Justice and home affairs will be a priority because Denmark intends to advance on the controversial reform of governance of the Schengen area and the asylum package. The task will not be easy considering the tensions among the 27 over these issues, which lie at the heart of national sovereignty.

On the Schengen reform proposed by the European Commission in September 2011 (two texts), member states contest the idea of giving the Commission more decision making authority over application of the mechanism for temporary reinstatement of checks at internal borders in the event of exceptional crises (threats to law and order or internal security). This measure is recommended in the proposal for revision of the Schengen border code (Regulation EC 562/2006). More specifically, it provides that decisions to reintroduce border controls would be submitted to the Commission, which would then propose and adopt - or not - an implementing act under the new comitology procedures based on the opinions expressed by the 27. But the member states aim to hold on to their prerogatives and may agree on wording to the effect that the Commission proposes and the Council disposes. The second text, considered less problematic, sets up a mechanism for assessing application of the Schengen acquis.

Also on the political agenda will be the admission of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area, which is being vetoed by the Netherlands.

The second key issue is the common European asylum system, comprising a number of legislative texts. The goal of wrapping up the package by the end of 2012 is highly unlikely, even though three texts have already been adopted. Attention is expected to focus on the most controversial proposals, namely the revisions of the 2003 Dublin Regulation and of the directive on minimum standards for the procedure for grant and withdrawal of international protection (repeal of Directive 2005/85/EC).

On legal immigration, the Danish Presidency hopes to work out an agreement on the draft directive establishing conditions for the...

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