When José Manuel Barroso presented the new European Commission, he noted that Swedish Member Cecilia Malmström will have the responsibility to implement the Stockholm Programme, negotiated during the Swedish EU Presidency. Barroso could have added Viviane Reding´s name, as she will take care of important dossiers such as fundamental rights. But it is true that Sweden really moved the Justice and Home Affairs agenda forward this autumn.
Tomorrow, Minister for Justice Beatrice Ask will try to convince her colleagues to agree on the remaining open issues in the plan for the next five years. She has already given citizens´ rights a more important place than in the preceding Hague Programme. The draft Stockholm Programme includes a stronger role for the Fundamental Rights Agency, a quick accession to the convention on human rights and an action plan for human rights in relations to countries outside the EU.
There has also been progress on procedural rights for persons who are suspected of crime. After a long deadlock, Beatrice Ask has secured a decision on the right to interpretation and a roadmap for further work. Ministers will also agree an `action oriented paper´ against trafficking, although the issue of an anti-trafficking coordinator is still open.
Critics will not be satisfied, however. While police authorities will have easier access to information, data protection is weaker than Sweden initially proposed, for example in agreements with third states. The much discussed SIS II and VIS systems will be implemented as planned.
Other controversial issues include :
– Common minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions, for example on terrorism and `computer crime´.
– Mutual recognition in areas of civil law such as succession and wills and the `property consequences of the separation of couples´.
– The possibility for police in one member state to execute `certain investigative measures´ in another member state.
Still – if there is agreement tomorrow, Beatrice Ask will have achieved one of the most significant results of the Swedish Presidency, putting her own touch on the Programme regarding citizens´ rights and the fight against trafficking.
When it comes to asylum and immigration policy, the picture is different. Proposals by Swedish migration minister Tobias Billström have been changed drastically. Language on the rights of third-country citizens and on the fight against discrimination has been weakened, while stronger wording has been used on the obligations of immigrants and against illegal immigration.
This is not surprising, given the climate in the EU on migration. But it will give Swedish liberal Cecilia Malmström a hard time as the responsible Commissioner.