Action Plan of the Council and the Commission on how best to implement the provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam on an area of freedom, security and justice
The Action Plan, which was called for by the Heads of State and Government at the Cardiff European Council (June 1998), was adopted by the Council on 3 December then submitted to the Vienna European Council a few days later. The Commission made an initial contribution in its communication of 14 July 1998 [COM(98)459 final], which dealt with the concepts of freedom, security and justice and outlined the approaches to be followed. The Action Plan gives substance to these concepts by defining the priority objectives for the next five years and setting out a timetable of measures necessary for achieving the area of freedom, security and justice envisaged by the Treaty of Amsterdam. Based on Title IV of the EC Treaty, Title VI of the Treaty on European Union and the Schengen acquis incorporated in these Treaties, the Plan provides a coherent framework for the development of EU action, while guaranteeing tighter judicial and democratic review by the Court of Justice and the European Parliament respectively. Its purpose is to ensure the free movement of persons whilst at the same time guaranteeing their security by combating crime. It should promote cooperation in the field of justice and home affairs, not only within the EU but also in the countries applying to join it.
"An area of freedom": this means not only ensuring the free movement of persons, according to the Schengen model, but also protecting fundamental rights and combating all forms of discrimination. Similarly, respect for private life and, in particular, the protection of personal data, must be guaranteed. As regards asylum and immigration, most of the instruments adopted in the past were not binding. Since these areas are now covered by the EC Treaty, Community instruments can be adopted and a genuine European policy defined.
"An area of security": this includes combating crime, in particular terrorism, trade in human beings, crimes against children, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, corruption and fraud. A special action plan on crime was adopted in June 1997 at the Amsterdam European Council; another action plan against drugs is to be implemented in the period 2000-2004. The central role of Europol is emphasised, as an essential instrument for increased cooperation between the Member States, particularly at operational level.
"An area of justice": despite differences between the Member States, the Union's objective is to guarantee European citizens equal access to justice and to promote cooperation between the judicial authorities. On civil matters, judicial cooperation should be aimed at simplifying the environment of European citizens. On criminal matters, it should strengthen the coordination of prosecution and provide a common sense of justice by defining minimum common rules for criminal acts, procedures and penalties. Emphasis is also placed on the specific case of cross-border disputes.
EU relations with non-member countries and international organisations will also develop following the changes made by the Treaty of Amsterdam. Since the question of asylum, immigration and judicial cooperation in civil matters now pertains to the first pillar, the Community has new areas of external competence which give it influence at international level in these fields.
The working structures of the Council in the field of justice and home affairs must adapt to the changes made by the Amsterdam Treaty and manage measures relating to both the first and third pillars and the Schengen acquis. This means setting up a system which provides good overall coordination, prevents overlap and provides the expertise necessary for decision-making.
type: Action Plan
Reference number: 19
Issue date: 03-12-98
Official Journal: OJ C 19, 23.1.1999, p. 1–15
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