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On Thursday, 24 February 2005 in Brussels, the Justice and Home Affairs Council met formally for the first time this year under the chairmanship of Luc Frieden, the Luxembourg Minister for Justice, and Nicolas Schmit, Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Immigration.
During this meeting and following difficult negotiations lasting several months, the Council made an important unanimous decision for the European security area, namely, the nomination of the German Max-Peter Ratzel as the new director of Europol.
The Council also approved Eurojust regulations on data protection. On this subject, Luc Frieden stated that "this data protection is an important element in the construction of a European judicial area, because the adoption of this regulation on the subject of data protection will enable us to begin the next step in operational cooperation between Eurojust and Europol.
According to Luc Frieden, considerable "even decisive" progress on the European evidence warrant has been made. The Council has examined certain specific aspects, such as the establishment of a list of offences and the conditions under which double criminality will not be invoked. The Council has decided to follow the same mechanism in place within the framework decision on the European arrest warrant. Luc Frieden also stated "that a political agreement has been reached for a list of 32 offences punishable by a maximum sentence of at least three years in the State issuing the evidence warrant. For all other infractions, double criminality must be verified."
Based on a document prepared by the Luxembourg Presidency, the Council debated the evaluation of the Commission reports on the transposition by the Member States of the instruments relating to police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. Luc Frieden emphasised "that there is a need for a certain amount of evaluation, but above all there is a need for a political debate within the Council on the implementation of these decisions in order to make progress on the area of Justice, Freedom and Security with regard to the extent to which the Commission’s report will help Member States transpose the same instruments within our Member States. "Remaining on this subject,�? he added that "this evaluation will also require prior open consultation between the Commission and the Member States."
Luc Frieden stated that "according to the Hague programme adopted by the European Council of 4 and 5 November 2004, it is necessary, in order to facilitate the implementation of the principle of mutual recognition, to introduce an objective and impartial system for evaluating the translation of EU policies in the area of justice and home affairs which fully respects the independence of the judiciary."
A political agreement has been reached regarding the emergency decision on the exchange of information on extracts of national criminal records. This decision should allow systematic communication between national judicial records and accelerate exchange procedures.
The Council also discussed the framework decision on the fight against racism and xenophobia. This decision was suspended almost two years ago. Placed on the agenda by the Luxembourg Presidency after the signature of the Constitutional Treaty, the Council declared its agreement to finalise this framework decision based on the text currently under discussion. Without reopening the debate, the Council had given the new Member States time to examine this proposal, as they did not belong to the European Union when the last debate was held. In seeking a future compromise, the Luxembourg Presidency withdrew its proposal in a bid to include the issue of symbols that incite hatred and violence. The emphasis of the framework decision will be on the essential elements required to combat racism and xenophobia more effectively.
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