FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Question time : managing the priorities
EU Poll. No time to lose !
Juan Fernando LÓPEZ AGUILAR
(Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament)
Chair: LIBE Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
Member: CPCO Conference of Committee Chairs ; DACP Delegation to the ACP-EU; Joint Parliamentary Assembly
Substitute: JURI Committee on Legal Affairs; DSAS Delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia ; DEPA Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly
- POST-STOCKHOLM AGENDA
Which aspects of the Justice and Home Affaires area (Post-Stockholm agenda) should be further developed ?
The European Parliament resolution of 2 April 2014 on the mid-term review of the Stockholm Programme contains a number of requests for the Post-Stockholm agenda.
Among them are calls to address the « Copenhagen-dilemma », to enforce the fundamental rights and social inclusion of Roma, to implement the requests as contained in the Parliament’s resolution following the mass surveillance of EU citizens, to strengthen the procedural rights of suspects and accused persons in criminal proceedings, to coordinate better the existing law-enforcement instruments, to adopt a coordinated approach based on solidarity and responsibility, supported by common instruments, to avoid tragedies in the Mediterranean, to make further progress in the adoption of legislation in the field of legal migration, and to expand the external dimension of asylum policy in relation to resettlement and protected entry procedures etc.
- DATA PROTECTION AND MASS SURVEILLANCE
What role should the EU play in the development and application of internet governance ?
The EU needs to play a strong role in order to be able to defend the fundamental rights of our citizens. The LIBE Committee has recently discussed with Vice-President Neelie Kroes the Commission’s Communication on « Internet Policy and Governance – Europe’s role in shaping the future of Internet Governance » and will certainly follow-up the matter in the future.
Is it possible to protect the personal data of citizens and businesses while guaranteeing their freedom of choice and expression ? Yes.
Commissioner Viviane Reding advocates for a « Justice for growth ». What could be done to ensure a fair and more effective judicial system ?
An important first step is certainly already the recognition of the importance of a well-functioning justice system, as an important goal in itself, but also for the economy. As a second step it is necessary to understand in which areas there are weaknesses.
The activities and reports of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) are particularly important in that regard. Finally, once weaknesses are detected they should obviously be addressed. Of key importance is certainly training and sufficient funding.
- FIGHT AGAINST CROSS-BORDER CRIME
What should be done to fight cross-border crime and corruption at the EU level ?
There is no single answer to this question as we speak about very diverse phenomena. Without aiming to be comprehensive I would like to stress the need for the adoption of the revised Europol Regulation. The European Parliament has adopted its position in first reading in February and it will, hopefully, be up to the new Parliament to start negotiations with the Council quickly as soon as the Council is ready to do so. Equally important is as well the rapid adoption of the Directive on data protection for the law enforcement sector.
As regards corruption, I welcome the very recent first Anti-corruption report of the Commission.It is disheartening to confirm that political corruption is amidst the most serious reasons of concern for EU citizens. Talking about my own country (Spain) as a minister of Justice I contributed to establish the Anticorruption Prosecutor Office, it is just too bad that this is being misused to protect and defend corruption suspects instead of using it as a tool to fight corruption. In a time of appalling economic and financial crisis recovering for the legal economy the money deviated by defrauders is of utmost importance; that funds are very much needed to foster growth and jobs.
How can European citizens be protected while respecting their fundamental rights ?
Again there is no single, easy answer. The European Parliament has in numerous resolutions expressed its views on this matter. I would like to stress just one important point. The fight against terrorism and crime needs to respect the rule of law and fundamental rights because if it would not do so it would lose its legitimacy.
Do you believe the European arrest warrant limits European citizens’ right to an effective remedy ? If so, does the new Directive proposal of the Commission on legal aid for people subject to the European arrest warrant tackle the problem ?
There are some very serious issues with the European Arrest Warrant. The European Parliament has on 27 February 2014 adopted a resolution with recommendations to the Commission on the review of the European Arrest Warrant. In that resolution, among other requests, the Parliament asked the Commission to review the EAW, making concrete suggestions about necessary changes.
These include, for example, a mandatory refusal ground where there are substantial grounds to believe that the execution of the measure would be incompatible with the executing Member State’s obligation in accordance with Article 6 of the TEU and the Charter, notably Article 52(1) thereof with its reference to the principle of proportionality; the right to an effective legal remedy in compliance with Article 47(1) of the Charter and Article 13 of the ECHR, such as the right to appeal in the executing Member State against the requested execution of a mutual recognition instrument and the right for the requested person to challenge before a tribunal any failure by the issuing Member State to comply with assurances given to the executing Member State; and a better definition of the crimes where the EAW should apply in order to facilitate the application of the proportionality test. The proposal on legal aid alone cannot address all the issues identified with regard to the EAW.
- ASYLUM POLICY
Are there elements of the Asylum Package adopted in June 2013 that should be improved ? If so, why and how ?
First and foremost the Asylum Package adopted should be properly implemented by the Member States. The Commission as the Guardian of the Treaties should assume an active role and ensure that Member States correctly transpose the Directives and correctly apply the Regulations adopted.
