Speech by Juozas Bernatonis, Minister of Justice, at the European Parliament, Legal Affairs Committee

18 December 2013, Last updated at, 09:51 EET
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author: The Council of the European Union

Thank you, Mr Chairman,
Honourable Members of the Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first of all thank you for the opportunity to present the results of the Lithuanian Presidency in the area of justice.

Even though this has been the first Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the achieved results and performed work are gratifying. All members of the Presidency team made tremendous contributions to ensure that the aims of the Lithuanian Presidency presented to you in July would be achieved. It goes without saying that achieving current results would have been impossible without the help of European Union institutions. Therefore, let me express my gratitude to the European Parliament and its members, and especially to the Chairman of the Committee Mr Lehne, for the sincere cooperation and all the assistance during the Presidency.

I believe that throughout the Presidency we were able to ensure a smooth and continuous legislative procedure, while remaining impartial honest brokers that involved all the related parties into this process. We hope that you are not disappointed in the results of the Presidency, and today I would like to present these results in short.

During the Presidency, the major focus was put on three main goals – the creation of a Credible, Growing and Open Europe. In the area of justice we devoted most attention to measures that would return trust in the economy of the European Union, stimulate growth of the economy and employment, strengthen the common market, ensure financial stability, and reinforce economic and monetary union.

We have been improving the relations of the European Union with third countries. Much attention was devoted to the Eastern neighbours: we were encouraging closer cooperation with Eastern Partnership countries.

During the Lithuanian Presidency, we have felt satisfaction with the essential progress in initiatives provided by the Commission, which ensure the protection of fundamental rights and contribute to economic growth in the European Union.

One of the most immediate and significant objectives of the Lithuanian Presidency was the completion of negotiations regarding new financial programmes in the area of justice. We are happy that due to the close cooperation with the European Parliament, and especially with the rapporteur Mr Berlinguer, we could achieve this goal.

During the Presidency we continued the implementation of the Stockholm Programme.

Regarding the fact that the Stockholm Programme devotes special attention to the interests and needs of citizens of the European Union, and to the fact that 2013 is the European Year of Citizens, throughout the Presidency much attention was devoted to the protection of human rights, ensuring equal rights and opportunities, and diminishing discrimination. Seeking to attract attention to European citizenship and the Year of Citizens, a closing event of the European Year of Citizens was organised last week in Vilnius. During the event we summarized the performed work and achieved results related to citizens’ rights in the European Union, and provided future guidelines in this area.

As the Presidency we also assessed that the Stockholm Programme will end in 2014. Therefore, during the Informal Meeting of the Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs, which took place in July in Vilnius, we initiated political discussions on the perspectives of justice and home affairs area. Member states were also asked to present their written proposals on the guidelines and main principles in the area of justice and home affairs. During the Lithuanian Presidency these discussions continued at the expert level, while Ministers exchanged opinions during the meeting of the Council in December. Also, we prepared a summary of the preliminary proposals of member states, and will present the performed work and summary to Greece, the partner of the Presidency Trio, which will continue the aforementioned discussions. We hope that discussions in both the Council and the European Parliament will be a useful contribution to determining future strategic guidelines for developments in the area of freedom, security and justice.

In seeking growth for Europe, special attention was devoted to legislative measures that could contribute to the stimulation of economic growth.

One of the initiatives in the high priority area is the proposal for the European Account Preservation Order. We hope that the proposed new alternative European procedure for preserving bank accounts will help creditors with effective debt recovery, whilst also protecting the rights of debtors.

In July in this Committee we presented our goal – to reach a general approach in the Council on this proposal. Negotiations carried out in the past months on this dossier made significant progress, and we are happy to present the result – we succeeded in reaching a general approach in the Council in December. The first trilogue based on this mandate will take place today, attended by responsible rapporteur Mr Baldassarre.

It should be noted that both the JURI Committee and the Council emphasise similar fundamental principles, which are primarily related to the aim of properly balancing the interests of creditors and debtors. We strongly believe that this is a solid basis in hopes for an agreement on this initiative at the first reading.

Amendments to the Regulation on Insolvency Proceedings serve to increase the efficiency of cross-border insolvency proceedings, and create conditions for debtors to solve temporary financial difficulties more effectively. During the Presidency we continued discussions on this proposal at the expert level. Ministers held discussions on this particularly important issue during the meeting of the Council in December – member states exchanged opinions on the rules of jurisdiction, insolvency registers and cooperation in insolvency proceedings. Discussions of Ministers determined the political guidelines for further discussions on this and other issues.

Another proposal in this area, to which we devoted appropriate attention, is the Common European Sales Law. The aim of the proposal is to improve the operation of the European Union’s internal market, creating more favourable conditions for concluding cross-border transactions. The proposal on the Common European Sales Law is innovative and complex, requiring thorough consideration and sufficient time. With regards to this, as the Presidency, we continued intensive and in-depth discussions concerning this instrument in order to seek substantive progress.

