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Priorités de la présidence Slovène et ordre du jour provisoire du Conseil Justice et Affaires intérieures du 28 et 29 février 2008

pdf mise en ligne :10 01 2008 ( NEA say… n° 45 )

COOPERATION JUDICIAIRE PENALE > Principes de légalité et de proportionalité des délits et des peines

EU COUNCIL PRESIDENCY PROGRAMME IN THE AREA OF JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS
 

Introduction 

 

Slovenian Presidency will conclude the first trio presidency of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia. The programme of the Slovenian Presidency therefore largely consists of the follow up on the jointly set goals. The programme that we are presenting you attempts to address issues affecting, in one way or another, our everyday lives. 

 

The citizens of the European Union are lucky to be living in a multi-cultural environment of democratic countries striving together for peace and prosperity. All 27 states, although having different languages, cultures and traditions, advocate the respect of basic human standards – freedom, democracy, security, social justice. Following the basic values of the European Union, ensuring human rights and respecting the rule of law are permanent tasks of every presidency. 

We live in an era when the issue of security is becoming increasingly important. Climate changes and economic differences between the developed and non-developed countries have intensified migration flows directed towards the European Union. There are many challenges that have to be faced by the European Union, and Slovenia shall attempt to find adequate solutions to those challenges.  

 

In the field of home affairs, key focus will be placed on strengthened cooperation between European police forces, surveillance of the external border, legislative regulation of the status of legal migrants, fight against organised crime and terrorism, prevention of illegal migration and protection of privacy of our citizens. 

Slovenian Presidency has been particularly marked by the recent lifting of the internal borders and the enlargement of the free movement area. It is certainly a great privilege for all states to be part of this area, while also representing a large responsibility for Slovenia and other states located at the Union’s external border, which we gladly accept. 

 

The abolition of the borders between the EU Member States will require tighter cooperation between the judicial authorities in criminal matters, and the Slovenian Presidency shall strive to enhance mutual recognition of court decisions between the Member States, to achieve adequate protection of the environment through criminal law for the whole Community and to strengthen the role of Eurojust. 

 

As regards the initiatives in the area of judicial cooperation in civil matters, we shall place 

particular attention on making headway in the field of family law, since such matters have a direct impact on the citizens’ lives. Further, this relates to the follow-up on the work in the field of EJustice, which is a common priority of the trio presidency. 

 

Slovenia shall endeavour to conclude the joint 18-month presidency programme with Germany and Portugal as successfully as possible. As the first New Member State to hold the presidency, it shall direct all its energy into meeting the goals that are outlined in this brochure. You can find more information on our work on the website of the Slovenian Presidency: www.eu2008.si. 

 

For a freer and safer Europe 

 

Strengthening the area of freedom, security and justice is one of the main focuses of the 

Slovenian Presidency. Safeguarding freedom and justice within the Union is fundamentally linked to strengthening internal security and the Community’s refugee policy, as well as protecting the common external borders – in particular to prevent illegal migration – and combating international terrorism. A coherent approach is required for any European initiative or measure in the fields of asylum, immigration and borders. On the basis of the Hague Programme for Strengthening the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, endorsed by the European Council in November 2004, this approach must adequately address the freedom and security concerns of the Community and its citizens. 

 

High priority should still be given to implementation of the second generation of the Schengen Information System (SIS II). Slovenia is resolved to encourage all parties concerned to continue with the development of the SIS II project and to achieve the prerequisites for the system to become operational according to the established roadmap. Slovenia will also monitor the lifting of internal borders at airports at the end of March 2008 and will prepare a final report on follow up to the evaluation process of the nine new Member States joining the Schengen area on 21 December 2007. 

 

A common asylum and migration policy has to focus on closer partnership and cooperation with third countries – especially with countries of origin and transit. In this context, Slovenia will actively follow up the results of pilot projects on regional protection programmes. 

 

Further harmonization of European visa policy and visa procedures will play a central role in combating illegal migration and trafficking in human beings, as well as in countering international terrorism. Thus, Slovenia will favour the rapid conclusion of discussion on all necessary legislation that will enable the European Visa Information System (VIS) to become operational. 

 

With regard to third-country nationals who are staying illegally on the territory of a Member State, Slovenia will seek intensified cooperation in return policy. In this respect, it is urgent to find a compromise for the adoption of the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals, which is currently in first reading with the European Parliament. Rapid negotiation and adoption of readmission agreements by the Community, as well as cooperation in return operations – in particular with mutual and FRONTEX support – are of particular importance.  

 

Slovenia will also endeavour to make as much progress as possible in the negotiations on the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council providing for sanctions against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals.  

