Justice and home affairs

Cooperation among the EU countries in the area of justice and home affairs has become closer and broader in recent years. Norway participates in important aspects of this cooperation, particularly under the Schengen Agreement.

EU policy on justice and home affairs includes cooperation on visa rules and border control, illegal immigration, asylum and refugee issues, and immigration. It also covers cooperation on police work, preventing and fighting crime, and criminal and civil justice. In recent years, issues such as internal security, terrorism, fundamental human rights and relations to third countries have also become part of EU policy in this area. This is now one of the most dynamic areas of EU cooperation.

Supranational cooperation

The aim of cooperation in this field is to maintain and develop the Union as an area of freedom, security and justice. To achieve this, the member states have intensified their cooperation on combating various forms of transnational crime. Meanwhile, legislation is gradually being harmonised to ensure basic rights for everyone staying in the EU.

The EU also has high ambitions outside its external borders. One important goal is to promote stability and welfare in its neighbouring areas. This is important for the EU’s own security. Cooperation with neighbouring countries on issues of justice and home affairs promotes democratic development and respect for fundamental rights in these countries. Cooperation on migration is also a key area. This work is an important part of the EU’s external action.

EU cooperation on justice and home affairs was formalised and institutionalised through the Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties in the 1990s. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the pillar structure of the EU was discontinued, and virtually the whole justice and home affairs area is now subject to codecision; legislation in this area is proposed by the European Commission and adopted by the European Parliament and Council according to ordinary legislative procedure.

The Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Agreement is a central part of the EU’s justice and home affairs policy. It was incorporated into the EU legal framework by the Treaty of Amsterdam, which came into force in 1999. Under the Schengen Agreement, persons crossing the internal borders of the Schengen Area are no long checked, but integrated management of its external borders is maintained. The Schengen Information System (SIS) is a database of information that may be important for national security, border control and law enforcement for the member countries. The Schengen countries also cooperate on visa rules and police matters.

The Schengen Agreement not only enables effective free movement of persons and trade in goods and services between the member countries; it is also an important symbol of solidarity in Europe. Norway has been part of the Schengen area since March 2001. You can read more about the Schengen cooperation here.

Justice and home affairs cooperation

The EU has developed a comprehensive regulatory framework for matters relating to criminal procedure. Norway is involved in parts of this framework through specific agreements with the EU, for example on the application of common rules for the surrender of criminals and on mutual assistance in criminal cases. All EU member states are obliged to prosecute serious crimes such as terrorist acts, human trafficking and the publication of child pornography on the internet. Norway does not participate in the work of criminalising certain acts or introducing minimum sentences, but results of the EU’s cooperation in this area may influence Norwegian policy on such matters.

A number of institutions have been established to make EU cooperation on justice and home affairs more efficient. Two examples are Europol and Eurojust for the police and the prosecuting authorities, respectively. Norway has entered into cooperation agreements with these institutions, and Norwegian personnel take part in their work. Norway also has a cooperation agreement with the European Police College (CEPOL). As a Schengen member, Norway participates in the border management agency Frontex.

Norway takes part in an important aspect of EU immigration policy through the agreement known as the Dublin Regulation. The Dublin Regulation establishes which country is responsible for processing an application for asylum that has been submitted in a participating country. More information about the EU’s immigration policy can be found here.

EU cooperation on civil justice includes common rules for which courts are to hear civil cases and which country’s law is to apply in a case involving several member states, as well as mutual recognition of judicial decisions. This is becoming an increasingly important area of cooperation in the EU, as EU citizens are gaining greater freedom to travel, study, shop and work where they like. A number of legislative instruments have been developed in this area, which has been set as a priority by the both the current and the forthcoming presidency. Some of these instruments apply to Norway under the Lugano Convention of 2007, but the others fall outside the scope of the EEA Agreement and the Schengen Agreement. Norway would like to strengthen its cooperation with the EU in the area of civil law.

In addition to cooperation under the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Regulation, Norway is also involved in the justice and home affairs cooperation covered by the EEA Agreement. This means that Norway takes part in the broad cooperation on civil protection and emergency planning, including disaster risk reduction, critical infrastructure, the use of explosives, transport safety and product safety.

A number of other civil justice areas that are the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security are covered by the EEA Agreement. The most important of these are contract law, company law, transport law, insurance law and patent law, as well as data protection issues regulated by the Data Protection Directive and matters of administrative law.

The Ministry of Justice and Public Security chairs the EEA special committee for justice and home affairs, in which the Ministry of Defence, the Directorate of Immigration and the Police Directorate also participate.

National experts

Norway has several national experts working on justice and home affairs and migration issues in the European Commission and various EU agencies. Contact information for all the Norwegian national experts can be found on the EFTA Secretariat’s website.