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The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 significantly changed the nature of the European Union, by constituting it as an area of freedom, security and justice with respect for fundamental rights. Now an integral part of the acquis communautaire, the objectives assigned to this area are specified in Article 67 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. They include in particular:
- Ensuring the absence of any controls of persons crossing internal borders and framing a common policy on asylum, immigration and external border control.
- Ensuring a high level of security through measures to prevent and combat crime, racism and xenophobia.
- Facilitating access to justice, in particular through the principle of mutual recognition of judicial and extrajudicial decisions in civil matters.
Objectives for Belgium
Freedom of movement and security
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major disruption of the Schengen area. Belgium, with its open economy and central position, has always been one of the main advocates of this area of freedom. Belgium would like to see a full return to free movement as soon as an adequate level of protection of public health can be guaranteed. In this regard, the EU COVID certificate has served its purpose. Building on the experience gained in recent months, Belgium is also working to make the Schengen area more resilient in future crises.
Our country is also in favour of a protective and secure Europe. While security is still often a national competence, the last twenty years have seen a considerable strengthening of the European security structures and legal framework. Our country believes that in response to the globalisation of crime, closer international police and judicial cooperation is called for. The same applies to access to the tools and skills needed to deal with the latest technological developments and new threats.
The issue of terrorism also demands an approach at EU level. Belgium therefore welcomed the Commission's unveiling of its new counter-terrorism programme in December 2020, which aims to help Member States to better anticipate, prevent, protect and react to terrorist threats.
Justice and the rule of law
Our country is permanently working towards a common European area of justice based on trust, mobility and sustainable growth. While recent progress has been made in the area of cross-border enforcement of decisions in civil and commercial matters, the concept of mutual recognition needs to be further established.
Promoting the rule of law and human rights is a key element of our foreign policy. Our country is also constantly focused on good governance, gender equality and equal opportunities, children's rights and LGBTQIA+ rights.
Within the EU, Belgium is especially committed to strengthening the instruments to protect the rule of law, and supports the Commission in its efforts to develop a Monitoring Mechanism in the Member States.
Asylum and Migration
In September 2020, the European Commission proposed a new Pact on Migration and Asylum. By seeking to provide a comprehensive approach to migration, the Pact aims to restart negotiations on the reform of the Common European Asylum System. This will require the endorsement of the Council and the European Parliament.
Belgium has always supported the implementation of an European asylum policy. Our country believes that cooperation in Europe must be intensified in order to bring about uniform procedures, fair burden sharing, better reception standards, reinforced external borders and better protection in the regions of origin.
In the discussions on this European Pact and against the backdrop of the global strengthening of human rights, our country adopts a constructive approach, aiming in particular at a fair balance between solidarity and responsibility on the one hand, and between internal and external aspects on the other.