Stockholm programme can help EU ‘meet future challenges’

The wide gap between adopted EU rules and their implementation at national level must be a political priority, says Luigi Berlinguer.

By Luigi Berlinguer MEP

17 Feb 2014

The Stockholm programme sets out the European Union’s priorities for the area of justice, freedom and security for the period 2010-14. Building on the achievements of its predecessors the Tampere and Hague programmes, it aims to meet future challenges and further strengthen the area of justice, freedom and security.

Now that the Stockholm programme has passed the half-way mark, the committees on legal affairs, on civil liberties, justice and home affairs and on constitutional affairs have decided to evaluate the progress which has been made so far, with a view to identifying steps that remain to be taken as well as possible priorities for the successor of the Stockholm programme.

Concerning those areas which come under the remit of the committee on legal affairs, we can say that very promising legislation has been adopted, but that, owing to the length of legislative and implementation periods, very little of it is already being applied and that a considerable number of legislative proposals are still being considered by the co-legislators.

For the future it is crucial to assure more consistency between rules adopted and, above all, to address the issue of their implementation which must be a political priority in the view of the wide gap that is often observed between policies adopted at EU level and their implementation at national level.

In this regard, any future strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning should depend on all institutions involved in the ordinary legislative procedure which must collaborate in a loyal manner, draw from the experience of past implementation and not consist merely on a long list of objectives and priorities. Those guidelines should be concise and be adopted once the new parliament and the commission have taken office; the treaty does not in fact set any timing for their adoption and it would be important to allow all institutions and the civil society to adequately take part in this process.

In more general terms, it will be important to further facilitate the free movement of European citizens, a pillar of EU integration, by defending and respecting all the rights deriving from a European area of justice and, in particular, by strengthening judicial cooperation.

Mutual recognition of legal situations, judgements and documents play a very important role in this respect, as it leaves the legal systems of member states unchanged, but reduces the inconvenience which differences in regulation cause for individual citizens.

Mutual recognition, however, requires that citizens and legal professionals trust each other’s legal institutions. The strengthening of a truly European legal culture that is fully respectful of the principles of subsidiarity and of judicial independence and the establishment of common standards and an understanding of other legal systems play, therefore, a very relevant role in underpinning mutual recognition and trust. This common judicial culture should therefore be developed and deepened, in particular through the training of judges and other legal practitioners.

[pullquote]It is also increasingly important to ensure that European citizens see the practical benefit of the European Union in their daily lives[/pullquote].

Citizens and SMEs are not well aware of the issues dealt with at EU level which address numerous situations they are confronted with in their everyday lives, in particular when they are moving from one member state to another.