EU Justice and Home Affairs Meet

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Thursday, May 1, 2003
Bruce Zagaris
On February 27-28, 2003 the European Union’s Justice & Home Affairs Council held its 2489th meeting and continued of make progress towards new mutual assistance and harmonization of criminal justice efforts. The Council received a Commission’s oral report on the follow-up to the Council conclusions on external border checks and combating illegal immigration, particularly concerning the stamping of travel documents. The Council discussed the need for a common and consistent approach for those situations where third-country nationals, whose travel documents should be stamped, are apprehended when holding travel documents which do not bear a stamp. The Council noted that on December 19, 2002 the JHA Council adopted conclusions on external border checks and combating illegal immigration. The conclusions invited the Commission to clarify the existing rules of the Schengen Acquis and reflect on amending the relevant rules accordingly, and to consider the possibility of additional harmonization of the procedures in relation to border checks and subsequent controls on third-country nationals. On a related matter the Commission discussed the status of the study concerning burden-sharing between EU Members and the EU for the management of external borders; and the feasibility study on improving sea-border controls, which the Council requested in the framework of the comprehensive plan to combat illegal immigration and human trafficking in the EU. The Council invited the Commission to deliver the studies as soon as possible. They are due June 2003. The emerging EU-US Agreement on extradition and mutual assistance has potential importance in terms of accelerating law enforcement cooperation. The Framework Decision on information systems indicates the difficulty that international enforcement law has in keeping pace with technology. The transnational organized crime (TOC) threat from the Western Balkans poses a growing threat that is common in many parts of the world and reflects in part the ability of TOC to exploit globalization and economic gaps among countries.