EU Justice Ministers discuss strengthening the rule of law and cooperation in criminal matters
Protecting of common values and the rule of law in the EU was the main theme at the informal meeting of justice ministers in Helsinki on 19 July.
Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson chaired the meeting, which was also attended by Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová.
The ministers discussed the rule of law from the perspective of the justice sector.
Minister of Justice Henriksson said: “Common values and the rule of law are key elements in building citizens’ trust in society and in the European Union. I think our exchange of views today gives an impetus to continue discussions at the Justice and Home Affairs Council”.
Strengthening the rule of law is one of the priorities of Finland’s Presidency.
Cooperation requires mutual trust
“The EU’s common value base is especially important to our sector, as judicial cooperation in the EU is based on the principle of mutual recognition of judgments and judicial decisions handed down in member states. This cooperation would not work without strong mutual trust among member states”, said Minister Henriksson.
Ministers discussed ways to improve the justice tools available to the EU and share best practices between member states. In many areas, the justice ministers could benefit from regular dialogue, and the member states, in their turn, could benefit from each other’s experiences.
Focus on alternatives to prison
At the second session of their meeting, the justice ministers discussed how judicial cooperation in criminal matters operates and how to strengthen it further.
The ministers discussed prison overcrowding and detention conditions, focusing particularly on alternative sanctions to imprisonment. Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, gave one of the introductions to the subject, focusing on fundamental rights aspects of detention.
“The challenges regarding prison conditions and alternative sanctions are not easy to tackle. However, by working together we can find sustainable solutions, and at the same time, strengthen mutual trust. We will continue to work together for a safe and secure Europe”, Henriksson said.
EU must defend rules-based justice cooperation
During the working lunch, Christophe Bernasconi, Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, delivered a keynote speech on the role of EU civil law in international cooperation in the field of justice.
“In today´s world, the EU must defend multilateral justice cooperation based on rules. We need to show clear support to the United Nations and other key multilateral organizations. We found the multilateral approach to be an essential element of cooperation also in the field of justice”, Henriksson concluded.
Malin Brännkärr, State Secretary, Ministry of Justice, tel. +358 40 534 7727, malin.brannkarr(at)om.fi
Eeva Aittoniemi, Head of Unit, Ministry of Justice, tel. +358 295 150 170, eeva.aittoniemi(at)om.fi
Katja Huumo, Director of Media and Communications Unit, Ministry of Justice, tel. +358 295 150 113, katja.huumo(at)om.fi (requests for interviews)