Minister Henriksson: EU cooperation in JHA has proved its strength
- The meeting of the European Council held in Tampere 15 years ago was a milestone in the development of the EU-level cooperation in justice and home affairs. A decision was then taken to create a European area of freedom, security and justice. This work has been firmly rooted in the commitment to shared values: human rights, democratic institutions and the rule of law, said the Finnish Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson in Tampere today.
- The judicial cooperation within the EU must focus on citizens. Our citizens must be able to trust not only our own justice system, but also the protection offered by other Member States’ legal systems. Rights and protection must follow, when our citizens cross borders, Henriksson said.
Minister spoke at a conference held to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the European Council Conclusions adopted in Tampere in 1999 and Finland's first EU Presidency. The Heads of EU Member States started then a new stage in the cooperation in justice and home affairs in the form of the so-called Tampere Programme.
- Now in these economically challenging times we must be careful not to take steps backward. We cannot afford to stand by and do nothing as the voices of intolerance and xenophobia grow louder. Inaction is not an option if we are to stay true to our values, Henriksson emphasised.
In March this year, the Commission proposed a new EU framework to strengthen the rule of law. The early warning tool established by it enables the Commission to enter into a dialogue with a Member State in a situation where the rule of law development is at serious risk. The objective is to act before the situation escalates.
- Finland warmly welcomes the Commission's proposal. Alongside new initiatives, we must make full use of the existing tools to protect our values. The mandate of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights must be strengthened in order to use its high-quality expertise to its full potential, Henriksson said.
The Minister also reminded of the growing threat of terrorism.
- We must constantly reassess the situation and our response to it. More importantly, we must do this together and united in the EU, Henriksson said.
At the Tampere European Council, mutual recognition of judgments and decisions was asserted to be the cornerstone of the judicial cooperation in the EU. The framework decision on the European Arrest Warrant was the first instrument adopted to implement the principle of mutual recognition, and today there are several instruments of this kind.
- In future, we must work to further strengthen mutual trust. In order for a system based on mutual recognition to function, the Member States must trust each other. We have for example established common minimum standards on the rights of victims of crime in order to strengthen the mutual trust, Henriksson said.
The Minister also told that in June this year, the Heads of EU States adopted new strategic guidelines which will guide the work in the area of justice and home affairs over the next five years.
- The new guidelines emphasise the effective implementation in all Member States of the vast body of legislation adopted over the past years. This is where we must concentrate our efforts now: finishing what was started in Tampere, Minister of Justice Henriksson emphasised.
Further information: Mia Wikström, Special Adviser to the Minister, tel. 050 355 3213