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Informal Meeting of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs, 24 -26 January at Brdo

The first informal ministerial meeting under Slovenia's Presidency – i.e. the meeting of the EU Council on Justice and Home Affairs – will be held from 24 to 26 January 2008 at Brdo. The meeting will be hosted by the Minister of Justice Dr Lovro Šturm, and Minister of the Interior Dragutin Mate.

On Thursday, 24 January 2008, both ministers will hold brief separate meetings with the sectoral ministers of the current and following trio Member States, the European Commission and the General Secretariat of the EU Council in order to discuss the Council agenda.

The informal meeting of the ministers of home affairs on 25 January 2008 will address the following topics: practical cooperation in the area of asylum, the interim report of the High-Level Advisory Group on the Future of European Home Affairs Policy after 2010 (Future Group), the Schengen Information System II, and submission of air passenger data (EU PNR).

A common European asylum system will be established in two phases. The first phase, i.e. the harmonisation of minimum standards of the acquis by Member States, was concluded with the adoption of a procedural directive in December 2005, while the second phase should be completed by 2010; in the meantime, further approximation of national asylum procedures, legal standards in this area and admission conditions is expected to be carried out. To this end, in June 2007 the European Commission presented a Green Paper as an introduction to a broad discussion on the future structure of the aforementioned system. The responses of the Member States and other stakeholders will serve as the basis for opening the discussions at the ministerial level, to be carried out at that informal Council meeting. The ministers will focus on strengthening practical cooperation between the authorities responsible for asylum at the level of Member States, as well as at the EU level, while they will also discuss the organisation and competences of a future European support office. The outcomes of these discussions will serve as a guideline to the Commission when publishing its action plan in the first half of this year.

The High-Level Advisory Group on the Future of European Home Affairs Policy was established to enable a group of ministers to select ideas for the Commission to consider in their preparation of a draft proposal for the future work programme in the relevant area after the year 2010, i.e. after the expiry of the Hague programme. At the regular meetings of the Group, the ministers of the current and future presiding trio, together with the Vice-President of the European Commission, Franco Frattini, discuss different aspects of home affair policies and possible directions for the future. Based on the discussions carried out so far, Slovenia has prepared an interim report, including an abstract and highlights of the discussions. At this informal Council meeting, the report will be discussed by the ministers of home affairs of all EU Member States, which will be the first discussion dedicated to this topic at such an extent. The Future Group will proceed with their activity throughout Slovenia's Presidency, during which time they are expected to have two more meetings.

The priority of the EU is to establish the second-generation Schengen Information System (SIS II). This will provide higher standards and the use of the latest technology for the purposes of rapid and effective control of passengers when entering the European Union. Furthermore, the rapid and easy access to data will facilitate the effective prevention and investigation of all forms of crime, in particular of organised crime and terrorism, for the competent law enforcement bodies in Member States. At this meeting, the ministers will discuss the state of affairs regarding the development of the second-generation Schengen Information System, as well as any necessary further measures.

The  European Commission presented a proposal for the EU PNR Framework Decision in November 2007. Slovenia's Presidency has placed introductory discussion on that proposal on the agenda of the informal ministerial meeting; it will be held during the working lunch and will be dedicated to the need for a common EU approach, balancing the proposal and possible consequences. Considering the general response of Member States and the established possibility of consensus, the Presidency will prepare a strategy for further consideration of this proposal. Given strong political support, in the course of its Presidency Slovenia will strive for the greatest possible progress, taking into account the guidelines from the ministerial discussion. 

The Minister of Justice will propose to his colleagues discussion of the following three topics: possible progress regarding the proposed regulation on maintenance obligations and Rome III Regulation; implementation of the principle of mutual recognition of court decisions and the protection of fundamental rights; and further strengthening of e-justice development.

Discussion on e-justice is scheduled for Friday morning, 25 January, while judicial cooperation in the area of criminal law and family law will be discussed by the ministers on Saturday morning, 26 January. During Friday's working lunch, the ministers will discuss the future of the area of freedom, security and justice.

With an increasing number of EU citizens living, working, studying and marrying outside the state of their nationality, the number of divorces and recovery of maintenance claims is increasing as well. In this regard, ministers will discuss the possibility for faster execution of the recovery of maintenance claims, as provided for in the proposed regulation on maintenance obligations. This will facilitate the beneficiaries' exercise of their rights. They will also discuss the proposed Rome III Regulation, which is intended to increase legal certainty for spouses in marriages with an international element.

The principle of mutual recognition of court decisions is the keystone of quality and effective cooperation between EU Member States in the area of criminal law. The effective implementation of this principle requires as detailed a definition as possible of reasons for any rejection of court decision recognition, with due regard for clearly set standards of the protection of fundamental rights of the defendant. Slovenia's Presidency aims at attaining gradual progress in mutual recognition of court decisions, while respecting the protection of fundamental rights. To this end, ministers will take incremental approach and will discuss particularly procedures in absentia.

The ministers will pay particular attention to further steps in the development of e-justice, inter alia to management of the pilot project on a European justice portal and the plans for making it open to the public. They will further discuss aspects of financing e-justice or projects such as the aforementioned European justice portal.


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Date: 18.01.2008