Thursday, 12 January 2012

Thorny questions for Denmark and EU Council

Each EU Council presidency has to confront a number of difficult issues. Denmark is no exception. Here I am going to name but two thorny issues, both relating to the area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ), or justice and home affairs (JHA).


Schengen entry: Bulgaria and Romania

Wikipedia offers an overview of the Schengen Area covering 26 countries and 400 million people, with common external border controls, but free travel within.

The challenge for the Danish presidency is the Schengen entry of Bulgaria and Romania, approved by the European Parliament but still not clear of the Council.

On 9 December 2011 the European Council concluded (document EUCO 139/11, paragraph 15, page 6):

15. Recalling its discussions of June and October 2011, the European Council notes that all legal conditions have been met for the decision on Bulgaria's and Romania's accession to the Schengen area to be taken. It calls on the Council to adopt this decision as soon as possible. If necessary, the European Council will return to this issue at its March 2012 meeting.

Finland had dropped its resistance, but the entry was still vetoed by the Netherlands. The Danish Council presidency tries to find a way to clear the last obstacle (Novinite.com).

Can anything be done between now and 1 March 2012?


Hungary

The Fidezs government in Hungary has energetically legislated and governed away an astonishing number of European founding values, fundamental rights and legal rules.

Essentially, when an EU member state starts taking leave of the Copenhagen criteria, the crisis is political, and the responses should be political and principled, while the legal remedies are more limited. Primarily, the Europarties and the governments of the member states should react, but we have seen worrying lacunae and minimalistic approaches.

The Commission has now stated that Hungary has not taken effective action to curb its budget deficit. The Commission is also investigating the compatibility of new Hungarian laws with EU legislation regarding the independence of the national central bank, measures concerning the judiciary and in particular mandatory early retirement of judges and prosecutors at the age of 62 instead of 70 and the independence of the national data protection authority.

Liberal and centre-left parliamentarians in Denmark voiced serious concerns about core values of the European Union being threatened (EurActiv), but leaders of the EU member states have been awkwardly silent and the European People's Party has been legalistic and minimalistic in its belated response.


News and activities

You can follow events through the web pages of the Danish presidency, or subscribe to news by different channels. You can find and participate in Twitter discussion under the hashtag #eu2012dk, as well as follow the presidency @eu2012dk and its spokespersons in Brussels @SpoxBrx_DK.



Ralf Grahn