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Intersteno competition text 2009 EN

created May 10th 2017, 12:53 by JRVidal



1573 words
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One of the European Union's remarkable achievements over the past half century has been to create a large frontier-free area within which people can move around unhindered by border checks. European Union citizens are also free to choose which European Union country they wish to live and work in. But if these freedoms are to be fully enjoyed, the European Union must manage its external borders effectively. Its national judicial authorities and police forces must also work closely together to ensure that people everywhere in the European Union are equally protected from crime, have equal access to justice and can fully exercise their rights. The European Union is developing a more coordinated asylum and immigration policy so that asylum applicants are treated fairly in the same way and the legal immigrants the European Union needs are integrated into European societies. Action is also being taken to prevent abuses of the system and to tackle illegal immigration. Finally, in a globalized world, it is only by working together that European Union countries can effectively combat international crime and terrorism. Taken together and fully implemented, this package of measures will guarantee that the Union is, indeed, a single region of freedom, security, and justice for all. Among the benefits the European Union has brought to its citizens is the right to move around freely in the European Union and to live and work in any EU country they choose. However, to take full advantage of this achievement, they need to know they can lead their daily lives and go about their business in safety, protected from crime and with equal access to justice wherever they are in the European Union. This challenge was already recognized in the Maastricht Treaty (1992), but it was in October 1999, at a special summit meeting in Tampere, Finland, that European Union leaders took hold of the issue. They agreed on a series of specific steps to make the Union a single 'area of freedom, security, and justice'. This treaty means guaranteeing the fundamental rights of Europe's citizens and ensuring fair treatment of non-European Union denizens legally residing in Europe. It also means a coordinated policy on asylum and immigration, issuing visas, and managing the EU's external frontiers. In practical terms, it involves close cooperation between national police forces, customs and immigration officers and the courts. Europeans highly value freedom and justice, and they are the foundation stones of the European Union. The EU countries are firmly committed to democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. But freedom and justice can be fully enjoyed only in an environment of security. This tenet is why the EU governments are now determined to guarantee freedom, security, and justice for all within the Union's borders. Freedom is not just about personal mobility: it is also about having certain fundamental rights. For example, the right to liberty and security; equality before the law; freedom of thought, expression and information; the right to good governance and the obligation on EU institutions to make good any damage they may have caused to an individual. These rights belong to everyone living legally in the European Union, whether or not they are EU citizens. The Charter of Fundamental Rights, adopted in 2000, sets out clearly and in a single document the personal, civil, political, economic, and social rights the peoples of the European Union enjoy. The charter is to be incorporated into the new EU Constitution and will serve as the legal yardstick by which individuals' rights are judged and guaranteed. Countries seeking to join the European Union must also be committed to protecting human and fundamental rights to these same high standards. Indeed, these criteria must be met before they can even begin entry negotiations. In addition, if any EU country violates these rights in a grave and constant manner, or is likely to do so, it can face sanctions. For example, its voting rights at EU meetings could be suspended, thus denying that country any say in proposed European policies and legislation and cutting off its access to EU funding. The Union has never taken such action so far. The European Union's newest members, from May 2004, are Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In recent history, many of these countries have fought hard for freedom, security, and justice; and they all cherish these important principles. As EU member states, they apply EU legislation in the area of 'justice and home affairs'. This tenet is based on the fundamental principles of respect for human rights, transparency, and good governance. The new members also subscribe to shared goals such as the mutual recognition of judicial decisions, common immigration and asylum policies, and improving judicial and police cooperation. By doing so, the new member states confirm confidence in their judiciary, police and border guards, both among their own citizens and those of the other EU countries. Citizenship of the European Union does not replace national citizenship: it complements it. In other words, being an EU citizen gives you additional rights and responsibilities. You can, for instance, vote or run as a candidate in elections for the European Parliament in your EU country of residence, whether it is your home country or not. European Union citizenship also gives you the right to travel freely within the Union (provided you carry a passport or identity card) and to settle anywhere within the Union's territory. To date, around five million people have used this right by going to live in another EU country, not to mention the millions who work daily in a neighboring country or who move abroad for part of their studies. Citizenship brings responsibilities too: if EU citizens want to live in another EU country, they must have health insurance and show they either have a job or enough resources not to become a burden on their new country's social security system. Hiccups still occur, and people can sometimes face lengthy administrative procedures in obtaining residence documents or securing the rights of family members, especially when the latter are not EU citizens. To overcome these difficulties, the European Commission has put forward plans to simplify and update existing legislation to make it easier for EU citizens and their family members to move to another country. Free movement is enshrined in the European Union's treaties, but it became a practical reality only once the 'Schengen area' was created. This frontier-free zone is named after the town in Luxembourg where the original agreement was signed. It does not presently include the United Kingdom, Ireland, or the new member states, although the two non-EU countries -Norway and Iceland do participate. The Schengen Convention is now an integral part of the European Union’s treaties. Within the Schengen area, the EU residents and visitors from outside are free to travel as they wish without systematic passport checks. However, individuals can still be asked to prove their identity, and member states retain the right to reintroduce border controls for a limited period under exceptional circumstances. The abolition of internal border controls makes it easier for law-abiding citizens to move around freely in Europe. Unfortunately, the same applies to criminals and terrorists. Therefore, the Schengen Convention introduced other measures such as cooperation between national police forces and judicial authorities in the fight against crime. In addition, member states have an extra responsibility to look after their external frontiers. These places are the only ones where systematic checks are carried out on who enters or leaves the EU. External frontiers are not only land crossings, but also international airports, seaports, and some railway stations, which are now entry points to the whole European Union. Ireland and the United Kingdom do not apply the Schengen provisions on border controls: they continue to check the identity of everyone entering their territory, except from one another’s territory. However, the right of EU citizens to enter and live in these member states is unaffected. All citizens living in the European Union should be able to move freely from one country to another and to choose where to live regardless of whether they are nationals of a member state or legal immigrants from elsewhere. Visitors from non-EU countries may enter the Schengen area and travel freely within it for up to three months, provided they satisfy certain conditions. In particular, they must possess valid travel documents, be able to explain the reasons for their visit, and have sufficient money to cover their living costs. Some must have a visa to enter the EU. Visa rules have been reviewed, and there is a single list of countries whose citizens need visas. In addition, a non-EU national with a passport and a valid residence permit issued by a Schengen country does not need a visa when travelling for short periods to other Schengen countries. This procedure greatly reduces bureaucratic obstacles for non-EU family members. Some five million non-EU citizens currently work in the European Union. They all have rights which should apply throughout the Union, but differences between national administrative rules and procedures sometimes make it hard to apply them. The European Commission wants to establish Common criteria and safeguards to protect these people's rights. The Commission has proposed introducing 'civic citizenship'. This measure would give legal immigrants certain core rights and obligations, including the right to live and work in another EU member state. They will acquire these rights over a period of years and eventually will have almost the same rights as EU citizens.

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