Parliament must be involved in ‘freedom, security and justice’

Carlo Casini is calling on the European council to include parliament in its plans for the strategic direction in the area of freedom, security and justice.

By Carlo Casini MEP

17 Feb 2014

The time has come to take stock of the Stockholm programme, highlight any problems and define the new priorities for Europe’s future area of freedom, security and justice for 2015-2019. This is an important time, with the European parliament elections just a few months away.

[pullquote]From an institutional perspective, it is worth highlighting that, as the Lisbon treaty is abolishing the so-called third pillar, it has extended the community method to the area of justice and home affairs[/pullquote], with very few exceptions, which the area of freedom, security and justice has now also been called to join.

This means that, notwithstanding the treaty article saying the European council shall define strategic guidelines in this area, the time of large-scale programmes defined by an exclusive intergovernmental approach seems to be over, and the European commission will fully exercise its right of initiative, with the need to take into account the views of the parliament and the council.

Parliament, the direct representative of European citizens, will soon vote on the interim evaluation of the Stockholm programme. So, as was the case in November 2009 before the Stockholm programme was adopted and in accordance with article 51 of the regulation, three parliamentary committees are about to vote on a joint resolution that will highlight any existing imbalances and critical situations, as well as detailing concrete successes.

An interim assessment of the implementation of the Stockholm programme was forecast by June 2012 by the European commission, but this promise has not been fulfilled, despite the requests of the European parliament. The European commission has announced two communications that should be adopted within a few weeks, in March 2014, on future developments in the field of justice and home affairs.

As we can see from the next resolution, the parliament maintains that there is still a lot of work to be done to implement a Stockholm programme that lives up to its ambitions. For example, the treaty of the European Union demands acceptance of the European convention on human rights, and much time has been spent attempting to achieve this target. However, the huge complexity of the issues involved has prevented us from implementing this aspect of the treaty in current legislation. Similarly, it has not been possible to adopt one standardised voting law, as stipulated in the treaty, which would have been a symbol of great progress in the road towards European integration.

However, we can be pleased with the implementation of the citizens’ initiative, which is an approach to participatory democracy that is suitable for reducing the democratic deficit and bringing citizens closer to Europe.

One last consideration relates to the adoption times for the future post-Stockholm programme. The European council intends to define the strategic directions for the legislative and operational programme for the area of freedom, security and justice in June 2014. The European parliament is very concerned about the choice of date, as this important decision is due to be made while the new assembly is being established. The council should agree to involve parliament in the plans for the area of freedom, security and justice, in accordance with the principle of sincere cooperation between the institutions. This would demand at least a delay to the adoption of the post-Stockholm programme.