Speech by Juozas Bernatonis, Minister of Justice at the European Parliament, Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee

09 July 2013, Last updated at, 18:17 EEST
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Bernatonis | author: 15min/Scanpix

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

My colleague, Minister of Interior Mr BARAKAUSKAS, has underlined our wish to work closely with you on our heavy agenda in the field of JHA. I want to echo that sentiment, and underline our wish to know where you stand on these issues. Time is short and our cooperation must be flawless.

I would like to express my gratitude to the European Parliament for its assistance in preparation for the Presidency process, particularly for the valuable meeting with the Chair of the Committee Mr. AGUILAR which took place in March. We are looking to have the most constructive, productive and mutually beneficial cooperation with you also during our Presidency.

During the presidency we will continue implementation of the Stockholm Programme.

Taking into account that the Stockholm Programme pays particular attention to the interests and needs of the European Union citizens and noting that the year 2013 is the European Year of Citizens, during our Presidency we will considerably address the protection of rights of individuals, ensuring of equal rights and opportunities and fighting discrimination. We will continue the work of accession by the European Union to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and strengthen the legal framework of personal data protection. Drawing attention to the European citizenship and celebrating the year of citizens, a closing event of the European Year of Citizens will be organised in the mid of December in Vilnius. The event will aim at summarizing the works carried out and goals achieved in relation to the rights of the European Union citizens as well as providing the future guidance in this area.

  • JUSTICE FOR GROWTH

In pursuance of the growing Europe, particular attention shall be drawn to legislative initiatives in the justice area contributing to promotion of the economic growth.

Such an important and complex initiative aiming to strike the balance between the protection of rights of individuals and promotion of the economic growth and to respond to the globalisation and the development of information technologies is Data Protection package. The Data Protection reform is one of the key priorities of the Presidency in the area of justice. The Presidency shall further work with the Regulation and the Directive as the package.

Continuing the work of the Irish colleagues, the Presidency shall seek for substantial progress during negotiations on the Regulation and shall aim to secure an agreement on certain aspects of the proposal among the Member States in the Council; furthermore, we will continue to work on the Directive which will establish specific rules for the law enforcement sector.

The issues concerning the Data Protection reform are particularly complex, they will have long-lasting consequences and affect a lot of different sectors; thus, we should be cautious and carefully examine the proposals. We believe that we should not sacrifice the quality of legislation to speed. The Presidency knows that a particularly ambitious timetable has been set for the Data Protection package. Thus, we promise that we will make every effort in negotiations on the proposals. We are ready for constructive dialogue with rapporteurs on this package Mr ALBRECHT and Mr DROUTSAS.

  • CREDIBLE EUROPE: PROTECTION OF UNION’S FINANCIAL INTERESTS

To strengthen the protection of the Union’s financial interests by criminal law we have both pending initiatives and those which are anticipated.

I will start from the Directive on the fight against fraud to the Union's financial interests which best reflects the objective pursued. The proposal is particularly relevant when seeking to ensure single and efficient protection of the Union’s budget by means of criminal law.
The Council reached a general approach on the draft Directive. When agreeing on a compromise, Member States noted their reserves on such issues as legal basis of the proposal, definition of fraud, criminal sanctions and statutes of limitation.

On these and other relevant issues the Council is now ready to commence negotiations with the European Parliament under the ordinary legislative procedure. We are looking forward to the future report of the responsible committees in order to begin negotiations and we are already now prepared for informal contacts with the responsible rapporteur Mr AGUILAR.

The future proposal from the Commission on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office goes hand in hand with the afore-mentioned directive. A special legal basis was created for this by the Treaty of Lisbon, meanwhile various debates on this issue have continued already for a decade.

Our aim is to begin negotiations of the new proposal and to ensure a constructive course of debates. This will be a complex issue and will require considerable attention and time.

The same package will include a proposal for the reform of Eurojust’s structure. We will proceed with negotiations on both of the proposals in parallel, starting discussions in September.

The Directive on the Protection of the Euro and Other Currencies against Counterfeiting by Criminal Law will contribute to the creation of credible Europe. The Presidency will give priority to this directive.

The instrument is of major importance in order to ensure the stability and proper protection of the Euro and other currencies against counterfeiting. During the Presidency we are planning to maintain active and constructive debate on this document in the Council in order to reach a general approach. We are looking forward to close cooperation with the European Parliament on this dossier and its rapporteur Mrs McINTYRE.

The Presidency will deal with the Directive on the Confiscation and Recovery of Criminal Assets with the view of reaching agreement with the European Parliament on this dossier by the end of the year.

I believe that adoption of minimal rules concerning freezing and confiscation of criminal assets at the European Union level would be an important step ensuring unprofitability of the criminal activity. We are ready to continue particularly intense work with the European Parliament and its rapporteur Mrs MACOVEI and hope that our joint effort will help to find a consensus on the text of the directive which would be acceptable to all parties concerned.

We note, with great satisfaction, the progress achieved during the Irish Presidency on the European Investigation Order. Already three years ago Member States put forward this initiative. It seeks to implement the aim established in the Stockholm Programme, namely, the setting up a unified comprehensive system for obtaining evidence in criminal cases. I believe that the European Investigation Order would serve as a practical instrument enhancing cooperation in criminal cases. During the Presidency we are ready to continue active and constructive dialogue with European Parliament and its rapporteur Mr MELO in order to reach an agreement acceptable to all parties.

  • OPEN EUROPE: EASTERN PARTNERSHIP

It is particularly important to highlight that despite the current challenges Europe remains open. Thus, one of the horizontal priorities of the Presidency is strengthening and development of relationship with the Eastern Partnership countries. We will hold the first formal Eastern Partnership Justice and Home Affairs ministerial meeting, the results of which could serve as proper contribution to the third Eastern Partnership Summit which will take place in Lithuania in November.

  • US SURVEILLANCE PROGRAMME

From the very beginning of our Presidency it has become clear that we will also have to deal with issues, which are not reflected in our Presidency’s programme, but are very relevant today. I refer to the disclosure of information about the surveillance programmes operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA) which has understandably raised a number of complex questions and serious concerns about its effects on EU citizens. The dialogue with our US counterparts has been launched yesterday with a meeting in Washington. Coreper will hold the second discussion on this important issue tomorrow.

Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
The issues I have touched on are the main priorities of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the area of justice. Legislative cycle is finishing, thus we should share common interest in finalising negotiations on the most significant proposals. I underline our wish to work with you on this important agenda in a spirit of constructive cooperation. We expect that cooperation with the European Parliament will allow us to reach our Presidency goals.

Finally I would like to note that we would be pleased to welcome the representatives of the Committee at the informal meeting of Ministers of justice and home affairs.

Thank you very much for your attention. I am now ready to answer to your questions and to take any of your comments or point of views.

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