Discussions at the expert level demonstrated that it is too early to ask the Council to organise discussions on the essence of the proposal, since a number of various issues still need to be analysed, and member states are not ready to make political decisions at this moment.

Intense discussions on this dossier were also held in the European Parliament, it was proposed to restrict the scope of application of this proposal. I believe that the Council will observe the end of these discussions with great interest.

There were intensive negotiations on the proposal suggesting to partially amend the Brussels I Regulation. The proposal presented in July serves to ensure the compatibility of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court and Brussels I Regulation, in this way creating the legal conditions for entering into force of the so-called patent package.

We are happy to announce that constructive discussions allowed a general approach to be reached concerning this issue in the Council in December. We also hope that this is a solid basis for reaching an agreement with the European Parliament at the first reading.

The Presidency achieved significant progress on the proposal on abolishing legalisation and other formalities. During the Presidency, we have had discussions on the majority of the proposal provisions.

During the Presidency, significant progress was achieved in negotiating proposals on Matrimonial Property regimes and Property Consequences of Registered Partnerships. Even though discussions at the expert level delivered everything that at this moment could be delivered, due to the political reservations of certain delegations the final approval of both proposals was not yet possible. Issues that are yet to be solved are political in nature, and will have to be dealt with in the future.

Major progress has been achieved in examining proposals on the Reform of the European Union Trade Mark System.

Congratulating the intensive work performed in relation to this dossier in the European Parliament, I would like to note that Lithuania, as the Presidency, devoted significant attention to this issue in close cooperation with member states and the Commission.

During the Presidency, particularly intensive discussions were held both in relation to the text of Directive and Regulation. In December we provided a progress report on this issue to the Council. We believe that we created a firm foundation for future solutions on this important legislative initiative in the area of trade marks.

During the Presidency, much attention was devoted to the new Strategy on European e-Justice 2014-2018 approved by the Council in December.

The corresponding action plan providing specific projects will be adopted in 2014. Since 2009, when the first action plan was adopted, major progress has been achieved in this area. The new strategy will be a solid foundation allowing the continuation of this important activity.

The Data Protection Reform Package is an important and complex initiative, on which the Presidency carried out intensive negotiations.

However, regardless of all the efforts and intense discussions at both the expert and political levels, a number of legal and political issues related to this package remain, and the work of the Council in search of a compromise will continue.

The Presidency would like to express satisfaction that after several trilogues the agreement with the European Parliament has been reached, so creating the possibility to adopt the Directive on Collective Management of Copyright and Related Rights at the first reading at the beginning of 2014. As we know, the Committee of Permanent Representatives and the JURI Committee approved this agreement in November. Therefore, we believe that the position of the Parliament can be adopted at the plenary meeting of the European Parliament in January 2014.

We would like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Gallo, for her especially constructive attitude when seeking agreement on this issue. We believe that only because of the effective cooperation of institutions was it possible to find agreement on this measure, which is very important for creating a Digital Single Market by 2015.

In October, the Committee of Permanent Representatives provided a mandate to the Presidency to launch negotiations with the European Parliament in seeking agreement on the amendment to the Directive on Statutory Audit and on the Regulation on Specific Requirements Regarding Statutory Audit of Public-Interest Entities. We would like to express our satisfaction with the launched and advanced negotiations with the European Parliament, specifically with the rapporteur Mr Karim, on this European Audit Reform. It is important to emphasise that the aim of the amendment to the Directive on Statutory Audit and of the new Regulation is to improve the quality of audits and the conditions of the internal market for financial statement audits, and in this way regain trust in the market.

During the Presidency, significant progress was achieved in discussions on the proposal on the disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by companies, aimed at contributing to improving the company management system of the European Union. This proposal was examined at the expert level, and last week the Committee of Permanent Representatives mandated the Presidency to start informal trilogue negotiations. We strongly believe that this proposal can improve the quality, efficiency and consistency of disclosure of the non-financial information of companies across the European Union.

One of the horizontal priorities of the Presidency was the strengthening and development of relations with countries of the Eastern Partnership.

In October, the Meeting of Ministers responsible for Justice and Home Affairs of the EU member states and of the Eastern Partners was organised for the implementation of this priority. During the meeting, representatives of participating states adopted a joint declaration that provided steps towards closer cooperation in the area of justice and home affairs between the European Union and these partners.

Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

These are the main results in the area of justice of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. However, aside from the aforementioned priorities, we were also working on other dossiers and made maximum effort to ensure a successful Presidency and tangible results. The past six months have been another phase and a memorable step in our common history, consolidating the relations, cooperation and unity of member states and institutions. On behalf of the Presidency team, I would like once again to thank you all for your cooperation and assistance over the past months. I hope that at the end of the Presidency our cooperation and striving towards common goals will not end, but that the meaningful work will be continued by the partner of the Presidency Trio, Greece.

Thank you, and I am ready to answer your questions.

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