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Press Release
Presentation of the Luxembourg Presidency's statement of affairs as regards "JHA", made by the Minister of Justice, Luc Frieden

Date of release : 20-06-2005

Policy area : Justice and Home Affairs Justice and Home Affairs

Event : European Parliament mini plenary session

On 20 June 2005, Luc Frieden, the Luxembourg Minister of Justice and current President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union, presented the statement of affairs of the Luxembourg Presidency on this topic before the European Parliament Committee on Liberty, Justice and Home Affairs.

During his hearing before the MEPs, Luc Frieden concentrated on the points he deemed to be the most important. "During the Presidency, which was an extremely interesting and involving experience, I tried to move things forward on a number of topics. Over the course of the four JHA Councils of these past six months, we have succeeded in making progress on a number of issues, although I am not entirely satisfied with the end result. I would have liked to have made further progress, but as the Constitutional Treaty has not yet come into force, it is rather complicated to come to unanimous agreements in a group of 25 countries", he said to the MEPs who came to listen and ask questions.

Based around the ideas of liberty, security and justice, the priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency quite naturally fall under "The Hague Programme" adopted by the European Council on 4 and 5 November 2004. Before going on to speak about cooperation in criminal matters and of some of the institutional and external relations decisions, he highlighted the fact that it was during the Luxembourg Presidency that the action plan of the Council and the Commission was adopted on 2 and 3 June 2005, bringing into effect initiatives to strengthen liberty, security and justice in the European Union. The Minister of Justice hailed this achievement as a basis upon which the Commission and the Member States can build upon.

As regards the content of cooperation on criminal matters, Luc Frieden looked at the most political documents. First of all, the European arrest warrant for obtaining proof, which is a complex subject as it combines political and technical issues. Luc Frieden noted that Member States were rather wary of moving in this direction, particularly as applied to enable the magistrate of a country to seize or obtain documents from another Member State. In order to move this proposal forward, Luc Frieden explained that he proposed that the field of application for this issue would be a list of offences for which dual criminality has been abolished.

The Council noted the Commission's report assessing the transposition of the framework decision on a European arrest warrant and on surrender procedures between Member States, as well as the responses made by the Member States. For Luc Frieden, "the European arrest warrant has considerably speeded up the process. Extradition now takes much less time where the arrest warrant is applied and the results have been very positive", but he also emphasised that "it is too early to give a full assessment. This must wait until the implementation of the measure above and beyond the transposition of the legal texts".

In relation to the framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia, the Luxembourg Minister said he deeply regretted that a unanimous agreement could not be found. Luc Frieden noted that there are different legal traditions on the interpretation of the freedom of expression in Europe. "I thought I lived in a Community of values in which there was no place for racism and xenophobia. Although the Member States condemn racism, a number of them do not agree that they should ratify a legal document committing them to a point of criminal law", he said.

Over the course of the past six months, the Member States also held an interesting policy debate about the exchange of information extracted from criminal records. The Council agreed to the principle of bilateral exchanges of criminal records. The recording and the provision of access to information on legal sentences of EU citizens is to be carried out by the Member State of the sentenced citizen. A European index is to be created to identify the Member States in which citizens of non-Member States, and citizens whose nationality is unknown, have been sentenced. The Luxembourg Presidency has followed the example of the quadripartite pilot scheme for the interconnection of criminal records.

Another important subject for the Presidency has been the fact that the Council succeeded in agreeing on a gradual approach for the implementation of a principle consisting of selecting six types of information deemed to be the most important for criminal investigations (DNA, fingerprints, ballistics, vehicle registrations, telephone numbers, basic personal identification data) and determined the most suitable methods to implement the principle of availability of information.

The last subject tackled in the field of cooperation in criminal matters has been the draft framework decision on the retention of data. For Luc Frieden, "This instrument of the retention of data is considered an important element in the fight against crime to such an extent that European legislation is needed". An agreement on how to go about the process and certain key elements of the text were agreed, in spite of some very strong opposition coming from some Member States worried about the economic consequences. Technical issues and financial aspects have to be looked at by representatives of the service providers and of the law enforcement agencies concerned.

Over the course of the six months, Luc Frieden recalled that he had attached a great deal of importance to external relations in the field of Justice and Home Affairs, because he believes that "the fight against crime does not stop at the borders of the European Union. It is therefore also necessary to hold a debate on these topics with non-Member States". This new dimension of the JHA policy has been formalised through meetings with the United States (notably regarding biometrics), with Russia (progress has been made on the different road maps adopted on 10 May 2005, but more dialogue is needed regarding visa issues), and also with Ukraine.

In the field of legal cooperation in civil matters, the Minister spoke of the progress made regarding the proposed ruling bringing into being a European payment order procedure. Luc Frieden specified that for the vast majority of Member States, the field of application of the proposed European procedure should be limited to cross-border legal cases.

On the subject of immigration, Luc Frieden summarised the discussions held on this subject between the European Union and Libya. "These discussions were difficult, but cooperation with Libya, with many conditions, is necessary". During the discussions, Luc Frieden recalled that the European Union should not forget that European citizens are the subject of legal procedures in this country.

At the end of the hearing, Luc Frieden reminded the MEPs that after protracted negotiations, the Luxembourg Presidency also succeeded in naming a director for Europol and of arranging for the head office of the agency for external borders in Warsaw.

In addition to the presentation of the statement of affairs of the Luxembourg Presidency regarding Justice and Home Affairs, Luc Frieden returned to the subject of the European Council and to Luxembourg's retention of the decision to hold a referendum on the Treaty for a European Constitution on 10 July 2005.

On this subject, Mr Frieden emphasised that Luxembourg owed a great deal to Europe but that the country was very open to and influenced by the debates that have taken place in neighbouring Member States. "These debates and the unflattering results for the European Council should not have an impact on the result of the referendum". He added that it was the politicians’ job to explain the progress represented by this constitutional treaty to European citizens – particularly the progress made in the field of security, liberty and justice.

Mr Frieden declared that this is self-evident – particularly in a country such as Luxembourg. "It is only through strengthened legal and police cooperation that we can succeed in improving people’s lives by giving them more liberty and more security".

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This page was last modified on : 21-06-2005

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