Fabian Demicoli

Lesson 8 B: A Europe of freedom, security and justice


European
citizens are entitled to live in freedom, without fear of persecution or
violence, anywhere in the European Union. Yet international crime and terrorism
are among the main concerns of Europeans today. Clearly,
freedom of movement must mean giving everyone, everywhere in the EU, the same
protection and the same access to justice.

So, through successive amendments to
the Treaties, the European Union is gradually being made into a single ‘area of
freedom, security and justice'.

 

Fighting international crime

A
coordinated effort is needed to combat criminal gangs who run
people-trafficking networks and who exploit vulnerable human beings,
particularly women and children.

Organised
crime is becoming ever more sophisticated and regularly uses European or
international networks for its activities. Terrorism has clearly shown that it
can strike, with great brutality, anywhere in the world.

This
is why the Schengen information system (SIS) was set up. This is a complex
database which enables police forces and judicial authorities to exchange
information on people for whom an arrest warrant or extradition request has
been issued, and on stolen property such as vehicles or works of art.

One
of the best ways of catching criminals is to track their ill-gotten gains. For this
reason, and to cut off the funding of criminal and terrorist organisations, the
EU has brought in legislation to prevent money-laundering.

The
greatest advance made in recent years in the field of cooperation between law
enforcement authorities was the creation of Europol. It tackles a wide range of
international crime: drug trafficking, trade in stolen vehicles, people
trafficking and illegal immigration networks, the sexual exploitation of women
and children, child pornography, forgery, the trafficking of radioactive and
nuclear material, terrorism, money-laundering and counterfeiting the euro.

 

Towards a ‘European judicial
area'

International
crime and terrorism have no respect for national boundaries. This is why the EU
needs a common framework to guarantee its citizens a high level of protection
and to improve international cooperation in this area. The EU also needs a
common criminal justice policy, to ensure that cooperation between the courts
in different countries is not hampered by their differing definitions of
certain criminal acts.

The
main example of practical cooperation in this field is Eurojust, a central
coordinating structure that enables the national investigating and prosecuting
authorities to work together on criminal investigations involving several EU
countries. Another tool for practical cross-border cooperation is the European
arrest warrant, operational since January 2004. It is intended to replace
lengthy extradition procedures.

In
the area of civil law, the EU has adopted legislation to help apply court
rulings in cross-border cases involving divorce, separation, child custody and
maintenance claims. The aim is to ensure that judgments in one country are
applicable in another. The EU has established common procedures to simplify and
speed up the settlement of cross-border cases in small and uncontested civil
claims like debt recovery and bankruptcy.

 

 

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