FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
Germany’s Schengen veto slated as ‘populist’
Euractiv: “Hannes Swoboda, President of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament, has described as “populist and deceitful” Germany’s threat to veto the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU’s border-free Schengen area.
Swoboda, an Austrian Socialist, insists that progress has been assessed in both countries and EU ministers should now abide by their own rules and finally grant Bulgaria and Romania full Schengen membership.
“The threat of a German veto is populist and deceitful,” Swoboda said.
“It seems like the German government wants to divide EU countries into ‘first class’ and ‘second class’ member states. The S&D Group defends the principle of equality and demands full access to the Schengen area for all EU citizens. We urge the EU interior ministers to act responsibly and open the way to Schengen membership for Romania and Bulgaria.”
The statement, published on the website of the S&D group, comes in reaction to declarations by German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who said his country would veto Romania and Bulgaria’s Schengen accession.
The issue is on the agenda of a meeting of EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers on 7 March.
In an interview he gave to Spiegel magazine, Friedrich said Bulgaria and Romania had to be “more decisive” in the fight against corruption. He argued that those who acquire a visa through bribery from those countries could travel all the way to Germany without further controls. The German minister also blamed Romanians and Bulgarians for “abusing the freedom of movement” in Europe and siphoning the German welfare system.
The European Commission and Parliament have considered Bulgaria and Romania fit to join Schengen since 2011. Their accession has been put on the agenda of several ministerial meetings, but has been blocked by the Netherlands. The Dutch position is that there should be at least two consecutive positive reports under the “Cooperation and Verification monitoring mechanism (CVM)”, before such a decision is taken (see background). The Commission insists that CVM and Schengen accession are unrelated issues…”
Also on the same topic: ‘Schengen — Willkommen’
EU, US go separate ways on cybersecurity
Euractiv: “Europe and the United States look set to implement different approaches to cybersecurity, with Washington adopting voluntary reporting mechanisms against Brussels’ compulsory measures. The difference approaches threaten to create problems for companies across the two major trade blocs.
President Barack Obama on 12 February issued an executive order on cybersecurity that calls for voluntary sharing of information on cyberattacks between business and government.
This followed the failure in November of the US Senate to approve administration-backed cybersecurity legislation, amid fierce opposition from businesses complaining about over-regulation.
The abandoned legislation would have increased information-sharing between intelligence agencies and private companies, with some privacy protections. It also would have set voluntary standards for businesses that control electric grids, water treatment plants and other essential facilities.
On 27 February, White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel told reporters at the RSA security conference in San Francisco that the White House would re-submit the cybersecurity bill to Congress.
White House not giving up
Daniel acknowledged that the attempt might prove fruitless, however, saying: “I don’t want to leave anybody with an impression that we underestimate the challenges.”
Proposals will be brought forward in the next two months, Daniel said, but he also admitted that – if any new attempt failed in Congress – Obama would seek stronger executive measures.
The executive order directs federal authorities to improve information-sharing on cyber-threats – including some that may be classified – with companies that provide or support critical infrastructure, but the approach to reporting obligations in the private sector is overwhelmingly voluntary.
Whatever path the US goes down now looks set to be considerably more voluntary and flexible than proposed European legislation.
Alongside an over-arching Cybersecurity Strategy, the European Commission last month proposed a Directive with measures to ensure harmonised network and information security across the EU.
EU rules set to be tighter, more compulsory
The proposed legislation will oblige companies to be audited for preparedness and to notify national authorities of cyber incidents with a “significant impact.”
The directive also suggests that market operators will be liable regardless of whether or not they carry out the maintenance of their network internally or if they outsource it.
The EU singled out a number of sectors which it claimed require more action on cybersecurity including “critical” infrastructure operators in energy, transport, banking, and healthcare services.
Key internet companies including payment services, social networks, search engines, cloud services, apps providers, e-commerce platforms, video sharing platforms and voice-over-Internet providers were also earmarked by the EU strategy…”
FRAUD AND CORRUPTION
Cyprus: ‘Money laundering deal, the troika returns to inspect’
Presseurop: “Eurozone finance ministers have decided to draft a bailout plan for Cyprus before the end of March. However, Nicosia will first have to cooperate with an audit on money laundering.
