FECL 38 (October 1995):

JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS: THE PRIORITIES OF THE SPANISH PRESIDENCY

The Spanish presidency appears to have the following priorities in the areas of EU Justice and Home Affairs: the signing of a Convention on the European Information System (EIS); the strengthening of Customs cooperation; preparatory work in view of an early implementation of the Europol Convention; common criteria for the definition of "criminal organisations"; the signing of a general Convention on harmonised extradition procedures, the setting up of an "ad hoc working group" on police research and police technology that is to tackle, inter alia, technical problems relating to the "legal interception of telecommunications"; and a number of points related to immigration and asylum.

 

EIS Convention and free movement

The European Information System (EIS) is to replace the Schengen Information System (SIS), once all EU member states have agreed on common rules regarding external border controls and the free movement of persons within the EU's common territory. A draft Convention on the European Information System has existed for quite some time. Its provisions are to a large extent identical with the Schengen Agreement's Title on the SIS (see FECL No.24: "No agreement on EIS and Europol Conventions"). But, as with the Convention on the control of the common external borders, a dispute between Spain and the UK on the future of Gibraltar, as well as disagreement among the member states on jurisdictional powers for the European Court of Justice, have until now effectively blocked the signing of the EIS Convention. Nonetheless, the Spanish Presidency seems to have some hopes that the Convention could be signed at the next meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) on 23-24 November.

 

Customs cooperation

Following the signing of the CIS (Customs Information System) Convention on 26 July (see FECL No.36: "Ambassadors sign Europol Convention"), work has concentrated on the planned revision of the so-called Naples Convention on mutual assistance between the Customs authorities of the member states. The item is on the provisional agenda of the 23 November JHA meeting, but according to a note of the Danish Ministry of Justice, "a number of substantial problems remain to be solved, before work can be completed".

 

Europol

Work on establishing the internal rules, among other things for the organisation's administration and the analysis register seems to have made little progress. The presidency is merely planning a "discussion" of the subject at the next JHA meeting. The question of setting up a framework for the extended scope of Europol/EDU's activities (to illegal trafficking of nuclear materials, theft of motor vehicles and smuggling of illegal immigrants) will also be raised.

Other projects of the presidency include

- the presentation before the end of the year of a report on the extent of organised crime and its development tendencies;

- increased cooperation with central and Eastern European countries in fighting fraud in areas such as stock exchanges, credit business and telecommunications, illegal trafficking of motor vehicles and art, as well as money laundering.

- a proposal for a common definition of the term "criminal organisation" and, in connection with this, initiatives for the protection of witnesses and "persons cooperating with justice";

- improved mechanisms for mutual judicial assistance;

- the signing of a "general" Convention on harmonised extradition procedures by the JHA Ministers.

A Convention on facilitated extradition procedures was signed on 26 July, but it concerns only extraditions which are consented to by the subject. The new draft Convention applies to all extradition procedures and provides for the extradition by member states of their own citizens and of persons accused of political crimes. This has raised doubts among certain member states, but the Spanish Presidency has nevertheless scheduled the signing of the Convention for the 23 November JHA meeting.

 

Interception of telecommunications

The Spanish Presidency wishes to set up a particular "ad hoc working group" on police research and police technology. The group shall deal with technical problems related to the legal interception of telecommunications, the use of DNA analyses in criminal cases, voice identification and audio-technical analyses, as well as with the introduction of a European standard for police-radio telecommunications.

Work is also continuing in fields such as police training and extended information exchange concerning hooliganism, violence, and violence related to racism and xenophobia.

 

Immigration and asylum policies

Among the items to be examined and, possibly adopted at the 23 November JHA meeting are:

- a harmonised application of the definition of "refugee" under the 1951 Geneva Convention;

- a convergence in the conditions of reception of asylum-seekers in the member states;

- the status of long-standing foreign residents;

- "burden sharing" in the event of mass influxes of refugees;

- moves towards harmonisation of national practices on aid provided for voluntary return of foreigners without authorization to stay;

- conclusions of the feasibility study into an automated European Fingerprint Recognition System (EURODAC).

 

Sources: Information Note of the Danish Ministry of Justice to the Parliament's Legal Committee, 21.9.95 (on justice and police issues); Migration News Sheet, October 95, No. 151/95-10 (on immigration and asylum issues): Available at: MNS, 172-174, rue Joseph II, B-1040 Brussels; Tel/Fax: +32/2 2303750.