I believe that for the future we have to think what we can do more – in the spirit of solidarity – to help those Member States under particular pressure and how we could create protected entry procedures for refugees.
Do you think the Dublin III Regulation guarantees a fair sharing of responsibilities between Member States ? If not, how should it be reformed ?
I would have wished to see more solidarity between the Member States but we should not forget that the new Dublin Regulation is already much better than the previous one, for example with regard to an effective remedy! I am looking forward to an upcoming evaluation of the Dublin Regulation by the Commission which will then have to be discussed. In any case I believe that we need to see the entire Common European Asylum System and not just one aspect of it. The different parts are intrinsically linked.
The EU has adopted a “temporary protection status” for refugees coming from countries in turmoil like Syria but never enforced it. How could we better ensure its implementation ?
The European Parliament in its resolution of 9 October 2013 on EU and Member State measures to tackle the flow of refugees as a result of the conflict in Syria called « for the EU to take appropriate, responsible measures regarding a possible influx of refugees into its Member States ».
It also called « on the Commission and the Member States to continue monitoring the current situation and to work on contingency planning, including the possibility of applying the Temporary Protection Directive, if and when conditions demand it ».
- MIGRATION POLICIES
Are you in favor of a selective migration policy ? Yes.
What can be done to ensure the social and economic integration of migrants ?
There are already a number of existing EU instruments for the formulation of integration policies, for example the network of National Contact Points on Integration, the European integration website, the European Handbook on Integration, the European Integration Fund, the Asylum and Migration Fund, the EU immigration portal and the European integration modules.
I would like to highlight the importance of local communities for integration and that towns and cities deserve particular support.
- GENDER EQUALITY
What are the greatest challenges faced by the EU regarding gender equality ? Are female quotas on corporate boards a good measure to address the issue ?
According to the European Commission (Report on progress on equality between women and men in 2013 – SWD(2014)141) despite the progress made many inequalities still exist between men and women, whether in terms of women’s rights as human rights, career, employment and pay prospects, access to education and health services, or participation in the economy, decision-making or political representation.
For example in the gender pay gap: women are paid, on average 16% less than men per hour of work and women receive pensions that are on average 39% lower that men’s. Women face more difficulties than men in access to finance, training, networking, and in maintaining a work-life balance. In respect of equality in decision-making: it is necessary to redouble efforts at European level to increase the representation of women in political spheres and in the European institutions, including the European Parliament; women’s participation needs to be encouraged at national, regional, and municipal level.
According to Commission statistics, 15.8 % of seats on the boards of the largest listed companies are currently held by women and that progress in rectifying the situation has been slow, it is necessary to take measures to promote a better gender balance in management positions in companies and for their swift implementation, thus contributing to better business performance, improved competitiveness and economic gains for the EU; the EP has expressed its view in its first reading position of 20 November 2013 on the proposal for a directive aimed at boosting women’s representation on non-executive boards of listed companies by laying down a 40 % minimum target for women, to be met by 2020.
Are you in favor of the adoption of a common European framework on abortion ?
I am in favour of a strong EU framework for sexual and reproductive rights in the EU but unfortunately the conservative forces have prevented advancements in this regard from taking place during the present mandate of the EP; the rejection of the Estrella report is an example of this.
Yet, I don’t think that the current legal and institutional framework of the EU allows for the adoption of common European framework on abortion, something that would require a constitutional federalization of Europe that is far from becoming a reality.
What can the EU do to promote the implementation of the Istanbul Convention on violence against woman ?
In its resolution of 25 February 2014 with recommendations to the Commission on combating Violence Against Women, the EP called on the Commission to promote national ratifications and launch the procedure for the accession of the EU to the Istanbul Convention on violence against women, once it has evaluated the impact and added value the latter would have.
- HORIZONTAL QUESTIONS
How can directives be implemented effectively, coherently and quickly ?
The correct transposition of adopted directives is an obligation of the Member States and it is the Commission’s task to monitor this. At a practical level much can be achieved through coordination and cooperation between the Commission, the Member States and agencies, and by assisting Member States via guidelines, practical support and exchange of best practice.
The “horizontal social clause” binds the EU to take into account the social consequences of any policy measure to be adopted. What could be done to ensure its effective implementation ?
It is self-evident to me that we need to take into account the possible social effects for any policy-decision we take. So to ensure its effective implementation we need the attention of all institutions, and the persons acting within the institutions, to have this basic principle always in mind. This is for me the most important. Besides this there are of course formal instruments such as impact assessments etc.
How do you see the involvement of national parliaments in the EU’s decision making process? What future role do you envision for them ?
National parliaments are given important powers especially as regards the check of subsidiarity. I do not have a « general vision » about their role but I sincerely hope that on a very practical level, leaving aside legal questions, we will have in the future a much closer cooperation and exchange of information and views on topical issues where we all can only benefit. The mass surveillance of EU citizens is a case at hand.
* We thank Mr. LOPEZ AGUILAR for giving us his time and for answering (with full comprehensiveness and clarity) to the interview for our project "Food for Thought".