 

Due to the necessity of protecting the EU external borders and of maintaining and improving border control quality standards, Slovenia will promote a political discussion on the evaluation of the European Border Agency (FRONTEX), the results of which must be submitted by the European Commission at the beginning of 2008.; The outcome of this discussion should provide for an analysis whether and to what extent new tasks can be assigned to the Agency. 

 

Slovenia will take forward the implementation of the Global Approach to Migration, stressing its comprehensive and regional balance. Slovenia will also actively promote further discussion regarding implementation of the priorities on migration. Based on the conclusions of the European Council of December 2007, Slovenia will undertake all necessary efforts to work closely with the Commission, Member States and relevant counterparts to explore two instruments (introduced by the Commission in May 2007) – mobility partnerships and circular migration – through pilot projects which will be launched in the beginning of 2008. The Commission will prepare a progress report no later than June 2008. 

 

Operational cooperation between EU Member States and with EU structures, in particular EUROPOL is another of our goal. This includes legal and practical measures to intensify cooperation between all competent authorities named in Title VI of the EU Treaty, including customs and other specialized law enforcement authorities.  

 

Our police and security authorities need quicker and easier access to relevant information. Cross-border cooperation needs to be optimized and to be governed by the same principles as cooperation at home. European institutions need to be integrated into this cooperation without duplicating efforts. For these reasons we seek to expand the European information network in a sustainable manner by giving our police and security authorities the best access to data, thus creating a base of comprehensive and current information. This is essential to fight terrorism and cross-border crime; to strengthen the role of EUROPOL by extending its legal framework in order to enable EUROPOL to assist Member States in combating serious international crimes to an even higher 

degree than to date; to further improve operational cooperation between EU Member States and competent EU bodies using concrete measures, with a focus being placed on prevention as an important element in fighting crime; and to ensure that JHA requirements are given a high priority also in the EU's external relations. 

 

In parallel an in order to raise the level of security of personal data, Slovenia will conclude the drafting of the proposal of Framework Decision on Data Protection on the basis of the political agreement achieved by the Portuguese Presidency. 

 

1. Asylum and refugee policy 

 

As a follow-up to the public debate on the Green Paper on the future Common European Asylum System (CEAS), Slovenia will conduct a political debate in the Council on possible main elements of the future CEAS. It will focus on elaborating possibilities to strengthen practical cooperation between Member States and to explore in more depth the possible establishment of a European Support Office.  

 

Depending on the outcome of the debate, Slovenia will also consider the adoption of Council Conclusions on strengthening practical cooperation and the possible establishment of a European Support Office in the second half of its presidency; this would serve as a basis for launching the second phase of CEAS establishment. 

 

Slovenia will also aim at concluding negotiations on the proposal for a Council directive 

amending Council Directive 109/2003/EC concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents to extend its scope to beneficiaries of international protection. The possibility for this extension was agreed in May 2003 by a Joint Statement from the Council and the Commission. 

 

In the second half of its presidency, Slovenia will also commence the first reading of a proposal for a regulation amending Council Regulation (EC) No. 2725/2000 of 11 December 2000 concerning the establishment of EURODAC for the comparison of fingerprints for the effective application of the Dublin Convention, as well as a proposal for a Council decision allowing law enforcement authorities to have access to EURODAC.  Both proposals are of a great importance for making the EURODAC system more efficient.  

 

Slovenia intends to further develop the asylum and migration policy within the framework of the Community’s external relations and to place emphasis on dialogue with countries of origin and transit, based on a flexible and differentiated approach to individual third countries and regions. 

 

Together with the European Commission, Slovenia will continue to promote the development of EU Regional Protection Programmes (including associated pilot projects), taking into account their initial evaluations. This requires a coherent policy approach which takes account of the root causes for people fleeing their countries and includes cooperation in development policy, the fight against poverty, humanitarian aid and the consolidation of administrative infrastructures. It should also take account of the existing human rights standards in the countries of origin and transit, as well as the necessary obligations of these countries. Improving cooperation with the countries of origin and transit also implies urging these countries to comply with obligations 

under international law related to the readmission of own nationals. 

 

2. Fighting illegal migration 

 

a)Visa policy 

The European Visa Information System (VIS) must become a central element of European cooperation in the fight against illegal migration and “visa shopping”, as well as an instrument to support measures against organized crime – in particular smuggling and trafficking in human beings – and international terrorism. In this regard, Slovenian Presidency will explore possible interaction between the VIS, SIS and EURODAC databases. 

