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Relations with third countries

Grand building with pillars and a globe as a foreground © Kheng Guan Toh, fotolia

Given the cross-border nature of issues such as data protection, the prosecution of criminals or the fight against drug trafficking, international cooperation is vital for providing effective responses. In a globalised world where people, goods, information and capital move freely across borders, justice cooperation beyond EU level takes on even greater importance.

The Treaty on European Union obliges the EU to uphold and promote its values and to contribute to the protection of human rights in its relations with the wider world.

The aim of external action in the field of justice is twofold:

  • while contributing to the protection of fundamental rights and values in the EU, it also supports their promotion in the rest of the world. Political objectives of the EU's external relations in this field include the promotion of human rights, good governance and the rule of law.
  • The close economic links in a globalised world need to be accompanied by judicial cooperation and cooperation in the area of fundamental rights. For countries applying to join the EU, alignment with the acquis on judiciary, judicial cooperation and fundamental rights, as well as sufficient capacity to implement the acquis, is a precondition for membership.

Justice cooperation is put into practice through close cooperation with international organisations as well as in the framework of strategic partnerships and Partnership and Cooperation Agreements. It is also included in the EU's enlargement and neighbourhood policies.

The diversity of forms the cooperation can take is reflected in the variety of legal instruments used to implement it: they include agreements, declarations, action plans, expert and ministerial meetings, monitoring and evaluation as well as assistance programmes.