Lithuanian Presidency presents justice and home affairs achievements to the European Parliament LIBE committee

17 December 2013, Last updated at, 22:56 EET
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author: The Council of the European Union

Lithuanian Justice Minister Juozas Bernatonis and Minister of Home Affairs Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas on December 17 in Brussels presented the results of the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council in the area of justice and home affairs to the members of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

“In the area of justice, the Presidency gave most attention to measures that would restore trust in the European Union, stimulate growth of the economy and employment, strengthen the common market, ensure financial stability, reinforce economic and monetary union, and ensure protection of financial interests of the European Union,” said Justice Minister Bernatonis.

On one prevailing issue in the past six months, the strengthening of the protection of the Union’s financial interests by means of criminal law, the Presidency gave high priority to the Directive on the Protection of the Euro and Other Currencies against Counterfeiting by Criminal Law and achieved the agreement in the October Council. Minister Bernatonis emphasized that this instrument is very important seeking to ensure stability of the euro and other currencies, as well as proper protection against counterfeiting.

On another priority, the Directive on Confiscation and Recovery of Criminal Assets, the Lithuanin Presidency achieved the agreement with the European Parliament (EP).

“I would also like to express satisfaction that after nearly two years of negotiations with the European Parliament, the agreement on the European Investigation Order in criminal matters was finally reached. I believe that in this legal instrument due to our common efforts we managed to find the balance between the interest of the investigation and the protection of human rights”, said Minister Bernatonis.

The Presidency gave much attention to the proposals on the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office and the reform of the structure of the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust), and Minister Bernatonis expressed hope that the work done will contribute to further negotiations on these proposals.

“Given that the Stockholm Programme gives special attention to the interests and needs of citizens of the European Union, and that 2013 has been declared the European Year of Citizens, the Presidency also focused on the protection of human rights, ensuring gender equality and equal opportunities, and diminishing discrimination. I would like to express satisfaction with the reached final agreement on the new financial programmes contributing to the implementation of these goals in practice – the Justice Programme and the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme,” noted Minister Bernatonis.

In commemoration of the end of the European Year of Citizens, in December the Council conclusions on the EU Citizenship Report 2013 were approved. The conclusions emphasise the necessity to inform the EU citizens of their rights and ensure that they would be able to apply them in everyday life without facing unnecessary obstacles. These conclusions focus on the goals to eliminate obstacles for free movement of workers, students and trainees within the EU, protect the most vulnerable groups of the EU citizens and ensure access to information and the opportunity for citizens to participate actively in the democratic processes while reducing bureaucratic procedures.

The Lithuanian Presidency continued intensive negotiations on another important but also particularly complicated initiative, the Data Protection Reform Package, the aim of which is the balance between ensuring human rights and promoting economic growth. Despite all the efforts and intensive discussions both at the expert and political level, a number of legal and political problems remain; therefore, seeking compromises in the Council will be continued by the Greek Presidency.

“We all agree that this data protection reform is necessary. It is a significant reform so it is essential to agree on a high-quality regulation which would be effective for a long time, and add value to the internal market and strengthen the competitive capacity of the European Union companies. I am convinced that this issue will remain a priority on the agenda of the Greek Presidency, our Trio partner, and the agreement on this necessary dossier will be reached as soon as possible,” said Minister Bernatonis.

He also emphasized that during the Lithuanian Presidency the relations of the EU with third countries were developed and closer cooperation with the Eastern Partners was promoted.

Minister of Home Affairs Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas presented the progress achieved on the dossiers of the home affairs agenda. He emphasized the progress in consultations of the EU Member States on the strategic guidelines of the home affairs future development and harmonization of the agreements and regulations on the financing of the area during the period of 2014–2020.

Lithuania started discussions on the so-called process of determining the post-Stockholm political strategy. Minister Barakauskas said that the strategy has to be moulded on the basis of the common position of the EU Council, Parliament and Commission. The Lithuanian Presidency paid particular attention over the past half-year to achieve this common position.

Minister stressed that on the EU multiannual budget for 2014–2020, the Lithuanian Presidency succeeded in achieving agreement on the two regulations of the Internal Security Fund.

“We are also very close to the agreement on the remaining two regulations. I hope we will be able to agree soon and start the financing of the home affairs area next year without much hindrance and delay,” said Minister Barakauskas.

Particular attention and much time was given by Lithuania to the protection of the EU external borders. Great progress was made in negotiations on the “smart borders” package, and the agreement among the Member States was achieved on the regulation which would establish the rules of the surveillance of the external sea borders and cooperation via the Frontex agency. Minister Barakauskas expressed hope that the compromise with the Parliament will be reached quickly and fluently.

In the area of migration, the Presidency achieved the agreement on the Seasonal Workers Directive was achieved, and much progress was on the Directive on Intra-Corporate Transferees. The negotiations on the mobility partnership with Tunisia have been completed and in December, a joint declaration on the mobility partnership with Azerbaijan was signed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council.

Speaking about the agenda of the Schengen legislation, Minister Barakauskas stressed the Council conclusions, drafted by the Lithuanian Presidency and adopted by the Council, on the accession of the Schengen Information System SIS II functionality.

Minister Barakauskas also pointed out that active discussions took place on the fight against terrorism, organised crime, cyber crime. He also reminded that the Presidency reached the agreement on the seat of the European Police College CEPOL Headquarters and moving it to the new seat.

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