Justice (Friday 4 March)
Ministers took stock of the state of play of the negotiations in progress between the Council and the European Parliament concerning the proposals on electronic evidence. The presidency informed ministers of the relaunching of negotiations with the Parliament at political level, with a formal trilogue meeting having taken place on 1 March.
The presidency stated that the meeting had taken place in a constructive atmosphere. The co‑legislators agreed to continue their efforts to draft a compromise text.
The question of the procedure for the notification of the request by the requesting authority to the authority of the member state of the place of establishment of the private supplier remains the focal point of the negotiations.
Hate speech and hate crime
The Council examined the proposal for a Council decision to add hate speech and hate crime to the list of ‘EU crimes’ included in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. A very broad majority was in favour of this initiative. Combating hate speech and hate crime is a major priority for the European Union, and work on this proposal will continue with a view to reaching the required unanimous agreement as soon as possible.
Hate speech and hate crime run counter to the fundamental values which we defend, and they have no place in our societies. Today we reiterated the importance which we attach to this subject, and we will continue to work to enable the Commission to propose, in future, legislation ensuring that those perpetrating such crimes face the same consequences throughout Europe.
Éric Dupond Moretti, French Minister for Justice
Hate speech and hate crime are widespread across the EU and have been increasing in recent years. They undermine the fundamental rights and values upon which the EU is founded and cause harm not only to individual victims but also to society at large. They impede pluralism and tolerance by leading to polarisation and negative effects on public debate and democratic life. It is in that context that the European Commission presented a communication proposing to extend the list of EU crimes to include hate speech and hate crime.
- Commission proposes to extend the list of ‘EU crimes’ to hate speech and hate crime (European Commission)
The Ministers of Justice exchanged views with Michael O’Flaherty, the director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, on combating racism and antisemitism. They then adopted conclusions on that topic.
The conclusions deplore the alarming rise of racist and antisemitic incidents in EU member states. They cover a number of areas requiring action, including the development of action plans and strategies, education and training, combating illegal online hate speech and reporting and investigation.
- Council adopts conclusions on combating racism and antisemitism (press release, 4 March 2022)
- Protection and promotion of human rights (background information)
- EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (website)
Access to a lawyer
Ministers discussed the issue of access to a lawyer and the role of such access in the protection of the rule of law.
In order to ensure joint progress on the means necessary to protect the legal profession, ministers considered whether establishing a European statute for lawyers guaranteeing independent practice could help ensure respect for the rule of law. They also sought to determine what challenges are faced by lawyers in the EU in their efforts to defend the rule of law and how the EU could help address them.
On the basis of that discussion, the presidency will further reflect on the possible future steps which could be envisaged.
Any other business
The presidency informed ministers about the latest developments in work on the ongoing legislative proposals.
The Commission also presented its proposals of 23 February on corporate due vigilance in the area of sustainability and on data. In response to the questions raised by Poland following the allegations of trading in influence that have appeared in the press and concerning in particular the European Court of Auditors, the Commission stated that it would notify the Council of any information it received from OLAF or from the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, while recalling the principle of the confidentiality of investigations.
Poland referred to the measures taken by the police during recent demonstrations against COVID‑19-related measures. It also communicated to the Council information on the challenges raised by the prosecution of a Polish judge by the Belarusian authorities.
Situation in Ukraine
Over lunch, the presidency proposed a discussion on the response to the consequences of the war in Ukraine.
We most fervently condemn this military invasion of Ukraine. We wish to express our unconditional support for the Ukrainian government. Our discussions today bear witness to our unity and solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
Éric Dupond Moretti, French Minister for Justice
It was agreed that Russia’s actions constitute such a violation of international law and international agreements that they justify the choice broadly made by several member states, without prejudice to an examination on a case-by-case basis, not to process the requests for cooperation in criminal matters submitted by Russia and Belarus.
Ministers agreed that it was essential to combat impunity. Hence the decision taken by all member states, together with some ten other partner states, to collectively refer the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court pursuant to Article 14(1) of the Rome Statute with a view to expediting the initiation of an investigation by the ICC Prosecutor was welcomed. Similarly, the measures adopted by certain member states with regard to the taking of evidence, in particular in the context of receiving refugees from Ukraine, were also welcomed. Ministers collectively recalled their support for the action of the International Criminal Court. Eurojust was encouraged to fully exercise its coordinating role and to make itself available as required to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in connection with the exercise of his duties.