At the Eurogroup meeting on March 4, Germany, backed by Austria and the Netherlands, insisted that the new Cypriot government “submit to an independent evaluation of the drive to combat money laundering in Cypriot financial institutions.” The examination is set to begin on March 12…”
Also on the same topic: Money laundering probe boosts prospect of Cyprus bailout
Speech: Fighting corruption: From intentions to results
Europa Rapid: “Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs: “Ladies and Gentlemen, colleagues and friends. Good morning
I am very pleased to be here today, and I want to thank you all for coming to this workshop on corruption. It is especially nice to be here in Göteborg, my hometown, and to see former colleagues from the University here. Professor Bo Rothstein taught me about good governance and the importance of trust already many years ago in the department of political science.
This will be a long and full day. My colleagues and I will explain to you how the Commission is preparing the first EU Anti-Corruption Report and we will listen and collect information from you about anti-corruption policies in the Member States.
Your input will be very useful for the Commission. We need your expertise to carry out a fair and intelligent assessment of the ‘hottest’ issues in this area.
So, why is anti-corruption policy a top priority for the Commission today?
Well, corruption is a phenomenon which is difficult to tackle, and at the same time a problem we cannot afford to ignore.
Academic research has shown how severely corruption can affect the economy and society at large. It erodes trust in public institutions and political processes, and undermines the healthy functioning of markets and competition. It negatively affects already tight public budgets, and helps organised crime groups do their dirty work.
And the scale of the problem is serious. The Commission’s best estimate is that 120 billion euros are lost each year to corruption in the 27 Member States of the EU. That is the equivalent of the whole EU-budget. In public procurement, studies suggest that up to 20- 25% of the public contracts’ value may be lost to corruption.
I imagine that none of this is news to you. Civil society, international organisations – like the Council of Europe and the OECD – media and other stakeholders have stressed, again and again, the importance of preventing and prosecuting corruption.
In recent years, the financial crisis put stronger focus on making sure that taxpayers’ money is not wasted through corruption or other financial mismanagement.
Still, deep-rooted corruption is a part of reality in many countries. Although the EU is probably rightly perceived to be one of the cleaner parts of the world, corruption is also present here. There have even been several serious cases here in Göteborg. It varies in nature and extent from one Member State to the other, but it affects all of us.
European citizens are fully aware, and concerned, about this. In February last year the Commission published a special Eurobarometer survey on European citizens’ attitudes towards corruption: three out of four EU citizens see corruption as a major problem in their country. Almost half of all Europeans believe that the level of corruption in their country increased in the past three years.
It is, therefore, not a surprise that fighting corruption has become a priority for many politicians, both at EU and national level in recent years. However, there is still a long way from declared intentions to concrete results.”…”
JUDICIAL COOPERATION CRIMINAL MATTERS
UK: Secret court hearing plans pushed through by government
The Guardian: “The government pushed through its plans for secret court hearings on Monday night, defeating amendments tabled by the Labour frontbench with significant majorities.
In the first division on a proposal aimed at introducing further conditions before closed material procedures (CMPs) could be used in civil courts, Labour and coalition rebels lost by 225 to 298 votes – a government majority of 73.
A second Labour proposal, requiring judges to balance the interests of national security against “public interest in the fair and open administration of justice”, was lost by 226 to 297 – a government majority of 71.
Over the course of the bill the government has already made a number of concessions in an attempt to win over Liberal Democrats and other opponents. But on Monday night civil liberties campaigners vowed to continue fighting government plans for secret court hearings in sensitive national security cases after MPs rejected stronger safeguards.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “History teaches that politicians abandon ancient legal principles at their peril. Today’s cover-up is tomorrow’s scandal.
“The opposition to turning British courts into secret commissions continues. Once again, we look to the House of Lords to defeat secret courts and defend the rule of law.”
Clare Algar, executive director of Reprieve, said: “This has been a dark night for British justice.
“These plans for secret courts were always dangerous and unnecessary, but the failure of even minor attempts to modify the bill means that it is even worse than when it first reached the House of Commons.
“MPs must now vote against the bill altogether if they want to defend British justice…”
La Ministre Marie-Arlette Carlotti et la Vice-présidente Viviane Reding veulent renforcer les droits des personnes handicapées en Europe
Europa Rapid: “La Ministre Marie-Arlette Carlotti et la Vice-présidente Viviane Reding veulent renforcer les droits des personnes handicapées en Europe
Marie-Arlette Carlotti, ministre française déléguée aux personnes handicapées et à la lutte contre l’exclusion et Viviane Reding, vice-présidente de la Commission européenne en charge de la justice, des droits fondamentaux et de la citoyenneté, se sont rencontrées à Bruxelles le lundi 4 mars 2013.
