State Secretary Martinović at JHA Council in Brussels

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The first meeting of this year’s Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union took place in Brussels on 4 and 5 March 2024.  State Secretary Juro Martinović participated in the meeting in the format of the ministers of justice, on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Public Administration.

As regards legislative items, the only topic on the agenda was the policy debate on a proposed directive on minimum rules to prevent and counter the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and stay in the EU. Migrant smuggling to and within the EU is reaching new records, with a significant increase in unauthorised entries at the EU’s external borders every year. It is estimated that more than 90 % of illegal migrants arriving in the EU use smugglers, most of whom are organised into criminal groups. The Presidency also briefed the Council on current legislative proposals.

As part of the non-legislative activities, ministers discussed a more effective fight against drug trafficking and organised crime and judicial cooperation in this area, and the state of play was presented to the Council. Concerns about organised crime threats have increased in recent years and drug trafficking is one of the most serious security challenges facing Europe today.

The Council also took note of the state of play of the fight against impunity in relation to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Since the start of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, this topic has been on the agenda of all JHA Council meetings. The Republic of Croatia continuously assists the competent authorities of Ukraine in exchanging knowledge and experience related to the national prosecution of war crimes.

The Council also exchanged views on ensuring the resilience of the justice system with regard to criminal organisations in the area of the rule of law. The independence and impartiality of judges and public prosecutors is a condition without which a democratic society cannot function. The resilience of justice systems is a key component of the rule of law and is one of the four pillars of the Commission’s annual rule of law report.

The Council also discussed and approved conclusions on the European Commission’s 2023 annual report on the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the EU: effective legal protection and access to justice. Croatia welcomes the approval of the draft conclusions.

In conclusion, the Commission informed the Council about the EU-US negotiations on an agreement on e-evidence.