Over the past six months, Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, had the privilege of chairing the EU Council on Justice and Home Affairs. During this time, Minister Shatter delivered substantial progress on a wide range of measures and has been a driving force in advancing many important policy initiatives.
Commenting on the Irish Presidency, Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner said:
"Ireland has steered the EU's Presidency with great ambition. We have seen a real sprint to deliver justice for growth and justice for citizens. Important progress has been made on the data protection file, and I am particularly grateful to Alan Shatter for the determination with which the presidency took to the negotiations on what is a truly crucial reform for citizens and for international competitiveness.
"The Irish Presidency also saw strong progress on our procedural rights proposals: It was thanks to the efforts of Alan Shatter that a deal was reached at the last Justice Council to guarantee all citizens the right to speak to a lawyer upon arrest – anywhere in the European Union. Also, under the Irish Presidency, the Council adopted the Commission's new regulation for an EU wide protection order – which will mean that people who have suffered violence can rely on a restraining order obtained in their home country wherever they are in the EU.”
Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs added:
“Important progress has been made in the area of Home Affairs during this Irish Presidency. I would like to thank in particular Minister Shatter who has been extremely competent in driving proposals forward, notably two of the issues that we have been working on for a long time and which are of utmost importance to the citizens: the Schengen Governance legislative package and the Common European Asylum System. A better management of free movement within Schengen and a harmonised, high standard handling of asylum-seekers among EU Member States are key achievements where the Irish Presidency has been instrumental.”
Commenting on the remarks by Commissioners Reding and Malmström, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, said:
“I am pleased that during the six months of the European Presidency we have achieved the vast majority of our objectives in the Justice and Home Affairs areas, and advanced some legislative measures and policy proposals to a greater extent then was originally believed possible.
“I am particularly pleased that we have successfully completed the adoption, to the benefit of the European Union, of a number of measures that had been blocked for some time, such as the new Schengen Arrangements and the Common European Asylum System. Substantial work undertaken on the Data Protection Regulation and Directive has laid a solid foundation for their ultimate adoption, as has the work completed on the new EU Insolvency Regulation. I am also pleased that we have provided a new dynamic in addressing the growing problems across the EU of racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia. Yesterday’s conference in Brussels under the Irish Presidency on the issue of Cyber Security set the scene for a new era of cooperation between Justice and Defence Ministers in this vital area. For victims of domestic violence, the EU wide protection available under the Protection Order Regulation will copper-fasten the enforceability across the EU of Domestic Violence Protection Orders.”
Achievements in the Justice and Home Affairs areas include the following:
The Irish Presidency delivers on fundamental rights by
- concluding negotiations on EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, ensuring that Member States offer the highest standard of human rights protections to their citizens
- concluding negotiations with the European Parliament on the civil European Protection Order, so that victims of domestic and other forms of violence can avail of domestic legal protections, when they travel to other Member States
- concluding negotiations with the European Parliament on the Directive on access to a lawyer, ensuring a fair trial and minimum rights for those suspected of a crime
- initiating important debates on tackling racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and homophobia; the Council has now presented a set of suggestions to the Commission to progress these important matters.
The Irish Presidency delivers on justice for growth by
- achieving a significant breakthrough on the proposed Data Protection Regulation, guaranteeing Europeans greater control of their personal data and cutting costs for businesses.
- agreeing political guidelines on EU Insolvency rules, which are designed to protect jobs and ensure that viable businesses in financial difficulty are given a “second chance”.
- agreeing key aspects of the European Account Preservation Order, to make it easier for businesses operating across EU borders to recover debts owing to them.
- securing a general approach on a proposal to prevent fraud in the EU, to protect the €960 billion EU budget.
The Irish Presidency delivers on migration and border security by
- commencing operation of Schengen Information System II, which helps maintain border security by facilitating the exchange of information between police and border authorities in Member States.
- concluding negotiations with the European Parliament on the Schengen Governance package, to create a more robust and rigorous system to oversee the implementation of the Schengen border-free travel Agreement.
- concluding negotiations with the European Parliament on the European border surveillance system (Eurosur), to enhance internal security i.e. reducing the number of illegal migrants, tackling human trafficking, drug smuggling and so on.
- signing readmission agreements between the EU and Cape Verde and Armenia, contributing to a comprehensive and balanced migration policy.
Irish Presidency delivers in the fight against serious crime and terrorism by
- reaching agreement on the EU priorities for the fight against serious and organised crime between 2014 and 2017; priorities agreed include human trafficking, drugs and firearms, facilitating illegal immigration and cybercrime.
- agreeing a new four year EU Action Plan on Drugs, which sets out concrete actions that will be implemented to reduce drug supply and demand.
- securing the agreement of the Council for an update of the EU Strategy for Combating Radicalisation and Recruitment to Terrorism, to protect Europe’s citizens from terrorist acts.
- bringing together both the Justice and Defence areas at a high-level EU Cyber Security Conference in Brussels, to advance the debate on EU Member States’ preparedness to face cyber threats. This was the last major event in the Justice, Home Affairs and Defence areas.
Irish Presidency delivers on asylum and protecting refugees by
- chairing political discussions on the conflict in Syria, which addressed the actions that can be taken at EU level to alleviate the plight of refugees and displaced persons in the region.
- completing the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), to ensure consistent and equitable treatment of asylum seekers irrespective of the Member State in which they present their asylum application.
Minister Shatter concluded:
“Ireland can reflect with satisfaction that the achievements during our term as Presidency of the Council will have an important and lasting contribution to the creation of an area of freedom, security and justice in the European Union.”