 

Slovenia will actively continue work on updating Community law on visas. The adoption of amendments to the Common Consular Instructions on visas for diplomatic and consular posts in relation to the introduction of biometrics, including provisions on organizing the reception and processing of visa applications, is envisaged.  

 

Slovenia will also focus on a Community regulation (“visa code”) that should consolidate and to a certain extent reform the existing Community Acquis governing the granting of Schengen visas, striving for considerable progress in negotiations in the Council, as well as with the European Parliament.  

 

In addition, drawing up guidelines containing specific instructions for local consular officials at the Community level is foreseen. This instrument should then replace the existing provisions applicable in this area thus far, especially the Common Consular Instructions and the relevant sections of the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement. Slovenia will aim to ensure that due attention is paid to the security requirements of Member States. 

Slovenia will regularly assess the list of those countries whose nationals are required to have a visa and the list of third countries whose nationals are exempt from visa requirements, and support and encourage the Commission to take all necessary measures towards visa reciprocity.  

 

Slovenia will work together with the Commission to enable candidate countries to harmonize their visa regime with EU standards as soon as possible. 

 

To ensure a uniform policy is applied with regard to issuing visas, Slovenia will actively promote closer cooperation between the consulates of Member States, making full use of synergistic effects. This includes, in particular, establishing joint posts where visa applications can be filed and building shared technical infrastructures. 

 

A cornerstone of the European security architecture is the use of biometric features in visas, residence permits, passports and other identification documents. Slovenia will drive forward harmonization efforts in this area in order to achieve common standards with partner countries outside the European Union as well. 

 

b) Return policy 

 

Germany and Portugal made significant progress in the negotiations on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals. Recently Portugal started informal negotiations with the European Parliament. As a main aim, Slovenia will try to conclude these negotiations in first reading and step up the process of establishing a common European Union immigration policy. 

 

Another important step in the same direction is for Slovenia to continue with the discussions started by Germany and brought forward by Portugal on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council providing for sanctions against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals. Slovenia will try to reach a general approach in the Council on the proposal and begin informal negotiations with the European Parliament, with the aim of reaching an agreement in the first reading. 

 

Slovenia will also continue to evaluate the progress made to date in the EU’s negotiations on readmission agreements with third countries on one hand, and the implementation of existing agreements on the other. This evaluation will aim to identify means for concluding pending negotiations in a more targeted and timely manner. 

Slovenia will focus on improving practical cooperation in returning third-country nationals residing illegally on the territory of a Member State. This will include sharing information among Member States about the situation in the countries to which third-country nationals are returned, as well as information on obtaining travel documents and on joint return measures. Slovenia will also actively support FRONTEX to ensure that it can fully live up to its role as a supporter and promoter of joint return measures. 

 

c)External border protection 

 

Slovenia considers that the Visa Information System (VIS) will become an important tool in the fight against illegal migration and “visa shopping”. For the full implementation of VIS, it is necessary to define procedures for border guard officers performing border checks at external borders to consult VIS in their everyday work. It is expected that the Commission will present a draft regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No. 562/2006 establishing a Community Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code) regarding the application of VIS at borders. Due to the importance of this regulation, Slovenia will open the discussions on this proposal immediately and try to achieve a as much progress as possible. 

 

During its presidency, Slovenia will closely follow the work of FRONTEX and will cooperate with FRONTEX in a way so as to properly ensure a high level of security in the Schengen area. According to the Hague Programme the Commission will issue, a communication as the outcome of its evaluation of FRONTEX. Ensuring extensive debate on the basis of this communication and giving political guidance on the future of FRONTEX is a key priority for the Slovenian Presidency. 

 

Based on a study of the Commission, Slovenia will explore with the Member States the 

possibilities for a development of a system for registering third-country nationals upon entry into and exit from the Schengen area. The use of this system could, if feasible, yield a significant amount of information relevant in the fight against illegal migration, organized crime and international terrorism, as it would allow, for example, identifying who or when a person enters or exits a Member State.  

 

As a counterpoint to the entry/exit system, the Commission will present the outcome of the feasibility study on a registered traveller programme. During its presidency, Slovenia will seek for common understanding of further development and possible use of such systems in the future, with the goal of promoting the facilitation of passenger flows at the borders. 

 

Slovenia will follow the implementation of the European Council Conclusions from December 2006 to "improve the management of the European Union's external borders on the basis of the integrated border management strategy adopted by the Council in 2006. In particular, priority will also be given to examining the creation of a European Surveillance System for the southern maritime borders." During its presidency, Slovenia will seek to launch broader discussion on the European Surveillance System, based on the Communication from the Commission, with the aim of reaching political guidance for future work to be done in strengthening the EU external borders. 

