[ 08. Dec 2009 ]

Stockholm programme adopted by the European Parliament

After six months of preparation, the European Union has almost reached agreement (somewhat behind schedule) on its 5-year plan for policy in the area of "freedom, security and justice", better known as the "Stockholm Programme".


Discussions on this proposal took place in parallel, with the European Parliament preparing its opinion on the dossier at the same time as Member States were working towards finalising the "real" text. While the European Parliament's views have had a limited direct impact on the Stockholm Programme itself, they will have an influence on the practical projects that are subsequently set up by this new plan.

The text adopted by the Parliament, in great haste and some chaos, is a mix of some very positive statements and some less helpful ones. On the plus side, an attempt was made to reshape the post-9/11 "balance" metaphor with regard to freedoms and justice: "(...) the EU is rooted in the principle of freedom; points out that, in support of that freedom, security must be pursued in accordance with the rule of law and subject to fundamental rights obligations; states that the balance between security and freedom must be seen from this perspective". There is also a stress on reviewing the impact of measures adopted under the programme and improving the evaluation systems already in place. On the negative side, opportunities were missed with regard to minimum levels of diligence to be required of the European Commission with regard to the issues to be addressed in impact assessments and with regard to the dangers inherent in the use of databases, particularly when these are interlinked.

The Council, meanwhile, hit some problems in last minute discussions on the Programme, although at the time of writing, these problems do not appear fatal for the initiative as a whole. Bearing in mind the wish of one Member State Minister expressed during the debate between ministers, that the Stockholm Programme will lead to the "eradication of terrorism" and the wish of another that the programme would deal effectively with petty crime, it appears that some Member States have somewhat unrealistic expectations of the initiative. On the plus side, the text deleted some of the more destructive and populist (blocking of websites) and downright dangerous ("revoking" of the IP addresses of foreign ISPs considered criminal by the police) measures in the European Commission's Communication of June of this year, which was meant to form the basis of the Programme. On the negative side, the Council appears to be slipping into the misconception that IT-based automated policing will somehow produce systems that will be both cheaper and more efficient while also not endangering citizens' rights. This trend is demonstrated by its proposal (albeit neatly framed with words about protection of personal data) on "interoperability of IT systems ensuring full conformity with data protection and data security principles when developing such systems." Within the context, and keeping to this worrying theme, Swedish Minister Beatrice Ask (at the beginning of discussions in the Council) expressed her hope for the creation of "more cost-effective data exchange".

As mentioned above, disagreements and delays have significantly slowed the final adoption of the text. While Ministers all agreed that citizens should be happy to trust any government (including foreign governments, following the SWIFT agreement on exchange of banking data) with their personal data, they did not trust each other to be responsible for mutually recognised asylum procedures. As a result, this aspect of the Programme has delayed its adoption.

The next stage in this process will be the preparation of concrete projects to be proposed within the context of the adopted text. This will be done by the European Commission, ostensibly with the support of the Spanish Presidency of the Council.

:: Commission Communication (10. June 2009)
:: Last available consolidated text
:: Second-last set of amendments to the Programme (27.11.2009)
:: EDRi-gram: Stockholm Programme moves quickly towards adoption (9.09.2009)

Article published first on 02. Dec. 2009 @ ::