Speech by Minister of Justice Henriksson at the Plenary Meeting of the European Judicial Network in Criminal Matters at Finlandia Hall 21 November 2019
Dear Contact Points, distinguished participants of this Plenary Meeting, dear colleagues and friends!
On behalf of the Ministry of Justice, it is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all to the 53rd Plenary Meeting of the European Judicial Network in Criminal Matters.
Organising a meeting of this magnitude has been a joint effort and, therefore, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the hard-working people for making this Plenary Meeting possible.
Right now, we are on the better side of the second half of the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The priorities of our Presidency are presented in the Presidency Programme, which is built on the Trio Programme of Romania, Finland, and Croatia. The founding principle for Finland’s Presidency is reflected in our slogan “Sustainable Europe – Sustainable Future”.
Since the very beginning of our Presidency, we have underlined the idea of sustainability, for example in relation to meeting arrangements. We considered that instead of handing out gifts, the money earmarked for gifts will be used to offset greenhouse gas emissions from flights to meetings in Helsinki and Brussels.
Now ladies and gentlemen,
Before we focus on the present and set our sights on the future, it is necessary to revisit the past.
The previous plenary meetings in Finland were held in Helsinki in 1999 and in Rovaniemi in 2006. It is safe to say that things have changed quite a bit since then.
In 1998, the EJN had only been recently established and the meeting in Helsinki was the fourth such meeting of the Network. Even though that meeting, in particular, occurred in the beginning of the Network's lifespan, a number of suggestions regarding the EJN's future work were made. Even after two decades, some of the suggestions expressed in 1999 are still relevant today, such as the following, and I quote: “EJN meetings should seek to have a balance between practical experience, consideration of policy, presentation of the systems for judicial cooperation in the individual Member States, and opportunities for strengthening personal contacts.”
The 25th plenary meeting in 2006 was held in Rovaniemi, in the northern part of Finland. In addition to the usual items on the agenda, an interesting presentation regarding legal linguistics was heard. The unique and cosy atmosphere in Rovaniemi facilitated fruitful discussions and provided a great opportunity to get to know each other better.
This autumn marks the 20th anniversary of the European Council meeting in Tampere, in which the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice was established. Furthermore, in Tampere, it was decided that mutual recognition should become the cornerstone of judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
Nowadays, the EU has a comprehensive legal framework in the area of judicial cooperation in criminal matters. We can proudly proclaim all the significant improvements that have been achieved since Tampere, but at the same time, we must recognise that there is a lot that still needs to be done. The principle of mutual recognition is based on mutual trust between Member States as well as founded on shared values.
The Finnish Presidency underlines the importance of further developing the area of freedom, security and justice. Cooperation in criminal matters is an indispensable part of the security chain. Consequently, the future of cooperation in criminal matters has also been on the agenda during the Finnish Presidency. Moreover, discussions have been based on the new Strategic Agenda of the EU. Furthermore, discussions regarding strengthening the principle of mutual recognition have continued in the Council, focusing particularly on alternatives to detention. Furthermore, Victims’ Rights, the future of Eurojust, as well as EU actions against corruption have all been discussed in the Council.
As mentioned earlier, we can proudly proclaim all the things that have been achieved already. Take for example the EJN website, which offers comprehensive information about relevant instruments, and which provides forms in various languages. Furthermore, the ATLAS works in practice by allowing the identification of locally competent authorities. However, difficulties still arise in relation to the secure electronic transmission of mutual legal assistance requests.
For the moment, there is no widely used secure electronic way to send requests between competent authorities. In this regard, we can welcome the new e-CODEX platform based e-evidence portal as the first potential project solving problems related to the secure electronic transmission of requests. That is to say, we need to focus on the next steps regarding the secure electronic transmission of requests in cross-border cooperation, bearing in mind the data protection requirements. Therefore, this EJN Plenary Meeting is devoted to the gathering of electronic evidence.
Finally, allow me to welcome you all and wish you a fruitful and successful meeting!