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Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

Justice Council strengthens European area of Justice


Today's Justice Council made important progress on the building of a true European area of Justice that works for citizens and businesses. Ministers adopted the Commission's proposal for a law that will guarantee all citizens in Europe access to a lawyer if they are suspected of a crime – no matter where they are in the EU.  They also agreed on the Commission’s proposal to protect the euro from counterfeiting by using criminal law. And finally, Ministers agreed on one of the key building blocks of the Commission's data protection reform: the one-stop shop which simplifies the life of citizens and businesses in Europe's single market. In future, there will be one interlocutor for citizens and businesses, not 28.

"This is Europe doing what it does best, and bringing a real value-added to the everyday lives of Europe’s 500 million citizens and businesses," said Vice-President Viviane Reding.

The access to a lawyer Directive adopted today is the third EU directive, in a series of measures to guarantee fair trial rights for citizens across Europe. The Commission will continue bolstering EU citizens' rights by tabling more proposals before the end of the year, notably to strengthen the rights of vulnerably suspects, such as children.

Ministers also agreed on the Commission proposal to protect the euro from counterfeiting through criminal law. The proposal will introduce minimum penalties – including imprisonment – for the most serious counterfeiting offences, and strengthen cross-border investigations.

The Commission's data protection reform took a good step with Ministers agreeing on the one-stop shop principle which ensures that citizens and businesses have only one data protection interlocutor, and not 28. Citizens will only have to deal with the data protection authority in their member state, in their own language. Businesses established and operating in several Member States will only have to deal with a single national data protection authority, in the country where they have their base. This will simplify the current complex situation where citizens have to fly to other countries to make a complaint.

Finally, Vice-President Reding informed Justice Ministers about the "Assises de la Justice" high-level conference that will take place on 21 and 22 November. With the publication of five discussion papers in key justice areas (European civil, criminal and administrative law, the rule of law and fundamental rights) the Commission is giving the possibility to everyone interested to help shaping the future of EU justice policy. Contributions can be sent until 11 November.

Vice-President Reding said: "We have to construct a European area of Justice which is complete and solid. Citizens and businesses will only reap the full rewards of our internal market if they are confident that their rights are protected everywhere. This is about mutual trust in each other's justice systems. We need to keep building that trust."

The input gathered will help the Commission set out the EU's justice policy after the Stockholm Programme. As announced by President Barroso, next year the European Commission will present a Communication on future initiatives in the field of justice and home affairs policies which will be discussed at the European Council in June 2014; the input will therefore contribute to the justice part of that Communication.