Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank the organisers and our hosts for the opportunity to speak to this distinguished audience today. Before you kick off the discussion on the future of EU Justice policy, on the challenges and opportunities, I want to share my view of where we stand.

First of all, it might be worth remembering where we come from in European Justice policy. Justice is a rather new field for the EU. Over the past two decades it evolved from inter-governmental cooperation to a mature policy area.

Today, in a world that is changing fast, we have the flexibility to respond quickly to new challenges. And we have proven that we can come up with timely solutions, on issues as diverse as the rule of law, data protection, family law, or terrorism.

Enforcing common values

EU Justice policy has a major role in enforcing the common values upon which the Union is founded, in particular fundamental rights, rule of law and citizenship rights. The close interconnection between EU Member States means that a problem in one of them is a problem for all of them.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights should be our compass in the Justice and Home Affairs fields. The EU response to security threats is an example. Our fight against terrorism must go hand in hand with respect for fundamental rights. At the same time, we have to address the root causes of terrorism - that is why we fund, amongst others, programmes to prevent radicalisation in prisons. In total we plan to mobilise more than 6.5 million EUR for strengthening the criminal justice response to radicalisation leading to terrorism and violent extremism.

We also have to do more to deal in a decisive but humane way with migration. People who flee war, who flee persecution on grounds of race or sexual orientation come to Europe in large numbers. We have to help those in danger. The Commission has worked for a swift, coordinated European response. If we want to make this Union a better place for our citizens, we all have to respect the values we signed up to. And this goes well beyond the migration crisis. Whether the discussion is about free movement or the independence of the judiciary: the core values of the Union are non-negotiable.

But the new arrivals also have to do their share. They have to integrate into society and respect those values, including gender equality, and including the rights of minorities.

A better place for citizens

We have made good progress in recent years on making this Union a better place for our citizens. As I said at the beginning of my mandate, I want more rights and more protection for citizens. In criminal law, we are completing the procedural rights agenda. The victims' rights Directive entered into application last November. The new rules will improve how people are treated when they suffer from crime.

The Data Protection reform has been agreed in Parliament and Council. This reform package will put an end to the current patchwork of data protection rules. It will allow people to regain control of their personal data.

We also presented two proposals on digital contracts last December to get the Digital Single Market off the ground. And last but not least, we started an evaluation exercise – the so-called Refit - on consumer rights, with the aim of adapting consumer rights to people's way of life in the digital age.

All of these initiatives add value, making life easier for people and businesses.

I see that today you will cover a broad range of topics. I wish you fruitful discussions and a successful conference. Thank you.