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

09 July 2013, Last updated at, 16:23 EEST
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Juozas Bernatonis, Minister of Justice | author: European Parliament

Thank you, Mr Chairman,
Honourable Members,
Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present to you the priorities of the Lithuanian Presidency in the area of justice.
The European Parliament represents the interests of the European Union’s 500 million citizens. Moreover, the Presidency fully understands and respects the central role you play in the European Union’s decision-making process. 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 LEHNE which took place in March. We are looking to have the most constructive, productive and mutually beneficial cooperation with you also during our Presidency.

Lithuania is presiding over the Council of the European Union for the very first time. The Presidency is a great challenge for our State. But it is at the same time an excellent opportunity for us to introduce Lithuania to Europe.
We shall be basing our Presidency around the objectives of a credible, growing and open Europe.

During the next six months, our attention will be focused above all else on constructive negotiations with the other institutions, as well as in the Council with the Member States, so as to achieve the best possible results for Europe’s citizens. As an honest and impartial broker, Lithuania will seek to ensure a smooth and efficient legislative process involving all respective partners.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express appreciation for my colleagues in the Irish Presidency, for their excellent work and considerable achievements.

In the course of the Presidency in the field of justice, the major emphasis will be put on measures aiming at restoring trust in the economy of the European Union, promoting economic growth and employment, enhancing the common market, ensuring financial stability and strengthening economic and monetary union.

We will strive for improvement of the relationship between the European Union and third countries. Major attention will be paid to the Eastern Partnership where we will seek closer cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries.
And we will work for substantial progress in the initiatives by the Commission which ensure protection of the fundamental rights, contribute to economic growth and protect the Union’s financial interests.

One of our first and major tasks will be completion of the work on the new financial regulation in the area of justice. We hope for close and structured cooperation to this end with the European Parliament and in particular – with the rapporteur Mr BERLINGUER.

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 highlighting that the year 2013 is the European Year of Citizens, during our Presidency we will address the protection of individual rights, ensuring equal rights and opportunities, and fighting discrimination. We will continue the work on accession by the European Union to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Drawing attention to European citizenship, and celebrating this year of citizens, an event to close the European Year of Citizens will be organised in mid-December in Vilnius. The event will aim at summarizing the work carried out and goals achieved in relation to the rights of the European Union citizens as well as providing future guidance in this area.

We note that the Stockholm Programme expires in 2014. Therefore, during the informal meeting of Ministers of justice and home affairs which will take place on 18-19 of this month in Vilnius, the Presidency will propose commencing political discussions about the perspectives in the area of justice and home affairs. We expect that this will be an advantageous contribution to establishing the future strategic guidelines for the development of the area of freedom, security and justice.

In pursuance of our Presidency objective - a growing Europe - particular attention will be drawn to legislative measures in the justice area contributing to promotion of the economic growth.

One of the proposals in this area to be given proper attention is the Common European Sales Law. This proposal aims at improving the functioning of the internal market of the European Union by creating more favourable conditions for entering into cross-border transactions. The proposal for a Common European Sales Law is innovative and complex; it therefore requires comprehensive consideration. Taking this into consideration, the Presidency will strive to ensure intense debate on this instrument and make every effort to achieve as much progress as possible in analysing the proposal. We also expect political debate among Ministers in the Council.

During the Presidency the reports of responsible Committees are expected to be adopted concerning the proposal in question and the Presidency wishes to believe that these reports would accord the fresh shifts into the discussions.

Another initiative significantly contributing to promotion of economic growth is the proposal for a European Account Preservation Order. We believe that the new proposed alternative European procedure for the preservation of bank accounts would help creditors to efficiently recover debts while protecting debtors’ rights.

JURI Committee voted on this issue in May. It has to be noted that the issues raised for debate both in the Committee and in the Council were of a similar nature, particularly relating to a striving for due balance in the interests of the creditor and the debtor. We are certain that there are sound reasons for expecting an agreement on this initiative.

So we will further continue intense discussions on the proposal for the European Account Preservation Order and seek a general approach in the Council. In the meanwhile, we are keen for comprehensive cooperation on this issue with the European Parliament and responsible rapporteur Mr BALDASSARRE.

