European Union Politics

Palgrave Foundations Series

by John McCormick

Chapter 23: Justice and Home Affairs

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Justice and home affairs (JHA) is one of the newer areas of EU policy, encapsulating efforts to develop a coordinated approach to international crime and terrorism, to manage immigration, and to improve security and the protection of rights through police and judicial cooperation. The pressure for action grew with the final effort to complete the single market in the late 1980s, which increased the political demand for common internal policies while also managing external borders. The goals of JHA were established by Maastricht; it has at heart been an effort to create an ‘area of freedom, security and justice’ within the EU, a controversial notion because it has touched on many issues deeply entrenched in national political and judicial systems, and comes up against concerns about the protection of state sovereignty (Lavenex, 2010).

The policies dealt with under JHA combine matters that are both internal and external to the EU, including free movement of people within the EU and control of the EU’s external borders. Among other things, there have been efforts to standardize the processing of applications for asylum, to manage immigration by skilled workers while controlling illegal immigration, to develop policies on visas and personal data protection, and to encourage cooperation among police forces and judicial authorities in order to control terrorism, organized crime, drugs, and trafficking in humans. With time, these efforts have developed more consistency, moving from a loose collection of intergovernmental initiatives to a more coordinated supranational approach. The new dynamic is reflected most clearly in the creation of European arrest and evidence warrants, confirming the trend towards mutual recognition on judicial matters.
  • It was only with efforts to complete the single market in the late 1980s and early 1990s that the pressures grew to coordinate policy on asylum, immigration, cross-border crime, and managing the EU’s external borders. Policy initiatives were intergovernmental at first, and JHA was eventually incorporated into the mainstream of EU policy concerns by Lisbon.
  • Immigration has long been part of the European demographic landscape, but it has been complicated by the rising numbers of migrants from outside Europe.
  • The EU receives more applications for asylum than any other part of the world, but policy has not progressed much beyond agreeing standards and procedures.
  • About one-third of all international migrants in the world live in Europe. Illegal immigration has been a rising problem for the EU since the end of the Cold War.
  • Immigration may be the only viable response to problems arising from Europe’s aging and declining population, but the new racial and religious diversity of immigrants has sparked controversial anti-immigrant sentiment.
  • Police and judicial cooperation has been encouraged by Europol, Eurojust, and the European Judicial Network, spawning the introduction of European arrest and evidence warrants.
  • Terrorism has long been a problem in Europe, but efforts to take an EU-wide approach were accelerated by the 9/11 attacks in the United States and the 2004/05 bombings in Madrid and London.
  • The vast majority of successful or attempted terrorist attacks in the EU in recent years have involved not Islamic extremists, but nationalist and separatist movements, left-wing and anarchist groups, right-wing racist groups, and single-issue groups.