Elles ont souhaité échanger sur leurs politiques respectives et complémentaires.
La Commission européenne a adopté la stratégie 2010-2020 «en faveur des personnes handicapées». Un plan d’actions 2010-2015 est en cours et un acte européen d’accessibilité est en préparation.
«Les personnes handicapées sont encore confrontées à de trop nombreux obstacles dans leur vie de tous les jours. Pour pouvoir participer pleinement à notre société et à notre économie, les personnes handicapées doivent pouvoir accéder plus facilement aux bâtiments publics, aux transports publics et aux services numériques. Les 80 millions de personnes handicapées de l’UE, ne doivent pas seulement être considérées sous l’angle de leur coût pour la société, mais en termes de développement socio-économique,» a déclaré la vice-présidente Viviane Reding, la commissaire européenne chargée de la justice. «L’accessibilité offre de nouvelles opportunités commerciales et peut avoir un réel effet stimulant sur l’innovation et la croissance économique. C’est pourquoi elle est au cœur de la stratégie européenne en matière de handicap, et je vais travailler main dans la main avec la Ministre Carlotti pour réaliser cette stratégie.»
«La citoyenneté et l’autonomie des personnes handicapées reposent sur un préalable: l’accessibilité de notre société toute entière» a rappelé, quant à elle, Marie-Arlette Carlotti, ministre déléguée aux personnes handicapées et à la lutte contre l’exclusion. «Cela suppose une mobilisation de tous les acteurs concernés et la participation de l’Europe est essentielle. L’accessibilité universelle, en prenant en compte tous les handicaps à tous les âges de la vie, doit s’imposer dans l’ensemble de nos politiques publiques. C’est dans ce sens que le gouvernement français travaille.»
Marie-Arlette Carlotti, qui prépare le prochain comité interministériel au handicap avec l’ensemble du gouvernement, a rappelé à Viviane Reding l’engagement du Président de la République et du Premier ministre français à prendre en compte le handicap et l’accessibilité dans chaque projet de loi et l’ensemble des politiques publiques.
La ministre et la vice-présidente ont examiné ensemble l’agenda français et notamment le 3ème plan autisme en préparation, la concertation en cours sur les actions à mettre en œuvre en vue de l’échéance de 2015, l’expérimentation à venir de relais téléphonique pour les personnes sourdes ou malentendantes, ainsi que les projets relatifs à l’accès aux soins des personnes handicapées. Elles ont par ailleurs confirmé leur attachement au développement de l’accessibilité universelle, pour garantir l’accès de tous à tout…”
Jean-Claude Mignon: ‘The promise to end violence against women is a commitment which must be honoured’
Council of Europe Newsroom: “Strasbourg, 05.03.2013 – In the run-up to International Women’s Day, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Jean-Claude Mignon, has issued the following declaration:
“8 March is an auspicious annual occasion for all those involved in promoting women’s rights. This year the event will have the theme of ‘A Promise is a Promise: Time to Act to End Violence against Women’.
The Council of Europe has a major instrument at its disposal, namely the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention. This is the first binding text combining all the necessary ingredients: preventing violence, protecting victims, prosecuting those responsible and implementing integrated policies.
The promise to end violence against women is a commitment which must be honoured. The Istanbul Convention provides states with the means of doing so. On 8 March I shall be appealing to Council of Europe member and non-member states, if they have not yet done so, to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention…”
Parliament chief criticises ‘Frankenstein Europe’
Euobserver: “The EU’s current institutional set-up resembles a ‘Frankenstein’ monster because there is no democratic separation of powers, European Parliament chief Martin Schulz said Monday (4 March) during a debate in Hamburg on sovereignty transfers to Brussels.
“National sovereignty in Europe is based on a model of separation of powers: we have a government that can be voted down by a parliament and an independent judiciary overseeing that rules are respected,” Schulz said.
He added: “What we are doing now is that we are taking bits and pieces of this framework and transferring them to the EU level, but without also transferring the separation of powers. The result is what I call ‘Frankenstein Europe’.”
He said people cannot trust the EU when the division of labour and the legal basis is not clear…”