded in the Commission’s Action Plan as it is in the Stockholm Programme….There is no mention of the European Security Research Programme (ESRP). Much of the technological development is being funded under the 1.4 billion euro security research programme. See: Statewatch/TNI report: Neoconopticon: EU security-industrial complex.

Statewatch Briefing: European Commission: Action Plan on the Stockholm Programme (pdf) Comments by Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex – Full-text: Communication from the Commission: Delivering an area of freedom, security and justice for Europe’s citizens Action Plan Implementing the Stockholm Programme (COM 171/2010, pdf)

http://www.statewatch.org/


Cutting bureaucracy: Simplifying applications of third-country nationals

On the 22 February the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament will hold an orientation vote on the ‘Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on a single application procedure for a single permit for third-country nationals to reside and work in the territory of a Member State and on a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a Member State.’

The purpose of this directive is to allow for a single application and a single permit for third-country nationals who wish to reside and work in an EU Member State. The aim of the directive is also to allow for the third-country nationals to have equal rights to the nationals of the Member State they will subsequently reside in if given a permit. However, this directive does not affect the competence of the Member States to decide on the admission of third-country nationals to their labour markets.

Continue reading “Cutting bureaucracy: Simplifying applications of third-country nationals”

European Parliament approves Barroso II

The European Parliament has approved by a very large majority, 488 votes in favour, 137 against and 72 abstentions, the Barroso II team on Tuesday 9 February, in Strasbourg.

The new Commission begins to work today, Wednesday the 10 February and its mandate will expire on 31 October 2014.

The major political groups (the EPP, the Socialist Group (S&D) and the Liberal Group (ALDE)) supported the new Commission, the Greens/EFA, the GUE/NGL, the Europe Freedom and Democracy Group (EFD) and non-attached members voted against and the Conservative Group (ECR) abstained.

Barroso asserted in front of the plenary that the main priorities of the new Commission (already presented to the EP in September 2009) will be to tackle the current economic and social situation in the EU, the fight against climate change, developing social cohesion, the creation of the freedom and security area, and strengthening Europe’s place in the world.

As part of the new framework agreement between the EP and the Commission, in which the main elements were approved by MEPs on Tuesday Barroso committed to carry on social impact analysis when there is a new legislative proposal.

According to the resolution in order to place the Parliament on an equal footing with the Council where the ordinary legislative procedure applies the Commission should:

1) Provide to the EP similar access to information than that guaranteed to the Council on legislative and budgetary matters

2) Provide full documentation to the EP on the Council’s meetings with national experts on the preparation and implementation of EU legislation

3) React to the EP’s legislative initiative within three months and present a proposal within one year or in case of refusal by the executive explain to the plenary the reasons that led to such a decision

4) Recognise the EP’s enhanced role in international negotiations (following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty) by providing it with “immediate and full” information at “every stage of negotiations” and by giving it observer status at international conferences.

5) Defend the EP’s position during the negotiation of the European External Action Service and involve it in the revision of the better legislation’ interinstitutional agreement.

6) through its President hold regular dialogue with the EP president .

Despite, President Barroso promised to abide by it during the second phase of negotiations on procedural matters that will get under way, the Parliament did not obtain everything it wanted. First of all, the Commission did not accept to allow the European Parliament to hold hearings of future EU ambassadors. Secondly, although Barroso chose to set a deadline for Parliament’s power of initiative, he did not agree to systematically respond to EP requests, to keep from hindering the Commission’s right of initiative. Finally, It also remains to be seen how far the Commission will agree to go on delivering information upstream to Parliament on certain aspects of EU external policy.

Now that the Barroso II has been approved by the European Parliament it is interesting to look back at what the newly elected commissioners responsible for the area of freedom, security and justice presented during the auditions held in January in front of the legislative assembly.

The Commissioners related to the area of freedom, security and justice Ms Viviane Reding will be the Vice-President of the European Commission and the Commissioner for European Justice, Fundamental Rights, Citizenship and Equal Opportunities. During her hearing, held in January, Ms Reding stated that her main objective will be to create a single justice area and enhancing equal opportunities policies, ending any forms of discrimination and, above all strengthening the legal instruments against violence towards women. In specific the three priorities presented to the Parliament in the field of Justice are:

(1) guaranteeing accused persons and suspects clear rights in the EU

(2) ensuring strong fairness rules in trials and prisons, and

(3) enhancing victims’ rights.

