Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-04-Speech-2-210"

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". Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by expressing my gratitude for this final opportunity to address Parliament on the development of the area of freedom, security and justice in an enlarged Europe. The principle of solidarity, which already applies today, will be more clearly laid down in the Constitutional text concerning border controls, asylum and immigration. Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to recall, lastly, that 1 May is not only the date of the accession of the ten new Member States but also the deadline set in the Treaty of Amsterdam for completing the first stage of the phasing-in of the area of freedom, security and justice. The Commission will soon submit a communication in which it assesses the progress made in the past five years and which will include the first guidelines for future priorities. These priorities will be based on the shared values of freedom, security and justice in an enlarged Europe and must be based on the advances that we all hope will be provided for in the future Constitutional Treaty, which must be approved, and thus come fully into force, without delay. ( ) Over the past five years the Commission and Parliament have together followed a path in which Parliament’s constructive contribution and cooperation, often in very difficult circumstances and with very tight deadlines, will certainly be one of the defining characteristics of this legislature. Recent Eurobarometer surveys, carried out for the Commission, have shown a general desire on the part of the citizens for more Europe. Those expectations are greater still against the backdrop of an enlarged Europe of 455 million inhabitants. The EU’s new citizens, in common with those of the rest of the EU, want to live freely in a safe and secure world. Security is not only a matter of combating crime, it is also a means of ensuring freedom. These two concepts are inextricably linked and the Commission has always sought to strike a balance between freedom and security. The third element of this area is, of course, justice, which helps to protect freedom and to guarantee security in an area in which mobility and relationships between people and companies across national borders is increasingly common. Today, many EU citizens still fear enlargement’s potential impact on security. It is important that we address those fears rationally. The process of enlargement has made it possible to strengthen the new Member States’ ability to contribute towards developing stability and security throughout the European Union, not only because they have access to the Community but also because of the improvements in the police and the judiciary that the Commission has supported during these last five years. Negotiations with the accession countries were only concluded when it was decided by mutual agreement that a satisfactory level of compliance with the existing legislative framework and sufficient ability to implement and enforce that framework had been achieved by the new Member States. It transpires that all of these countries need to make further progress. The Commission will carry out its usual role of guardian of the Treaties and will continue to offer significant financial assistance as a follow-up to the PHARE projects, which will continue until 2006, and, subsequently, by means of a Schengen mechanism and transitional arrangements. No less importantly, it must be made clear that all Member States are welcome to enjoy the possibilities of European Union funding under general Justice and Home Affairs programmes, on a completely equal footing. A further aspect that has been brought to the fore by the media concerns the fear of a massive movement of new citizens across Europe. As I have had the opportunity to state here, such fears are unjustified. The Commission has carried out a study showing that over the next five years, around 1% of the total working population of the new Member States will exercise the right to move freely, which amounts to 220 000 people per year, in an EU of over 450 million inhabitants. I should like to mention, based on my own personal experience, that, on the eve of Spain and Portugal joining the EU, similar fears were raised, which turned out to be completely unfounded. The Accession Treaty provides for the possibility of the current Fifteen Member States implementing transitional measures. These measures are adequate and I trust that they will indeed be only transitional. Enlargement represents a major challenge for certain policies, such as tightening external border controls. We hope that the External Borders Agency will be operational as of 1 January 2005 to support the efforts made by the ten new Member States to improve border controls. As Parliament is aware, internal border controls in the new Member States will only be removed following a process of a specific evaluation and a subsequent decision by the Council. This two-stage process can only be deemed complete once the Schengen Information System, known as ‘second generation’ SIS, has been established. The timetabled development of SIS-II therefore constitutes a priority for the Commission and will require the active involvement of all Member States. In the field of judicial cooperation, mutual trust becomes even more crucial in an enlarged Europe, to ensure that the principle of the mutual recognition of judicial decisions applies across the board. Accordingly, we must improve certain measures contained in procedural law, such as those provided for in the framework decision on procedural safeguards in criminal proceedings, which the Commission has just submitted to the Council. We must also enhance mutual trust between all EU Member States by improving knowledge of each other’s legislative and judicial systems. At Parliament’s request, the Commission is in the process of creating an exchange programme for judges from all Member States, in both civil and criminal matters. Lastly, as regards the policies of Justice and Home Affairs, we face a number of challenges. One of those is visa policy and, more specifically, the principle of reciprocity in this area, an issue to which the Commission has paid close attention. In an enlarged EU, so that the area of Justice and Home Affairs can operate, it is essential that the Constitutional Treaty enters into force, that it sets about dismantling the pillar structure and that the codecision process becomes more commonly used, which will guarantee full democratic responsibility for decisions taken in this area. Judicial control must be improved, extending the Court of Justice’s competence and granting the Commission powers commonly used in infringement cases. The draft Constitutional Treaty addresses these challenges, and proposes that qualified majority voting be introduced in the area of common immigration policy, asylum and external borders, and that the provisions be strengthened as regards integrating third country nationals residing legally in the European Union."@en1

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