Sat. Aug 13th, 2022

Prague, 12 July 2022

The informal meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council was one of the first major events organised by the Czech Republic during its Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Representatives of 27 Member States, European Institutions and met in the Prague Congress Centre together with guests from Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. The meeting was presided by the Czech Minister of Justice Pavel Blažek.

The main topics of the meeting were a common response to current geopolitical challenges, especially in the context of Russian aggression in Ukraine, i.e. the investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the digitization of international judicial cooperation and, finally, the protection of vulnerable persons and victims of crimes.

In the first part of the meeting, the justice ministers discussed the legal protection of vulnerable persons in civil matters, i.e. persons who, due to impairment, insufficiency of their personal faculties or advanced age, are unable to protect their own interests and who, moreover, find themselves on the territory of a foreign state, which makes their situation even more difficult.

The ministers exchanged views on the existing instruments of international judicial cooperation. They are aware that these are people, who are not only moving across the EU, but who are increasingly coming to the territory of the EU from third countries. Special attention was therefore also paid to the situation of vulnerable persons in the position of refugees.

The ministers agreed that the issue of the protection of vulnerable adults in the EU is a serious and current topic, the catalyst of which is also the refugee crisis. The 2000 Convention on the International Protection of Adults is an important legal instrument that can help ensure the protection of vulnerable persons in the EU, including those coming from third countries. The accession of all EU Member States to this international treaty is therefore desirable and highly topical. The Czech Republic has been its Contracting Party since 2012.

In the second morning session, the Ministers discussed the possibilities of expanding electronic communication within the framework of judicial cooperation in criminal matters in relation to non-Member States. The modernization and digitization of communication between judicial authorities arose as a necessity during the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequently also during the crisis in Ukraine. The Ministers of Justice of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia also participated in the discussion on the legal, as well as technical and security aspects of this issue. Electronic communication with countries outside the EU is particularly limited by a very narrow international treaty basis.

The Ministers devoted a working lunch to a discussion on the topic of collecting and preserving evidence of crimes committed in connection with Russian aggression in Ukraine. In order to ensure that none of these crimes escape justice, it is necessary to make a maximum effort, which needs to be coordinated at national, European and international level. That is why not only the Ministers of the EU member states, but also the representative of Eurojust, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague and, last but not least, the Minister of Justice of Ukraine Denys Maliuska took part in the debate. Together, they not only evaluated the steps taken so far, but also consulted further possibilities for a joint investigation of serious crimes that occur in Ukraine.

We have agreed with the other ministers on the importance of the discussed item on the investigation of crimes in Ukraine. We devoted the whole afternoon to the discussion, and prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan from the International Criminal Court also participated. I appreciate that a significant number of countries are already investigating the crimes in Ukraine.

Pavel Blažek, Czech Minister of Justice

Source – Czech EU Presidency