Ms Reding also highlighted the importance of “free circulation of administrative documents and European authentic acts” and therefore announced the publication, at the start of the year, of a Green Paper on the free movement of civil and political rights, expected at the beginning of 2010. Always in this domain, the newly elected Commissioner aims to turn Eurojust, into “a European public prosecutor’s office”. Concerning the promotion and respect of fundamental rights the Commissioner explained back in January that there will be a very specific impact evaluation on our fundamental rights. Ms Reding specified that equal opportunities should be fully integrated into employment and this would be a priority of the Belgian presidency of the Union. Finally Ms Reding stated that together with the Commissioner for Internal Affairs, Cecilia Malmström they will bring forward 169 initiatives under the Stockholm Programme.

Concerning her part, Cecilia Malmström during her hearing held on 19 January, presented immigration and the review of security legislation as the main priorities for the Commission. In relation to immigration three directives will be presented in 2010, namely: seasonal work, internal changes within multilateral companies and payment to trainees. Always in January, the newly elected Commissioner indicated that she propose a strengthening of Frontex at the beginning of 2010. The other main objective is the implementation of an internal security strategy in the EU, although little legislation will be put forward in this domain. Ms Malmström announced a review of the data retention measure at the beginning of 2011 which together the setting up of the Second Generation Information System (SIS II) she will tackle as soon as possible. She also affirmed that she supported the creation of the post of European coordinator of fighting human trafficking. The Commissioner stated that she will also present a communication on the fight against corruption and that she is keen in cooperating with Ms Reding in this domain.

LB

Towards a European regime of sea border rescue operations?

How is it possible to avoid conflict of competences between Member States concerning the surveillance of maritime borders in the south of the Mediterranean, as well as possible conflict concerning the responsibility to rescue vessels in danger or to reject illegal immigrants at the border?

These questions have been raised several times in the past by both the press and assiduous public opinion. Starting from the case of Cap Anamur, debates spread at the European Union level, where the control of the external borders of the Schengen area is now regulated by the Schengen Borders Code (which entered into force on 13 October 2006, CE Regulation  N. 562/2006 of the EP and the Council).

In fact the Schengen Code does not include a comprehensive regulation on sea borders control although it foresees, respectively in articles 12 and 13, surveillance modalities and rejection by costal guards. (*)

Events related to marine assistance and rescue are not regulated and therefore Member States refer to international conventions (and related protocols) such as the Montego Bay United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 – UCLOS- which requires the master of a ship to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger or distress under article 10 of the 1989 Convention on salvage, or, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1974 (SOLAS), – and more importantly  the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue of1979 –SAR-.

The main problems arises at the particle level. Thought the regulation may be consistent, the implementation varies widely between Member States. As the European Commission pointed out in its Study on the international law instruments in relation to illegal immigration by sea in 2007, “There is indeed a duty to respect fundamental rights when implementing the Schengen Code, but it is not stated explicitly in relation to surveillance operations. As regards the principle of non-refoulement, there are differences in the Member States’ interpretations of this principle of international law, with some Member States, for example, contesting its applicability in international waters.”

“Another difference between Member States relates to how they identify a situation requiring assistance: for some Member States the vessel must be on the point of sinking; for others it is sufficient for the vessel to be unseaworthy; some Member States require the people on board to request assistance, while others do not. The proposal is based on the SAR system and stipulates that as soon as there is any question about the safety of a vessel or a person the SAR authorities must be contacted and given all the information they need to determine whether or not this is an SAR situation According to the Sar Convention each search and rescue area have been delimited for each of  the country concerned search and rescue regions for which they are responsible and these regions do not necessarily correspond to the existing maritime borders.”

The SAR Convention also imposes a precise obligation to rescue and assist persons and ships in distress at sea regardless of nationality, status or circumstances in which the persons are found. The obligations relating to search and rescue include the transport to a safe place.

According to the Commission “Deciding where the people rescued should be taken is a difficult question and is seen as one of the weaknesses of the SAR system. The 2004 amendments require all states to cooperate in resolving SAR situations; the state responsible for the SAR region must, with their cooperation, decide where those rescued will be taken. One Member State did not accept these amendments. A particular point of contention was where those rescued should be disembarked if the state responsible for the SAR region failed to fulfil its obligations in this respect. Some Member States are reluctant to take part in operations because they fear that they will end up having to take those rescued to their own country.”

Such difficulties often become emergencies for the persons involved in the rescue operations. Therefore, last November the Commission suggested to integrate the Schengen Code with the main international norms applicable in the field of marine search and rescue and the disembarking of individuals in safe harbours in order to guarantee fair and equal treatment at the European level and clear signing rules especially when surveillance operations take place under the coordination of the Frontex Agency.

