The goal of constructing an 'Area of Freedom, Security and Justice' across the Union was agreed at the Tampere EU Summit of 1999. The 'Tampere programme' was a five-year agenda that came to an end in 2004.
In June 2004, the Commission presented a Communication taking stock of the implementation of the Tampere agenda and setting future guidelines for a new justice and home affairs agenda for the years to come.
Following Council discussions in July and October 2004, the Dutch Presidency produced a new programme for justice and home affairs (now referred to as 'freedom, security and justice') for the years 2005-2010, to be known as the 'Hague Programme'.
On 10 May 2005 the Commission produced a roadmap implementing the Hague Programme which identifies ten specific priority areas for 2005-2010.
Immigration and asylum topped the Hague agenda alongside the prevention of terrorism. EU leaders agreed to use qualified majority decision-making and co-decision in the fields of asylum, immigration and border control issues. Legal immigration remains subject to unanimity.
In the field of asylum, immigration and border control, the Hague programme contains the following key measures:
- a common European asylum system with a common procedure and a uniform status for those who are granted asylum or protection by 2009;
- measures for foreigners to legally work in the EU in accordance with labour market requirements;
- a European framework to guarantee the successful integration of migrants into host societies;
- partnerships with third countries to improve their asylum systems, better tackle illegal immigration and implement resettlement programmes;
- a policy to expel and return illegal immigrants to their countries of origin;
- a fund for the management of external borders;
- Schengen information system (SIS II) - a database of people who have been issued with arrest warrants and of stolen objects to be operational in 2007
- common visa rules (common application centres, introduction of biometrics in the visa information system)
In the fields of justice and security, the Hague programme highlights the following key measures:
- police information to be available between all EU countries (threats to the security of another EU state must be communicated immediately);
- address the factors that contribute to fundamentalism and to the involvement of individuals in terrorist activities;
- make greater use of Europol, the EU's police office, and Eurojust, EU's judicial co-operation body;
- ensure greater civil and criminal justice co-operation across borders and the full application of the principle of mutual recognition.
The 'roadmap' for 2005-2010 lists ten key areas for priority action:
- Fundamental rights and citizenship: development of policies enhancing citizenship, monitoring and promoting respect for fundamental rights.
- The fight against terrorism: prevention, preparedness and response.
- Migration management: developing a common EU immigration policy and countering illegal migration.
- Internal & external borders, visas: further develop an integrated management of external borders and a common visa policy, while ensuring the free movement of persons.
- A common asylum area
- Integration: maximising the positive impact of migration on society and economy.
- Privacy & security in sharing information: balancing the need to share information among law enforcement and judicial authorities with privacy and data protection rights.
- Fight against organised crime
- Civil and criminal justice: effective access to justice for all and the enforcement of judgements.
- Freedom, security and justice: reviewing the effectiveness of policies and financial instrument in meeting the objectives of freedom, security and justice.
Presenting the roadmap, Franco Frattini, Commissioner responsible for Freedom, Security and Justice said that closer European cooperation would offer new possibilities of success in responding effectively to threats to security or personal freedom. "This 5 year plan maps out concrete measures to strengthen citizen's security, to tackle terrorism, to strengthen the Union's external borders and the fight against illegal-drugs, people-trafficking and organised crime."
During the summit, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was urged not to use the UK’s 'opt-out' over asylum and immigration to undermine Europe’s new era of cross-border co-operation. The President of the European Council Jan-Peter Balkenende said there had to be "one reality" in Europe on asylum and immigration policy. "We are stressing the importance of following the same line. That is the message to the UK", he said.
Ruud Lubbers, the UN High Commissioner for refugees, urges the EU to share responsibilities with the developing countries where most of the world's refugees are sheltered. He warns that if EU plans aim to shift the burden to developing countries, "not only will they be doomed to failure, they will also seriously undermine the global refugee system, to the detriment of everyone including the EU itself."
In an open letter to the European Council, Amnesty International expressed concerns that "despite the intentions and appropriate references to fundamental rights there is too much of a vacuum in the substance of the programme as to how the stated ambition is to be realised. There is a lack of coherence when it comes to the instruments and structures needed to safeguard fundamental rights, and a lack of resources to match. The fact that asylum is principally a human rights issue seems to be lost amid all the discourse surrounding migration management. With the EU’s justice and home affairs agenda driven by counter-terrorism and the fight against "illegal immigration", there is a growing risk of a one-sided emphasis on "security" at the expense of the elements of "justice" and "freedom".
Jürgen Strube, President of the European employers' federation UNICE called on the Council to enable legal economic migrants to work in any member state and to introduce a one-stop-procedure for issuing residence and work permits. “It is of utmost importance that the Council enters substantive discussions and sets a deadline for adoption of the Directive on admission and residence of third-country nationals for employment purposes,” he said.