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More efficient anti-terrorism laws and more support for alternative dispute resolution

At today's meeting of the EU Council on Justice and Home Affairs, the Ministers discussed a proposal amending the Framework Decision on combating terrorism. The 2002 Framework Decision criminalises terrorist offences prepared or committed with the aim of seriously damaging a country or international organisation. The criminalised acts must be carried out with the aim of intimidating people or seriously altering or destroying political, economic or social structures.

Since terrorism, too, is becoming a global phenomenon, the proposal introduces new criminal offences into the existing Framework Decision, making incitement to commit terrorist acts, public incitement to commit terrorist acts and recruiting for terrorism and training for terrorism punishable offences. The additions to the Framework Decision are intended to bolster the fight against terrorism in the area of freedom, security and justice. EU legislation will thus be brought into line with the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, adopted on 16 May 2005. 

"One of critical issues associated with stepping up the fight against terrorism is the matter of ensuring appropriate safeguards to protect fundamental human rights and freedoms," commented the President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, Dr Šturm, in the discussion.

The criminalisation of the aforementioned acts under the Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism will make it possible for sanctions and rules on jurisdiction to be applied, as laid down in the Decision. Europol and Eurojust will be able to conduct investigations more efficiently. The majority of the Member States support the inclusion of the principle of proportionality in the preamble. The majority consider that, for the principle of proportionality, the wording of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism should be followed. The Presidency will strive to ensure that a general approach is agreed at the next meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council.

The Ministers reached an agreement on a Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain aspects of mediation in civil and economic matters.  The proposal is aimed at facilitating access to alternative dispute resolution and promoting the settlement of disputes out of court. The Directive establishes a balance between mediation and judicial proceedings. It also provides for parties in cross-border disputes to settle them voluntarily through mediation. The proposal for a Directive still has to be examined in the European Parliament.

The Directive does not stipulate an obligation for Member States to ensure the settlement of disputes through mediation but establishes, in respect of existing mediation procedures in the Member States, minimum common rules defining both mediation and mediators. The Directive makes provision for the confidentiality of data in the mediation process. It also, importantly, enables agreements reached through mediation to be enforced. The Directive also provides for staying time limits: limited time periods for filing of claims at court are suspended while mediation is in progress. 

Adoption of the Directive is expected to result in more frequent recourse to alternative dispute resolution in cross-border situations, which will enable disputes to be settled in a quicker, simpler and more efficient way and allow for the interests of parties to be taken into account to a greater degree than in a judicial dispute. Compared to judicial disputes, costs are lower too. Since, by definition, the parties must agree to the settlement, the chances of an agreement being respected voluntarily are increased. Mediation is thus a very efficient way of solving disputes, which at the same time improves legal certainty.

The Ministers discussed progress in the ratification of the Agreements between the European Union and the United States of America on extradition and mutual assistance in criminal matters of 25 June 2003. The majority of Member States have already completed the ratification procedure.  The remaining Member States still have to complete the process.

At the Council meeting, the European Commission presented its proposal for a Directive on ship-source pollution.

At the working lunch, the Ministers discussed the Commission Communication on creating a forum for discussing EU justice polices and practice. The Ministers were also acquainted with the proposal for a special institutional programme for the area of freedom and security, forwarded by the European Parliament

In the margins of today's meeting, Dr Lovro Šturm met Ms Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, the General Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU). Their conversation focused on the importance of good working and living conditions in prisons. For more information on that meeting, click here. external link


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Date: 29.02.2008