We will further continue intense debate on the Regulation on Insolvency Proceedings and will strive for substantial progress on this proposal.

We are confident that the proposed amendments to the regulation would increase the efficiency of cross-border insolvency proceedings and allow debtors in good faith to deal with their temporary financial difficulties in a more efficient manner. It is important to further analyse in detail the extension of the scope of application of the regulation, the jurisdiction rules preventing bankruptcy tourism, cooperation of the parties to insolvency proceedings including the companies groups, and establishment and interconnectivity of insolvency registers.

The Presidency will also continue negotiations on the proposal for abolition of legalisation and other formalities, the report on which is being prepared by Mr RAPKAY. This proposal aims at reducing the burden on citizens and businesses and the lifting of current formal requirements - first of all, the requirement for legalisation or attestation by apostille of the official documents issued in another Member State.

The proposal for the reform of the European Union trade mark system was put forward with a view to updating and modernizing the Community and national trade mark systems.

During the debate on review of the Trade Mark Directive and Regulation, the report on which is being prepared by Ms WIKSTROM, the Presidency will seek as much progress as possible; nevertheless, the results will largely depend on the positions of Member States which are only now coming to light.

Very important and at the same time complex initiative aiming to balance protection of rights of individuals and promotion of the economic growth is the Data Protection package.

Continuing the work of Irish colleagues, the Presidency shall seek for substantial progress in the negotiations on the proposal.

We consider the proposal for a Gender Balance Directive, the report on which is being prepared by Ms REGNER, as an important issue as well. So we have included this Directive as an important issue in our Presidency agenda.

Although after the debate started in the Council, different opinions of Member States became evident, it is important to note that there is a wide consensus in Europe on the necessity to improve the balance between men and women in decision-making, including in the economic sector. This is a perfect starting point for the search of a compromise. The Presidency has an important and responsible mission to reach a general approach in the Council and we believe that there are real possibilities to achieve this.

Robust audit is also key to re-establishing trust and market confidence. The Presidency considers that the audit reform will enhance the competitiveness of the European Union audit market, re-establish trust and market confidence, and improve the transparency and accountability of the European Union auditors and audit firms.

Therefore, during the Presidency an important priority to dealing with the audit legislative proposal will be assigned, with a goal of completing negotiations with the European Parliament once a general approach is achieved in the Council. We are looking forward to fruitful cooperation with the rapporteur for this dossier Mr KARIM.

It is particularly important to highlight the fact that, despite the current challenges, Europe remains open. So one of the horizontal priorities of the Presidency is the strengthening and development of relations with the Eastern Partnership countries. We will strive to build a clear strategy for enhancement of relationship with our Eastern Partners [Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine] and to create the conditions necessary for boosting political and economic European integration of the partner countries.

The first formal Eastern Partnership Justice and Home Affairs ministerial meeting will be arranged in Luxembourg in October, in the margins of the Justice and Home Affairs Council. We hope that the results of this meeting will serve as a fitting contribution to the third Eastern Partnership Summit which will take place in Lithuania in November.

The horizontal issue of delegated and implementing acts will be further dealt with. This issue is significant in debates on the legislation implementing the European Union Financial Perspective.

We hope that the so called Guiding Principles will help to reach a consensus to this end. The document which was drawn up in the spring of this year and currently is being discussed by the European Union institutions at the technical level offers guidelines for when delegated legislation should be invoked and when implementing legislation is appropriate.

Although this document will not be legally binding and though it suggests a case-by-case approach, we hope that agreement on the main principles set out in the document will encourage institutions to reconcile their views in debates on individual draft legal acts related to the European Union Financial Perspective and on other legislation.

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.

We expect that cooperation with Member States and help of the European Parliament and other European Union institutions will allow us to reach our Presidency goals. Furthermore, we hope that the Presidency will be a successful experience for Lithuania, an unforgettable step in our history and the memory of our people.

Finally I would like to note that we are eagerly waiting for the Members of the JURI Committee coming to visit Vilnius next week; we would also be pleased to welcome the representatives of the Committee at the informal meeting of Ministers of justice and home affairs.

Thank you very much. I am now ready to answer to your questions.

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