A first glance at the priorities facing the Slovenian EU Presidency on Justice and Home Affairs reveals that, on paper at least, they should be able to notch up significant achievements. A lot of the ground has been well prepared.

On the Schengen free movement area, there is a guaranteed success story. It has already been agreed that border checks at airports between old and new Schengen countries will be removed on 31 March 2008. The political decision to lift the checks on this date was taken at the November Justice and Home Affairs Council. This was part of a wider decision on enlargement of the Schengen area that also involved lifting land and sea border checks on 21 December. This concerns all ten countries which joined the EU in 2004 with the exception of Cyprus. All that is left for the Slovenian Presidency to do is to hold a suitably impressive celebration event in March.


Other activities expected under the Slovenians include the adoption of technical plans for evaluating Romania and Bulgaria's preparations to fully join Schengen, as well as a ministerial discussion on new technologies for border protection. A draft copy of the Presidency programme reveals that this discussion will include technologies to improve the "flow of passengers at the border," and to "create a safer EU (more effective border controls) also in the context of fighting terrorism". It will be interesting to see whether this involves embracing new initiatives, such as Electronic Travel Authorisation, currently being pioneered by the USA.

Slovenia will be expected to ensure that work on the implementation of the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) stays on schedule. This is due to become operational by December 2008. The necessary legislation was already adopted in 2006, and the main activity at ministerial level will be the submission of Presidency progress reports.


The enlargement of the Schengen area is not the only quick win awaiting the Slovenians. Other priorities identified in the Presidency programme include integrating the key provisions of the Prum Treaty into EU law (on which political approval was reached under the German Presidency in June). Another is securing agreement on a Council decision to improve the operation of Europol (on which a general approach on most of the main chapters was adopted during the Portuguese Presidency).

There is even a suggestion that the long-awaited EU directive on common...

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