The European Council in Tampere (Finland) was a significant step towards strengthening the European Union as an area of freedom, security and justice. In October 1999 the European Council adopted its first work programme, which ran until 2004.
On 5 November 2004 the European Council approved the “Hague Programme : strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union”. This multi-annual programme (2005 – 2010) – responding to a central concern of the peoples of the States brought together in the Union – is intended to build on past achievements and to meet the new challenges:
"The objective of the Hague programme is to improve the common capability of the Union and its Member States to guarantee fundamental rights, minimum procedural safeguards and access to justice, to provide protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention on Refugees and other international treaties to persons in need, to regulate migration flows and to control the external borders of the Union, to fight organised cross-border crime and repress the threat of terrorism, to realise the potential of Europol and Eurojust, to carry further the mutual recognition of judicial decisions and certificates both in civil and in criminal matters, and to eliminate legal and judicial obstacles in litigation in civil and family matters with cross-border implications. This is an objective that has to be achieved in the interests of our citizens by the development of a Common Asylum System and by improving access to the courts, practical police and judicial cooperation, the approximation of laws and the development of common policies. "
An overview of the 33 page Hague Programme (16054/04), which presents the guidelines for the improvements to be made, gives a picture of the problems to be tackled:
II. GENERAL ORIENTATIONS
1. General principles
2. Protection of fundamental rights
3. Implementation and evaluation
III. SPECIFIC ORIENTATIONS
1. STRENGTHENING FREEDOM
1.1. Citizenship of the Union
1.2. Asylum, migration and border policy
1.3. A Common European Asylum System
1.4. Legal migration and the fight against illegal employment
1.5. Integration of third-country nationals
1.6. The external dimension of asylum and migration
1.6.1. Partnership with third countries
1.6.2. Partnership with countries and regions of origin
1.6.3. Partnership with countries and regions of transit
1.6.4. Return and re-admission policy
1.7 Management of migration flows
1.7.1. Border checks and the fight against illegal immigration
1.7.2. Biometrics and information systems
1.7.3. Visa policy
2. STRENGTHENING SECURITY
2.1. Improving the exchange of information
2.3. Police cooperation
2.4. Management of crises within the European Union with cross-border effects
2.5. Operational cooperation
2.6. Crime prevention
2.7. Organised crime and corruption
2.8. European strategy on drugs
3. STRENGTHENING JUSTICE
3.1. European Court of Justice
3.2. Confidence-building and mutual trust
3.3. Judicial cooperation in criminal matters
3.3.1. Mutual recognition
3.3.2. Approximation of law
3.4. Judicial cooperation in civil matters
3.4.1. Facilitating civil law procedure across borders
3.4.2. Mutual recognition of decisions
3.4.3. Enhancing cooperation
3.4.4. Ensuring coherence and upgrading the quality of EU legislation
3.4.5. International legal order
4. EXTERNAL RELATIONS
Detailed measures under the different headings are set out in the “Council and Commission Action Plan implementing the Hague Programme on strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union”, adopted by the Council on 2 June 2005 (9778/2/05).
The objective of the Action Plan is to translate the Hague Programme into specific measures. The Council and the Commission reiterated the importance which they attach to the correct and timely transposition of legislative acts adopted, to the effective implementation of measures agreed, and to their evaluation in practice.
The Action Plan is a detailed “to do” list with deadlines, specifying the concrete proposals to be made.
The Commission presents annual reports on the implementation of the Action Plan. The Commission’s first assessment of progress in implementing the Hague Programme was presented in 2006. The assessment package included four communications: an implementation report, an evaluation of policies, a communication on the way forward and a communication on providing more effective judicial protection.