Justice and Home Affairs Council configuration (JHA)

Council of the EU

The Justice and Home Affairs Council develops cooperation and common policies on various cross-border issues, with the aim of building an EU-wide area of freedom, security and justice.

How does the Justice and Home Affairs Council work?

The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council is made up of justice and home affairs ministers from all the EU member states. In general, justice ministers deal with judicial cooperation in both civil and criminal law and fundamental rights, while home affairs ministers are responsible for migration, border management and police cooperation, among other matters. However, not all EU member states have the same division of tasks between ministers. The JHA Council is also responsible for civil protection.

The JHA Council usually meets every three months.

As agreed in the EU treaties, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland do not fully participate in the implementation of certain measures relating to justice and home affairs, or their participation is subject to certain conditions.

In the areas related to the Schengen acquis, discussions take place in the mixed committee format. This format is composed of the EU member states plus the 4 non-EU countries that are part of the Schengen agreement (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland). In the case of legislative measures, after a discussion in the mixed committee adoption takes place at the JHA Council, with the exception that the UK and Ireland do not vote.

About justice and home affairs policy

The Council adopts legislation, in most cases together with the European Parliament, aimed at guaranteeing fundamental rights, ensuring the free movement of people across the EU and offering citizens a high level of protection. It is responsible for asylum and immigration policies, judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, civil protection and the fight against serious and organised crime and terrorism. It also deals with issues related to Europe's borderless Schengen area.

The Council is also in charge of facilitating and strengthening coordination of member states' actions in the field of internal security. It does this by dealing with external border protection and by seeking to enhance police and customs cooperation.

Priorities of the Estonian presidency

Justice

The presidency intends to continue the talks on the EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights and to the Istanbul convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.  

The presidency will continue work on the partial harmonisation of insolvency laws to improve the business environment in EU countries. It will also work to update rules on cross-border proceedings in cases relating to families and children.      

In the fight against terrorism, the Estonian presidency will seek to agree with the European parliament on a draft directive on countering money laundering by criminal law. It will also continue negotiations on the rules for the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders.  

Home affairs

During the Estonian presidency, the Justice and home affairs Council will focus on legal migration, illegal migration, control of external borders and cooperation with non-EU countries.    

It will work on the revision of the blue card directive, which aims to facilitate the entry into the EU and mobility within the EU of highly skilled workers.

It will work with third countries to find solutions to root causes of illegal migration and to improve the rate of returns. The presidency will also continue efforts to reform the European asylum system and the EU's common visa policy.       

In the second half of 2017, the Justice and home affairs Council will aim to conclude political work on the establishment of the EU travel information and authorisation system (ETIAS). It will also try to agree with the European parliament on new rules for the second generation Schengen Information System.