Justice (Monday 7 June)
Combating illegal online content
Ministers held a debate on how to combat illegal content online in the context of the Digital Services Act proposal.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right which must be protected. At the same time it is clear we cannot allow illegal content to proliferate on the internet platforms without control. Finding the right approach to balance these important principles will be key to the success of the digital services act, and today justice ministers reiterated their wish to continue being involved in these discussions.
Francisca Van Dunem, Portuguese minister of justice
The debate mainly focused on the aspects related to orders to providers from national authorities to act against illegal content or to provide information, as well as the obligation of large providers to notify suspicions of serious criminal offences to authorities.
During their debate, ministers highlighted the importance of freedom of expression and the need to ensure that the right balance is found to ensure that any restrictions remain the exception.
On the aspects related to orders from national authorities, ministers generally expressed support for the system proposed but noted that the text needs to be further clarified, in particular to ensure that the digital service act will not affect the functioning of existing and future JHA instruments.
On the obligation of providers to notify suspicions of serious criminal offences, ministers considered the need to clarify the notions of « serious criminal offence involving a threat to life or safety of persons » and « promptly »
Key elements for public prosecution services
Ministers exchanged views on key elements for public prosecution services. This topic is part of a dialogue on justice-specific topics concerning the rule of law.
During their discussions they focused on three topics: the independence of public prosecution services from the executive, the digitalisation of justice and adequate human and financial resources.
Assignments of claims
The Council today approved its general approach on the proposal for a regulation on the law applicable to the third-party effects of assignments of claims. The draft regulation aims to ensure greater legal certainty for businesses and citizens when it comes to cross-border transfers of claims, thereby facilitating access to finance and promoting cross-border investment in the EU.
By adopting uniform conflict-of-laws rules at EU level, the proposed regulation will eliminate legal risks and potential systemic consequences of cross-border transactions in claims, enabling cross-border investment, access to cheaper credit and further market integration. This will contribute to increasing legal certainty throughout the EU.
The Council approved a general approach on the regulation on the e-CODEX system, which aims to improve the efficiency of cross-border communication between the competent judicial authorities and facilitate access to justice for citizens and businesses.
Fundamental rights agency
It also approved a general approach on the regulation amending the regulation establishing the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. This text aims to enhance the agency’s mandate and improve its functioning through more efficient procedures.
Fighting organised crime and trafficking in human beings
Under any other business, the European Commission presented the strategy on tackling organised crime and the strategy on combatting trafficking in human beings, which were adopted in April 2021.
Home Affairs (Tuesday 8 June)
« The digital transformation of our societies brings with it many advantages, but also certain challenges in the field of security. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these changes, with an increase on online criminality and a bigger reliance on digital tools for police cooperation. Today we discussed a number of policies which will allow us to be better prepared for the digital future of security.
Eduardo Cabrita, Portuguese Minister for Home Affairs
Ministers exchanged views on the internal security outlook regarding artificial intelligence, following a presentation by the Commission of its recent proposal for a regulation on artificial intelligence. They highlighted the importance of providing legal certainty to law enforcement authorities so that they can continue to make use of emerging tools in the fight against crime, while ensuring full protection of citizens’ fundamental rights.
Ministers also held a debate on the impact of COVID-19 on preventing and fighting crime. They provided political guidance on the priority actions to strengthen resilience and preparedness in the area of internal security, to tackle the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis and with a view to potential similar crises in the future.
Ministers took stock of progress in the discussions regarding the regulation amending the Europol regulation. The Presidency remains committed to continue work in the coming weeks with the aim of closing as many elements as possible and obtaining a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament by the end of June.
Following a presentation by the Commission, ministers had an initial discussion on the Schengen strategy, which was adopted by the European Commission on 2 June.
The strategy and accompanying proposals aim to restore the full functioning of the Schengen area, increase mutual trust among member states and integrate lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis, especially regarding better coordination of measures at EU level. The strategy takes a comprehensive approach to the area of free movement, encompassing external border protection and internal security to address the challenges we face today.
Migration and asylum
The Presidency reported on the state of play regarding the new pact on migration and asylum.
The external dimension remains one of the key aspects of the pact. There is a strong support for developing and further enhancing cooperation with countries of origin and transit, as well as operationalising comprehensive, tailor-made and mutually beneficial partnerships with key partner countries. In this regard, the Portuguese Presidency recalled the important outcome of the EU – Africa Ministerial Conference on the Management of Migratory Flows, held in Lisbon, on 11 May.
On the internal dimension, work has continued, at expert level, on the asylum and migration management regulation, the amended asylum procedure regulation and the screening regulation. During these discussions, all member states were able to confirm their general commitment to support each other and offer solidarity contributions, in cases of pressure on one of the member states.
Member states were informed about the latest developments regarding the proposal for the Regulation for an EU Asylum Agency and the Presidency highlighted its engagement and willingness to intensively work, in the upcoming weeks, in order to confirm an agreement on the Regulation for an EU Asylum Agency.
The Council underlined, once again, the important agreement reached regarding the Blue Card Directive. This agreement concretised one of the priorities of the Portuguese Presidency: to work on the management of legal migration and the necessary matching between the needs of EU labour markets and qualified resources coming to Europe in a legal and orderly manner.