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Justice - Home affairs

1. Background

The Barroso Commission’s four key strategic areas for 2008 are prosperity, solidarity, security and freedom, together with migration management and a stronger role for the EU in the world. All these areas tie together with Justice and Home Affairs policies of the Union.

Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999, a large number of common measures have been adopted in the areas of asylum and immigration, as the Community and the member states share the competence to legislate in those areas. Nevertheless, national authorities keep an important role and are continuously adopting new national measures, which may in some cases have an impact on other member states or on the EU as a whole.

Cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs has also become more important to the EU due to the goal of the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within its borders. At the Tampere European Council in 1999 the EU set the goal of establishing itself as an area of freedom, security and justice.

The aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001 saw significant developments in EU justice and home affairs activity. And the terrorist bombings in Madrid in March 2004 and London in July 2005 underlined the need for effective coordinated action. Member states have been pressed into acting together to combat a perceived terrorist threat.

In November 2004, five years on from Tampere, EU leaders adopted the Hague programme designed to "strengthen freedom, security and justice in the EU". The programme, which runs from 2005 to 2010, set the objectives to be implemented to achieve the common goals. In particular, it moved decision-making from unanimity among member states to qualified majority voting in most areas of the justice and home affairs field. This was hoped to speed up the policy-making process considerably and mark the start of a new phase. The European Commission submitted its first concrete proposals to implement the Hague Programme in September 2005.

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