European Scrutiny Committee Contents

76 Action plan to implement the Stockholm Programme



COM(10) 171

Commission Communication : Delivering an area of freedom, security and justice for Europe's citizens — Action Plan implementing the Stockholm Programme

Legal base
Document originated20 April 2010
Deposited in Parliament25 May 2010
DepartmentHome Office
Basis of considerationEM of 7 June 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
Discussed in Council3 June 2010
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


76.1 In 1999, the European Council adopted a five-year programme of action ("the Tampere Programme") on justice and home affairs (JHA). It included proposals for action on asylum, immigration, visas and police and judicial cooperation.

76.2 In 2004, the European Council adopted a further five-year programme of action on justice and home affairs ("the Hague Programme").[327] In May 2005, the Commission proposed an Action Plan which set out over 250 measures (such as Green Papers, legislation and agreements with third countries) to give effect to the Programme.[328] It was adopted by the Council in June 2005.

The Stockholm Programme

76.3 In June 2009, the Commission published a Communication setting out its views on what the next five-year programme should contain.[329] The previous Committee recommended it for debate in European Committee B. The debate was held on 26 October 2009.

76.4 In December 2009, the European Council adopted the Stockholm Programme for EU action on justice and home affairs for the five years from the beginning of 2010 to the end of 2014.[330] The Programme is based on the Commission's Communication but differs from it in some important ways. For example, the Programme puts more emphasis on practical cooperation and calls for the implementation and evaluation of existing EU legislation before new measures are proposed.

76.5 The Stockholm Programme makes proposals under the following headings:

  • political priorities (such as mutual trust between Member States; prompt and thorough implementation of existing EU legislation; evaluation of the effectiveness of existing policies; better training in EU law for the judiciary and law enforcement authorities; and better communications with the public) ;
  • promoting citizen's rights: a Europe of rights (for example, the Programme invites the Commission to make a proposal for the EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights and invites all the EU institutions and Member States to ensure that legal initiatives are and remain consistent with fundamental rights; the Programme also calls for action to improve the protection and support of children, the Roma, victims of crime and other vulnerable groups and to strengthen the protection of personal data);
  • making people's lives easier: a Europe of law and justice (the Programme says that the EU should aim to enable citizens to assert their rights anywhere in the EU and to facilitate their access to justice; they should, for example, strengthen mutual trust in Member States' judicial systems through mutual recognition of a wider range of judicial decisions; establish minimum rules for the definition of certain criminal offences and the penalties for them; and introduce common minimum rules of civil procedure for the cross-border execution of judgements on matters such as the taking of evidence and the service of documents);
  • a Europe that protects (the Programme calls on the Council and the Commission to define a comprehensive EU Internal Security Strategy to direct and strengthen cooperation between Member States to counter terrorism and other serious cross-border crime; the Programme also calls, for example, for the adoption of EU legislation on cyber-crime, trafficking in drugs and human beings and the sexual exploitation of children);
  • access to Europe in a globalised world (under this heading, the Programme calls for further action — such as clarifying the mandate of FRONTEX[331] — to facilitate legal access by third-country nationals to the territory of the Member States, coupled with effective measures to protect the external borders from illegal immigration);
  • a Europe of responsibility, solidarity and partnership in migration and asylum matters (the Programme sets out aims for the next stage in the development of a Common European Asylum System and a common policy on migration, recognising both the benefits to the EU of legal immigration and the need for effective management of migration in cooperation with countries of origin and transit); and
  • Europe in a globalised world — the external dimension of freedom, security and justice (the Stockholm Programme sets out the principles and priorities which, in the opinion of the European Council, should guide the EU's and Member States' relations with third countries and international organisations on JHA matters).

The European Council invited the Commission to present an Action Plan listing measures to implement the Programme.

The Action Pan

76.6 The Communication contains the Commission's overview of the action that should be taken to implement the Stockholm Programme and the JHA provisions of the Lisbon Treaty. Attached to the Communication is an Action Plan. The Commission invites the European Parliament and the Council to endorse it.

