Justice and Home Affairs

Common area of freedom, security and justice

The common area of freedom, security and justice should guarantee inhabitants of the European Union freedom of movement over that territory, and their protection and safety by means of common measures relating to the protection of external borders or asylum, immigration or the struggle against organised crime.

The creation of this area is being pursued by the Justice and Home Affairs Council, composed of the Member State ministers responsible for those matters. The Council meets approximately once every two months and deals with asylum, immigration, borders and visas, and police and judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters.

The cooperation between Member States in these fields has its origins in the mid-1970s. A major step was the signing of the Schengen Agreement in 1985 between  Germany, France and the Benelux countries to create a zone for the free movement of persons and to remove border controls at shared (internal) borders. Other states joined the Schengen cooperation in subsequent years.

Significant steps in the development of cooperation at EU level were the EU Treaty (in force as of 1993) and the Treaty of Amsterdam (in force as of 1999), which inter alia incorporated intergovernmental Schengen cooperation into the EU legal framework. Collective efforts by the EU Member States to form an area of freedom, security and justice have gradually become more important, mainly in connection with attempts to create a common migration policy and the struggle against terrorism and organised crime with a cross-border dimension.

Strengthening cooperation

At the Tampere European Council in 1999, the EU Member States approved the first multiannual plan under the European policy to create an area of freedom, security and justice. This plan formulated the main common objectives for the next five years. In this period the foundations for a common asylum and immigration policy were laid, the harmonisation of border controls was prepared, police cooperation was improved and the preparatory work for judicial cooperation based on the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions and judgments advanced.

The Hague European Council in 2004 adopted a new plan of cooperation for 2005-2009 – the ’Hague Programme’. In the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001 and in Madrid on 11 March 2004, the programme defined the EU’s new priorities in this field to ensure a more effective common approach to cross-border problems, such as terrorism, organised crime, illegal migration, trafficking in and smuggling of human beings.

In 2009 the five-year term of the Hague Programme will end. Due to this fact a new multi-annual programme is to be adopted which will reflect the existing and future problems in the spheres of justice and internal affairs, the new situation in the European Union after its  enlargement to 27 Member States, possibly also the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty. The European Commission plans to submit its proposal for the new multi-annual programme in May 2009. During its Presidency of the EU Council the Czech Republic will thus strive to actively participate in the preparation of this strategic document basing its efforts on the results of the ’Future Group’ work. The new multi-annual plan should then be adopted in the second half of 2009 as a so-called Stockholm Programme.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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