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Justice and Home Affairs

The Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) brings together the ministers for justice, ministers for the interior and ministers for immigration about every two months to discuss the development and implementation of cooperation and common policies in the areas of justice, the police and policies on asylum and immigration.

The creation of an area of freedom, security and justice is a key aim of the European Union and is a central issue in the programmes of the Tampere and The Hague European Councils. The Member States began to cooperate on an informal basis in the area of justice and home affairs in the mid 1970s. Then Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed the Schengen Agreement in 1985 to create genuine freedom of movement of persons by abolishing internal border controls. Other countries have since joined the Schengen Area which now has 22 Member States and two associated States (Iceland and Norway) and allows the free movement of 400 million Europeans. In 1993, the areas of justice and home affairs were incorporated into the institutional framework of the European Union.

To attain these objectives, the JHA Council has several areas of competence:

  • fundamental rights and citizenship;
  • data protection;
  • the guarantee of civil rights during criminal proceedings;
  • the free movement of persons, travel documents;
  • cooperation among judicial authorities, police forces, border police and customs authorities;
  • judicial cooperation in criminal matters;
  • coordination of drugs policies;
  • the fight against racism and xenophobia;
  • the fight against organised crime, corruption, terrorism, human trafficking and illegal migration;
  • policy relating to migration, visas, asylum and refugees;
  • judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters, including family law;
  • protection of the external borders of the European Union;
  • relations with non-EU countries in the field of justice and home affairs.

Some countries do not participate in the implementation of measures relating to particular areas of justice and home affairs (United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark).

The Justice and Home Affairs Council increasingly acts by qualified majority in co-decision with the European Parliament.


Pierre Sellal explains the Justice and Home Affairs configuration of the European Council (video, FR)


Documents "Justice and Home Affairs"

  • Updated: 25.09.2008
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