EU: "The Hague Programme" on justice and home affairs

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- Pogramme to be adopted on 5 November leaving no time for parliaments and civil society for react

The Netherlands Presidency of the Council of the European Union (the 25 member state governments) have produced a new draft programme for justice and home affairs (now referred to as "freedom, security and justice"). The programme follows on from the Tampere programme adopted in 1999 and is to be adopted at a EU Summit in Brussels on 4-5 November. The "Hague Programme" is not yet a public document so there will be little or no time for parliaments and civil society to react. It is intended that the detail will be set out in an Action Plan to be produced by the European Commission in 2005.

The Hague Programme: strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union (pdf)
"The Hague Programme": strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union [doc no: 13302/2/04, 22.10.04, annotated by Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex] (pdf)
Statewatch's Timetable derived from the Programme (pdf)

Points to note

The proposal to "extend" the role of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia "towards a Human Rights Agency in order to develop human rights data collection and analysis" is an idea thought up "in the margin" of the December 2003 Summit (p5). Why is such an Agency needed? Surely it would be better to insist that Human Rights Commissions are mandatory in each of the 25 states - currently there are only a handful (eg: Ireland, Greece, Northern Ireland, Denmark and there is pressure for one in the UK). Member states have adopted the European Convention on Human Rights and a way of ensuring compliance is to have an independent Human Rights Commission in every country. Moreover, there is already the Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights which has produced two excellent and detailed annual reports. This new "Agency" will be costly, detract from the importance of racism and xenophobia, and add little of value if it is only to collect "human rights data".

The creation of a "Committee on Internal Security" is highly problematic. It is intended that this would be in advance of the proposed Standing Committee on operational cooperation on internal security set out in Article 261 of the yet to be ratified Constitution. What powers is this ad hoc Committed to have? What powers of scrutiny will national and European parliaments have? How can it include the Police Chiefs Task Force and SitCen (the EU's military Situation Centre) on internal and external intelligence and analysis - neither has a legal basis and no lines of scrutiny are laid down.

Comments on the programme

'data collection and analysis' on human rights (p5) is such an agency going to make an effective contribution to human rights protection? It should be focussing on drafting opinions and recommendations on the development and implementation of EU policies, particularly in the JHA area.

QMV/co-decision for 'all Title IV measures subject to the Nice Treaty' (p7). Title IV covers asylum and immigration. This presumably means the issues mentioned in the declaration to the Nice Treaty: illegal immigration and freedom to travel, plus external borders (once agreement is reached between Spain and the UK on Gibraltar, but this has not happened). This leaves regulation of legal migration, internal border crossing, asylum 'burden-sharing', and cross-border family law issues still subject to unanimous voting and consultation of the EP.

The Nice Treaty (p7) also requires the highly restrictive rules on the ECJ to be "adapted" by 1 May 2004 - there is no reference to this.

The date for formal adoption of the asylum procedures directive has s

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