Initially, the proposal did not obtain the support of national experts; however it may go through after the abstention of Italy and Malta.

If the Council adopts it, it will then be up to the European Parliament to intervene. In this case the legislative assembly will have time up to the 7 April to raise its objections concerning the procedure followed by the European Commission to integrate these provisions within the Schengen Code.

The European Commission defined these provisions as purely implementing measures (which seems a rather brave interpretation given the nature of their content), allowing therefore for their quicker adoption than if they were considered as measures having a fundamental impact in the Code. Within a few weeks it will be possible to know what will be the outcome of this, nonetheless, good initiative of the Commission.
EDC.

(*)From the SCHENGEN CODE
Article 12

Border surveillance

1. The main purpose of border surveillance shall be to prevent unauthorised border crossings, to counter cross-border criminality and to take measures against persons who have crossed the border illegally.

2. The border guards shall use stationary or mobile units to carry out border surveillance. That surveillance shall be carried out in such a way as to prevent and discourage persons from circumventing the checks at border crossing points.

3. Surveillance between border crossing points shall be carried out by border guards whose numbers and methods shall be adapted to existing or foreseen risks and threats. It shall involve frequent and sudden changes to surveillance periods, so that unauthorised border crossings are always at risk of being detected.

4. Surveillance shall be carried out by stationary or mobile units which perform their duties by patrolling or stationing themselves at places known or perceived to be sensitive, the aim of such surveillance being to apprehend individuals crossing the border illegally. Surveillance may also be carried out by technical means, including electronic means.

5. Additional rules governing surveillance may be adopted in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 33(2). (Paragraph modified by the (CE) Regulation N. 296/2008 of the European Parliament and the Council of 11 March  2008)

Article 13

Refusal of entry

1. A third-country national who does not fulfil all the entry conditions laid down in Article 5(1) and does not belong to the categories of persons referred to in Article 5(4) shall be refused entry to the territories of the Member States. This shall be without prejudice to the application of special provisions concerning the right of asylum and to international protection or the issue of long-stay visas.

2. Entry may only be refused by a substantiated decision stating the precise reasons for the refusal. The decision shall be taken by an authority empowered by national law. It shall take effect immediately.

The substantiated decision stating the precise reasons for the refusal shall be given by means of a standard form, as set out in Annex V, Part B, filled in by the authority empowered by national law to refuse entry. The completed standard form shall be handed to the third-country national concerned, who shall acknowledge receipt of the decision to refuse entry by means of that form.

3. Persons refused entry shall have the right to appeal. Appeals shall be conducted in accordance with national law. A written indication of contact points able to provide information on representatives competent to act on behalf of the third-country national in accordance with national law shall also be given to the third-country national.

Lodging such an appeal shall not have suspensive effect on a decision to refuse entry.

Without prejudice to any compensation granted in accordance with national law, the third-country national concerned shall, where the appeal concludes that the decision to refuse entry was ill-founded, be entitled to correction of the cancelled entry stamp, and any other cancellations or additions which have been made, by the Member State which refused entry.

4. The border guards shall ensure that a third-country national refused entry does not enter the territory of the Member State concerned.

5. Member States shall collect statistics on the number of persons refused entry, the grounds for refusal, the nationality of the persons refused and the type of border (land, air or sea) at which they were refused entry. Member States shall transmit those statistics once a year to the Commission. The Commission shall publish every two years a compilation of the statistics provided by the Member States.

6. Detailed rules governing refusal of entry are given in Part A of Annex V.

Immigration, asylum and borders: the priorities for the next 18 months

Interesting elements  emerge on the implementation of the Stockholm Programme (2010-2014) from the working document of the Council presidency. It is necessary, as it is often the case for official documents, to interpret the silences as well as some cryptic or general information. It therefore follows a summary of the main proposals with some complementary explanatory notes.

Continue reading “Immigration, asylum and borders: the priorities for the next 18 months”

Communication problems between EU Member States concerning immigration and asylum

The European Commission has recently published a Communication summarising the most relevant information in the field of migration and asylum which shall be transmitted by the Member States on the basis of the European Council Decision of 2006.

This Decision was adopted following the self-evident remark that national measures in the areas of immigration and asylum are likely to have an impact on other Member States given the absence of border checks in the Schengen area, the close economic and social relations between Member States and the development of common visa, immigration and asylum policies.

Hence, the systematic exchange of information seemed an obvious necessity in order to increase the Member States’ reciprocal understanding of these policies and improve their coordination, influence the quality of the EU legislation and increase mutual trust.

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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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