Thursday 11 June 2009

EU justice: Towards the Stockholm programme

Justice and home affairs (JHA), or the area of freedom, security and justice (FSJ), is one of the evolving policy fields of the European Union, and it is highly relevant for individuals (unlike many policy areas, which primarily concern governments and businesses).

Under the Treaty of Lisbon the procedures in the FSJ policy field would become more ‘normal’ and less intergovernmental with regard to police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

The so called Hague programme is nearing its end (2010), to be replaced by what will probably be called the Stockholm programme.

One step on the road is the Commission’s evaluation of the Hague programme:

The Communication Justice, freedom and security in Europe since 2005 – An evaluation of the Hague programme and action plan (Brussels, 10.6.2009 COM(2009) 263 final).

Hague programme

The objectives of the Hague Programme were:

• 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.


Useful JHA overview with up-to-date references

The well documented 18 page Communication is a treasure trove for anyone who wants to find the relevant legislative acts and policy instruments in this vast and rapidly evolving policy area, in addition to the descriptions and assessments of the Commission.

There have been advances, but the Commission acknowledges the mixed results, especially on the ‘third pillar’ issues, which require unanimity in the Council. The Treaty of Lisbon would be an important step forward. The conclusions indicate main issues to be tackled under the Stockholm programme.


Additional information

For those who need more detailed information, the Commission has produced three accompanying documents, hopefully soon available through the Eur-Lex web pages on preparatory acts, under SEC documents:

SEC(2009) 765 final

SEC(2009) 766 final

SEC(2009) 767 final

Ralf Grahn


  1. Might I ask in what way Lisbon represents a significant step forward in respect of such programmes? And, further, whether you consider the move away from intergovernmentalism to be a positive or negative step in this respect?

  2. Ibis,

    Your second question indicates the main change, from 'third pillar' procedures to 'first pillar' procedures with regard to police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

    You are quite right to ask why common and more effective decision-making is preferable, because every choice rests on some assumptions.

    Here are some of mine, in somewhat telegraphic style:

    My primary question is, what is better for individuals and firms in the European Union? (As opposed to sterile arguments about 'sovereignty'.)

    We have an internal market, supposedly without borders, a common currency (euro), free travel without internal border controls, but with external borders as a task in common.

    Justice needs to follow as seamlessly as possible, because increased interaction leads to raising numbers of cases with cross-border characteristics.

    Security threats, like terrorism, and serious crime thrive across borders, if each government works exclusively on its own turf.

    I have the highest regard for a century of harmonisation of law through various international conferences, but the results are slow to come and often limited in scope.

    Intergovernmental cooperation is generally too slow and ineffective (unanimity principle, ratification).

    Intergovernmental cooperation is also lacking in openness and transparency. This is still a problem with the European Union, but public proposals by the Commission, elements of deliberation in public in the Council and participation by the European Parliament lessen the problem to a degree, at least in comparison with governments negotiating (internationally) or in the EU Council alone.


Due deluge of spam comments no more comments are accepted.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.