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Freedom, justice, security: a balancing act - 10/06/2009

Statue of woman holding scales of justice in front of EU flag © EC

Closer cooperation between EU countries on the agenda for justice and home affairs.

Terrorism, cyber-security, organised crime and border control are among the issues raised in a new commission paper opening debate on the EU’s law-and-order agenda for the next five years. That agenda – referred to as the ‘Stockholm programme’ – will replace the current ‘ Hague programme’, which expires in December.

Immigration is a major focus. The commission is urging EU countries to adopt a common strategy so they can better manage their borders and satisfy labour market needs. It also calls for laws to ensure immigrants have equal rights throughout the EU and closer monitoring of migration patterns and labour trends.

Besides strengthening cooperation within its own borders, the EU should work closely with non-EU countries on managing migration flows. It should pursue its policy of detaining and expelling illegal immigrants while encouraging voluntary return. There are an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants in the EU.

The commission also advocates a greater role for Frontex, the European border control agency, and a surveillance system to monitor borders. The EU has nearly 1 800 external border crossing points with controls.

A single asylum procedure is proposed and - to ease the burden on border countries - a voluntary system for distributing refugees more evenly among EU countries. Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain are among the countries struggling to cope with boatloads of would-be immigrants.

On cyber-security, the EU should have a single system for protecting personal data. This could include a European certification for technology, products and services that protect privacy.

There are plans to develop an EU-wide strategy for internal security and set up a fund to finance the effort. The EU should step up research on security methods and support member countries in efforts to improve their justice systems.

To strengthen cooperation on law enforcement, the EU wants to create an exchange programme for police and legal professionals.

The council and parliament will be discussing the commission proposals in the months ahead, with the new programme to be approved by the end of the year.


More on a common EU immigration policy

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