Committee guide: LIBE ensures respect of fundamental rights

The civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee will ensure that protecting Europe's citizens does not get in the way of fundamental rights, says Claude Moraes.

Claude Moraes | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Claude Moraes

11 Apr 2017

Parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee is responsible for the vast majority of legislation and democratic oversight in the field of justice and home affairs. Such policies, particularly those in the fields of security and migration, continue to remain key priorities for the EU as a whole. 

This is reflected in the heavy legislative activity of our committee in addition to its scrutinising and monitoring activities conducted in the course of the current mandate. While carrying out these responsibilities, our committee ensures the charter of fundamental rights is fully respected within the EU and the European convention on human rights.

In the field of security, our committee has continued to promote an effective response to terrorist attacks that assists our security services in preventing future atrocities. 

We have done this by promoting information sharing and operational coordination, counter-radicalisation, border security, prevention of terrorist financing, protection of soft targets and greater resources for law enforcement online.

These measures have taken the form of concrete legislation adopted last year, such as the EU passenger name record (PNR) directive and the counter-terrorism directive, which was specifically developed to sanction and prevent jihadists travelling. 

In addition to legislation, meetings and hearings have been, and continue to be held, with national ministers and other EU institutions and bodies, in order to develop a coordinated EU response.

Our committee also welcomed the opportunity to assess the role and competence of the new European security union Commissioner, Julian King. 

A confirmation hearing last September was an opportunity for members to scrutinise the responsibilities of the new role, which involves a number of LIBE competences including: addressing the threat posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters; preventing and fighting radicalisation; improving information exchange; strengthening the European counter terrorism centre; fighting against cybercrime and protecting citizens and critical infrastructures. 

The committee has also played its part in promoting significant advances in the field of data protection.

Last May, we adopted the data protection package consisting of a regulation on protecting personal data, and a directive controlling the processing of personal data by the police and judicial authorities. 

This represents a historic achievement, giving citizens control over their own personal data, and achieves the right balance between protecting fundamental rights and enhancing police cooperation and the exchange of data for law enforcement purposes.

In response to the increasing migratory flows towards the end of 2015-early 2016, the committee started its work on the European border and coastguard proposals. The Parliament fought hard to secure key safeguards as well as its role concerning the operation of the new European border and coast guard, particularly on the appointment of the executive director.

In April 2016, Parliament adopted our committee's resolution on a holistic approach, which provides key recommendations to improve the EU common asylum system based on fairness, shared responsibility, solidarity and swift processing of applications.

The adoption of the report came at a key moment just before the revision of the EU asylum acquis presented by the Commission.

We have begun our work on a number of asylum fi les including the revision of the Dublin III regulation, EU resettlement as well strengthening the EU asylum support office. In the area of fundamental rights, the LIBE committee has continued its important work in assessing and promoting fundamental rights across the EU.

In February, the committee hosted the inter-parliamentary committee meeting on the third reform of the common European asylum system. The dialogue with national parliaments provided important input necessary for improving the asylum system and will feed into the discussions to be held in the LIBE committee in the months to come.

A successful reform of the asylum system is a chance to reinforce our common values, based on fundamental rights and to solve our problems through cooperation.

In October 2016, the Parliament adopted the LIBE resolution on the establishing an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. The report stressed the need for improved dialogue with member states and the EU, as this will contribute to a more streamlined approach to upholding fundamental rights and rule of law.

Looking ahead to the coming years, the LIBE committee will continue to strengthen EU legislation in the area of justice and home affairs with full respect of fundamental rights.

This includes a number of legislative priorities mentioned in the joint declaration on the EU's legislative priorities for 2017, such as those relating to the reform of the common European asylum system, the blue card directive, the reform of the Schengen information system and smart borders.

The worrying surge of concerns over fundamental rights across member states, particularly in relation to hate speech on the backdrop of Brexit as well as elections in member states, has drawn attention to the importance of protecting these rights.

Our committee continues to remain highly active in the area of fundamental rights and the rule of law, highlighted by Sophie In 't Veld's report on mechanisms to strengthen rule of law in the EU, which was recently adopted. In addition, the committee has begun its work on the annual report on fundamental rights in the EU.

Concerning Brexit, we will also hold a hearing in May on the rights of EU citizens in the UK as well as UK citizens in the EU. This will provide an important opportunity to invite legal experts, EU citizens and civil society organisations for a comprehensive discussion about the rights of EU citizens both in the UK and in Europe.

The workload of the committee has not been severely affected by the reduction in the legislative output of the Commission due to the Refi t exercise. Indeed, we continue to have a heavy legislative workload due to the security and migration priorities described above.

Given the importance of policies in the area of civil liberties, justice and home affairs, I expect our committee to continue to play an active role in shaping EU policies while fully respecting the national legal order and fundamental rights.


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