76.7 The Plan covers 50 pages and lists over 350 proposals for action. Under each of the headings used in the Stockholm Programme (see paragraph 76.5 above), the Commission sets out the proposed action, the body responsible for taking it and the timetable. For example, on page 44 of the Action Plan, under the heading Access to Europe in a globalised world, the Commission lists the following proposals:
Proposal to amend the Frontex Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 Commission
2010 (adopted)
Second progress report on the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur) Commission
Frontex to establish regional and/or specialised offices FRONTEX
Development of a customs approach to protecting citizens' safety from the risks posed by international trade in dangerous goods Commission
Legislative proposal amending the Schengen Borders Code (Regulation (EC) No 562/2006) Commission
Legislative proposal to set up Entry Exit System (EES) Commission
Legislative proposal to set up a Registered Traveller Programme (RTP) Commission

76.8 The Commission lists proposals for Green Papers, evaluations, communications, meetings, guidelines, handbooks and negotiations with third countries as well as proposals for legislation.

The Government's view

76.9 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 7 June, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office (James Brokenshire) says that the Government recognises the importance of the Stockholm Programme but wishes to make clear that this does not imply that it accepts the Programme in its entirety. It will consider each initiative and decide whether to opt into it.

76.10 The Minister tells us that:

"The Government believes that there are a number of respects in which the Action Plan does not reflect the Stockholm Programme and several that do not reflect the views of the Government."[332]

He says for example, that:

  • page 16 of the Action Plan, which lists action intended to give full effect to the right to free movement within the EU, makes no reference to the presentation of a proposal to tackle the abuse of the right despite the fact that the Stockholm Programme contains a clear commitment to such measures, including an invitation to the Commission to examine "how to assist Member States' authorities to tackle abuse of this fundamental right effectively";[333]
  • page 19 of the Action Plan says that the Commission will issue a Communication on the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor's Office, whereas the Stockholm Programme says that the setting up of such an office is only one of a number of possibilities which might be considered to strengthen Eurojust; and
  • page 25 of the Action Plan says that in 2011 the Commission will make a legislative proposal for a common frame of reference for European contract law, whereas the Stockholm Programme says that "The European Council reaffirms that the common frame of reference for European contract law should be a non-binding set of fundamental principles, definitions and model rules to be used by the lawmakers at Union level to ensure greater coherence and quality in the lawmaking process. The Commission is invited to submit a proposal on a common frame of reference."[334] The Minister tells us that, in view of the Stockholm Programme's recognition that the common frame of reference should be non-binding, the Government is not convinced that the Action Plan's reference to a "legislative proposal" reflects what was agreed by the European Council.

76.11 The Minister adds that he made it clear at the JHA Council's meeting on 3 June that the Government does not endorse the Commission's Action Plan. He encloses with his Explanatory Memorandum the Conclusions agreed by the Council at that meeting. They say that the Council:

"Emphasises strongly that the Stockholm Programme is the only guiding frame of reference for the political and operational agenda of the European Union in the Area of Justice, Security and Freedom.

"Notes … that some of the actions proposed by the Commission are not in line with the Stockholm Programme and that others, being included in the Stockholm Programme, are not reflected in the Communication of the Commission.

"Urges the Commission in this regard to take only those initiatives that are in full conformity with the Stockholm Programme in order to ensure its complete and timely implementation.

"Calls on all parties concerned to ensure due implementation of all necessary measures and actions stemming from the Stockholm Programme, including those not present in the above Commission proposal, in order to attain the 2010-14 strategic objectives in the Area of Justice, Freedom and Security."[335]


76.12 We are grateful to the Minister for his comprehensive and robust Explanatory Memorandum. We also thank him for drawing our attention to the Conclusions adopted by the JHA Council on 3-4 June. It is clear from them that the Council has serious reservations about parts of the Commission's Action Plan. It is most unusual for the Council of Ministers to give the Commission such a public rebuke.

76.13 No doubt the Commission will reflect on the terms of the Action Plan in the light of the Council's Conclusions. In any event, each of the proposals to implement the Stockholm Programme will come to us for scrutiny and it would be premature for us to comment on any of them at this stage. For these reasons, we have decided to clear the Action Plan from scrutiny.

327   Hague European Council, 4-5 November 2004, Presidency Conclusions, paragraphs 14 to 20 and Annex I. Back

328   (26566) 8922/05: see HC 34-iv (2005-06), chapter 22 (20 July 2005). Back

329   (30701) 11060/09: see HC 19-xxiii (2008-09), chapter 1 (8 July 2009). Back

330   17024/09. Back

331   FRONTEX is the EU Agency for the management of operational cooperation between the Member States at their external borders. Back

332   Minister's Explanatory Memorandum, page 3, third paragraph, final sentence. Back

333   Stockholm Programme, page 14, third paragraph, concluding two lines. Back

334   Stockholm Programme, page 33, first paragraph. Back

335   JHA Council Conclusions 3-4 June 2010, page 2. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010
Prepared 22 September 2010