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European Area of Justice, Freedom and Security
The Stockholm Programme (2010-2014)
The Stockholm Programme, which replaces the Tampere and Hague Programmes, was adopted by the European Council (Brussels, 10-11 December 2009). In light of the Lisbon Treaty’s entry into force on 1 December 2009, which brought about significant changes to the provisions relevant to the area of Freedom, Security, and Justice (Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), the Stockholm Programme establishes the framework for police and customs cooperation, rescue teams, cooperation on criminal and civil affairs, and policy on asylum, immigration and visas, for the 2010-2014 period.
The Stockholm Programme sets the following priorities: promoting citizen rights, improving their everyday lives, protecting citizen, ensuring access to Europe in a globalised world, solidarity and partnership in migration and asylum matters, as well as the external dimension of the area of freedom, security and justice.
Specifically with regard to promoting European citizen rights, the European Council calls upon the Commission to submit a proposal for the rapid accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights. It also calls upon European institutions to capitalize on the Fundamental Rights Agency’s experience and stresses that obtaining a right of residence under Union law for EU citizens and their family members is an advantage inherent in the exercise of the right of free movement. It stresses, however, that the purpose of that right is not to circumvent immigration rules, and that freedom of movement not only entails rights but also imposes obligations on those that benefit from it. With regard to protecting citizens’ rights in the information society, it is pointed out that the European Union must play a leading role in developing and promoting international standards concerning personal data protection, and that ways to encourage citizens to vote should be looked into ahead of the 2014 European elections.
With regard to judicial cooperation on both civil and criminal matters, the principle of mutual recognition should be the cornerstone of such cooperation. The European judicial area must also allow citizens to assert their rights anywhere in the Union by facilitating their access to justice. In accordance with the Stockholm Programme, further efforts should be undertaken with a view to setting up a comprehensive system for obtaining evidence in cases with a cross-border dimension and, as regards civil matters, mutual recognition should be extended to fields such as succession and wills (the creation of a "European certificate of inheritance" and a system for registering wills), matrimonial property rights and the property consequences of the separation of couples. Moreover, it is pointed out that e-Justice presents an excellent opportunity to provide easier access to justice, and the European e-Justice action plan, adopted in late November 2008, sets the framework for developing European e-Justice activities through to the end of 2013.
Concerning the protection of EU citizens, emphasis is laid on defining a comprehensive EU internal security strategy. Developing, monitoring and implementing this strategy should become one of the priority tasks of the Internal Security Committee (COSI). The Programme underscores the need to foster a genuine European judicial and law enforcement culture, to step up the work of the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection, to address matters of public order and to elaborate a coordinated and coherent policy against trafficking in human beings. Furthermore, emphasis is laid upon improving the level of police and judicial cooperation between the member states (EUROPOL and EUROJUST) and on making better use of the European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN), the European Police College (CEPOL), the Joint Situation Centre (JSC), also known as SitCen, as well as the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). Particular mention is made of the adoption of measures to tackle the sexual exploitation of children, cyber-crime, economic crime and corruption, drugs and terrorism.
Access to Europe in a globalised world: The Union must continue to facilitate legal access to the territory of the member states, while in parallel taking measures to counteract illegal immigration and cross-border crime. Reinforced border controls should not prevent access to protection systems by persons entitled to benefit from them, especially particularly vulnerable persons and groups. To this end, the Stockholm Programme underscores the need to reinforce the role of Frontex (preparation of clear common operational procedures containing clear rules of engagement for joint operations at sea, increased operational cooperation between Frontex and countries of origin and transit, joint return flights) and of the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur). There is also particular reference to the roll-out of the SIS II and VIS systems, which remains a key objective.
Concerning solidarity and partnership on migration and asylum issues, account should be taken of the long-term impact of immigration on the labour market and the social integration of migrants. The need to find practical solutions to increase cohesion between migration policies and other policy areas such as policies for trade, employment, health and education at the European level is recognized as an important objective. The Stockholm Programme reaffirms the principles set out in the Global Approach to Migration, as well as in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, and highlights the need for EU migration policy to be an integral part of EU external policy. With a view to optimizing the link between migration and development, measures are also put forward on secure and low-cost remittance transfers, on more active cooperation with diaspora groups and also further exploring the concept of circular migration. As regards legal migration, the European Council recognizes that labour immigration and the successful integration of legally resident third-country nationals can contribute to economic growth. An area identified as an equally important priority is the fight against trafficking in human beings and smuggling of persons, as well as the protection of unaccompanied minors. With regard to asylum, the newly established European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is mentioned as an important tool in the development and implementation of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). Finally, as far as the external dimension of asylum is concerned, the need for close cooperation with the UNHCR and implementation of Regional Protection Programmes is pointed out, and stress is laid on encouraging voluntary member-state participation in the joint EU resettlement scheme.
The Stockholm Programme’s chapter on the external dimension of freedom, security and justice underscores the need to conclude agreements with third countries on judicial cooperation as well as in the field of civil law. Mention is made, inter alia, of developments concerning freedom, security and justice issues relating to the Western Balkans and Turkey, and special reference is made to the European Neighbourhood Policy, which offers future opportunities for the Union to act in a coordinated and efficient manner. It should be noted that the EU intends to increase its efforts to support the stability and security of the Black Sea Region as a whole. Finally, efforts will be intensified for the swift conclusion of readmission agreements with Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq and Bangladesh.