The financial sanctions imposed on Russian oligarchs are giving rise to seizures in the EU member states. Steps should be taken to ensure that those sanctions are effective, if necessary in criminal terms, in particular by intensifying efforts to combat money laundering.
Finally, it was agreed that vigilance should be strengthened with regard to requests to extradite nationals or residents of EU member states issued by the authorities of third countries for political purposes, and to strengthen exchanges of information between the member states’ national authorities in relation to such requests.
Home affairs (Thursday 3 March)
European response to the situation in Ukraine
EU ministers have unanimously agreed on the establishment of a temporary protection mechanism in response to the influx of displaced persons from Ukraine.
Ministers agreed to activate Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof.
This will enable the EU member states to offer people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine an appropriate response to their situation. Eligible persons will be granted a protected status similar to that of refugees, in any EU country, for a renewable period of one year.
This decision reflects the European Union’s full commitment to show solidarity with Ukraine and to fulfil its duty to the victims of this unjustifiable war.
The European Union will continue to do its utmost to help Ukraine and the victims of the war. Ministers had the opportunity to assure their Ukrainian counterparts of this during a video conference. Faced with this crisis at the heart of our continent, Europeans are responding with unity and solidarity.
Ministers held the first meeting of the ‘Schengen Council’, and examined the barometer proposed by the Commission to reflect the situation in the Schengen area.
The Council today adopted its general approach on a Council regulation reforming the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism. The regulation is intended to help make the Schengen area more adaptable to current and future challenges.
The evaluation and monitoring mechanism provides for objective and impartial evaluations to quickly identify deficiencies in the application of Schengen rules and to ensure that they are swiftly addressed. It also provides the basis for a dialogue on the functioning of the Schengen area as a whole.
- Schengen area: Council adopts general approach on an enhanced evaluation mechanism (press release, 3 March)
Asylum and migration
Ministers took stock of the state of work on migration and asylum.
Following the informal ministerial meeting held in Lille on 3 February, during which ministers gave broad support to the step-by-step method, the presidency presented its proposals for the substance of the first step, which should be based on a balanced approach to requirements in the areas of external border protection, solidarity and responsibility.
The Council today adopted conclusions calling for the adaptation of civil protection to extreme weather events resulting from climate change. Such events are becoming increasingly more frequent, intense and persistent. The EU and its member states need to take action. These conclusions are a step in this direction and seek to enhance the EU’s resilience.
- Civil protection action in view of climate change: Council adopts conclusions (press release, 3 March 2022)
Interpol red notices
The Council adopted a declaration on Interpol’s red notices. The declaration welcomes the progress made by Interpol in setting up internal mechanisms to assess, prior to the publication and diffusion of red notices, any violation of Interpol’s constitution. EU member states will continue to support Interpol in these efforts, and the Council declaration aims to highlight the importance member states accord to exercising vigilance against any such abuse, in particular for political purposes.
Cooperation on the fight against organised crime
Over lunch, EU ministers and the Latin American Internal Committee on Security (CLASI) discussed cooperation in the fight against transnational organised crime, with a particular focus on drug trafficking.
- Joint Declaration of the Ministers of the Interior of the Member States of the European Union and the Ministers in charge of security matters of the Member States of the Latin American Committee on Internal Security
Any other business
The presidency informed ministers about the latest developments regarding work on current legislative proposals.
- Meeting n°3850
- 3 March 2022
- List of A items, legislative deliberations
- List of A items, non-legislative activities
- Provisional agenda
- Background brief
- Council adopts conclusions on combating racism and antisemitism -4 March 2022, 17:50
- Ukraine: Council unanimously introduces temporary protection for persons fleeing the war – 4 March 2022, 16:10
- Schengen area: Council adopts general approach on an enhanced evaluation mechanism – 3 March 2022, 22:45
- Civil protection work in view of climate change: Council adopts conclusions – 3 March 2022, 17:15
- Council gives green light to start negotiations on international pandemic treaty – 3 March 2022, 16:38
- Vanuatu: Council partially suspends visa waiver agreement due to risks posed by golden – passport schemes – 3 March 2022, 16:33