 

The importance these discussions that will influence future development in the area of freedom, security and justice has led Slovenia to organise a ministerial conference. The conference will enable broader discussion at the political level on the basis of the Commission communications on the future of FRONTEX, and the use of modern technology and systems in the area of border security (EU Surveillance System, entry/exit system, registered traveller programme).  

 

Our aim is for the Council to adopt conclusions providing political guidelines for future work in this field. 

 

3. Legal migration, integration 

 

Slovenia will continue work on a European strategy for legal immigration based on the proposals of the European Commission. Community measures for this purpose should guarantee full flexibility in the area of economic migration, so as to be able to take account of the different situation on labour markets in the various Member States, as well as the national competence for defining the specific need for economic migrants and the prioritization of the European Union’s own labour force. 

 

Slovenia will make efforts to finish the first overview in the Council of two directives: the 

Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of highly qualified workers, and the Directive on application procedure for a single permit and on a common set of rights for third-country national immigrants. These proposals, presented in accordance with the December 2005 Policy Plan on Legal Migration, seek to prepare a European response to demographic demands for migrant labour on the EU labour market. 

 

The main challenge of the upcoming proposals will be to find the right set of rights of third country workers to ensure their equal treatment and facilitate their mobility in the labour market. 

 

Slovenia welcomes the so-called "EU blue card" and believes it will make Europe a more 

attractive work destination for highly qualified workers. 

 

4. Strengthening the role of EUROPOL 

 

The increasingly pan-European and international nature of crime requires strengthening the role of European Police Office (EUROPOL) by further amending its legal framework in order to enable EUROPOL to assist the Member States in combating serious international crimes to an even higher degree than to date. EUROPOL’s capacities for sharing and analysing information must be expanded and intensified. The added value that EUROPOL presents in operational terms needs to be highlighted. 

During its meeting on 4 and 5 December 2006, the Council agreed that, on the grounds that it would constitute a clear improvement of the operational and administrative functioning of EUROPOL, the EUROPOL Convention should be replaced by a Council decision, thus transforming EUROPOL into an EU agency. 

 

On 22 December 2006, the Commission presented a proposal for a Council decision establishing the EUROPOL. The German and Portuguese Presidencies made significant progress in this discussion. During the Slovenian Presidency, the proposal for a Council decision should be finalized and political agreement reached. This timetable would enable EUROPOL to adopt all legal acts necessary to implement the proposal for a Council decision and to continue with its operative work after 1 January 2010, when the Council decision should apply. 

 

5. Specific measures to intensify cooperation in counter-terrorism 

 

Terrorism is a threat to all states and to all peoples. It poses a serious threat to our security, to the values of our democratic societies, and to the rights and freedoms of our citizens, especially through the indiscriminate targeting of innocent people. Terrorism is criminal and unjustifiable under any circumstances. 

 

Slovenia will introduce a discussion of the set of proposals that the Commission adopted in November 2007 in the area of fight against terrorism,. Special attention will be attached to preventing the use of explosives by terrorists. It is necessary to intensify control of primary substances used for the production of explosives to prevent or at least noticeably impede access to certain chemicals which so far have been very easily or even freely available. EU Member States must monitor more strictly in particular the routes of primary substances for certain frequently used improvised explosive devices throughout Europe. To this end, a monitoring regime by the competent authorities and all actors in the relevant industry should be set up. In this respect, the Slovenian Presidency will start a discussion on the Action Plan on Enhancing the Security of Explosives in view to have it adopted as soon as possible. 

 

In the area of external relations the presidency would like to provide information to the Western Balkans on good practices for combating terrorism in the EU. The best practices recommended to EU Member States as a result of the first round of EU peer evaluation of national counterterrorism arrangements (2002–2006) would serve as an appropriate base for developing counterterrorism structures and communication networks also in the Western Balkan countries. 

 

Furthermore, the presidency will focus on possible processes of radicalization and recruitment to terrorism in the Western Balkans. 

 

The Slovenian Presidency is also interested in identifying sources and methods of financing terrorism within and outside the EU, and in preparing recommendations which could serve as a basis for amending the EU Action Plan on Combating Terrorism and the strategy against terrorist financing. Furthermore, the Slovenian Presidency would also like to study the links between drug trafficking and terrorism in view of possibly issuing recommendations or Council conclusions on the issue. The presidency intends to see to what extent the phenomenon exists in the EU, its neighbouring regions (such as South Eastern Europe and North africa) and in several key countries (such as Afghanistan).