Strategic guidelines for justice and home affairs
The Treaty of Lisbon establishes that the European Union must constitute an area of freedom, security and justice, where fundamental rights are fully respected. To achieve this, it tasks the European Council with defining the strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning within that area. The guidelines cover aspects such as border control, migration and asylum policy, and police and judicial cooperation.
In June 2014, the European Council defined the strategic guidelines in the area of freedom, security and justice over the coming years. These guidelines are in line with the priorities set in the strategic agenda for the EU, which was also adopted in June. They build on the progress achieved by the Stockholm programme, the multiannual programme for justice and home affairs for 2010-2014.
A mid-term review of these guidelines will take place in 2017.
After the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU focused on developing legislation to build a strong legal framework for justice and home affairs. With the strategic guidelines adopted in June 2014, the emphasis is now on implementing and consolidating the existing legal instruments and policy measures. In this sense, the strategic guidelines highlight the need to:
- consistently and effectively implement the measures in place
- intensify cooperation
- enhance the role of EU agencies
- explore the potential of new technologies
The European Council also stated the need to improve the link between the EU's internal and external policies. Areas such as migration and asylum, counter terrorism and protection of personal data, which have a global aspect, need to be addressed both within the EU and in relations with third countries.
In addition to these general aspects, the strategic guidelines further detailed the main priorities for the different areas of justice and home affairs.
1. Protection and promotion of fundamental rights
The EU must ensure the protection and promotion of fundamental rights, both within and outside the EU. Among these rights, special attention was given to data protection. In this field, one of the goals set by the strategic guidelines was to adopt a general data protection framework. This new framework entered into force in May 2016.
2. Migration, asylum and borders
The main goals set in this area were:
- optimise the benefits legal migration can bring to the EU
- give protection to those who need it
- tackle illegal migration, avoiding loss of life for migrants trying to reach Europe
This must be done taking into consideration the principles of solidarity and of fair sharing of responsibility.
To deal with the challenge posed by an ageing population, Europe must remain an attractive destination for talent and maximise the opportunities that legal migration brings. The strategic guidelines called for a discussion with the business community and other social partners, together with the adoption of coherent and efficient rules, and active integration policies on the part of member states.
The EU's commitment to international protection requires a strong European asylum policy. One of the main priorities set by the strategic guidelines was the transposition and implementation of the Common European Asylum System. This will ultimately allow asylum seekers to have the same procedural guarantees and protection in each EU country.
The European Council also called for a strengthened role for the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the EU agency in charge of enhancing cooperation and supporting member states in asylum matters.
On the issue of illegal migration, the strategic guidelines called for action to address the root causes of this phenomenon and to tackle migratory flows. In both of these aspects, cooperation with migrant's countries of origin and transit plays a fundamental role. This cooperation on migratory issues is defined in the global approach to migration and mobility, the EU's framework for dialogue and cooperation with non-EU countries of origin, transit countries and destination countries.
The main objectives set by the European Council regarding illegal migration were to:
- strengthen and expand regional protection programmes
- forcefully address smuggling and trafficking of human beings
- establish an effective common return policy
Borders and visas
The absence of internal border controls and the growing number of travellers arriving to the EU requires efficient and modern management of the EU's common external borders. The European Council called for:
- modernising border management in a cost-efficient way
- reinforcing the assistance provided by Frontex and the new European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur)
- studying the possibility of setting up a European system of border guards
- modernising the common visa policy
3. Security: combating crime and terrorism
In the fight against terrorism and serious and organised crime, the strategic guidelines called for:
- the mobilisation of all instruments of judicial and police cooperation
- a reinforcement of the role of Europol and Eurojust
This should be supported by:
- a review of the internal security strategy
- the development of a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity and cybercrime
- the prevention of radicalisation and extremism and a response to the issue of foreign fighters
4. Judicial cooperation
The European Council highlighted the need for a true European area of justice, where the different legal systems are respected and mutual trust in one another's justice systems is enhanced. Some of the main areas of action are:
- promoting the consistency and clarity of EU legislation
- simplifying access to justice
- strengthening the rights of the accused and reinforcing the protection of victims
- enhancing mutual recognition of decisions and judgements
- advancing negotiations on the European Public Prosecutor's Office
- facilitating cross border activities, operational cooperation and training
5. Free movement
The European Council reiterated the need to protect the right of EU citizens to move freely and to reside and work in other member states, while tackling possible misuse or fraudulent claims.