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8.4.

1999 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 96/133

Answer given by Mrs Gradin on behalf of the Commission

(12 October 1998)

The statement to which the Honourable Member refers binds only the Council. However the Commission is also
naturally committed to the principles of openness and transparency.

1. As early as 1994, the Commission adopted Decision 94/90/ECSC,EC,Euratom of 8 February 1994 on public
access to Commission documents (1) to grant wide access to internal Commission documents. This act applies to
all areas of Commission action, including justice and home affairs (JHA). The press and individual citizens make
regular use of this provision to obtain documents on JHA matters. There is a period of one month within which
the Commission must process any such requests and there are very limited reasons for which access cannot be
granted, such as the protection of public interest, or individual privacy.

2. The Commission is currently preparing a website to further enhance access by the public to work in this
field and allow for regular updates on new initiatives. The website will be accessible through the Europa-server.

3. The Commission is committed to close co-operation with the Parliament on the basis of Article K.6 of the
Treaty on European Union which is also considered the appropriate way of ensuring transparency toward national
parliaments. Any action proposals established by the Commission in the JHA field are routinely addressed to the
Parliament, and as a matter of routine the Commission suggests to each Presidency that the Parliament be
informed of any further legislative development.

4. The Honourable Member is reminded that the report containing the third pillar acquis is a Council document
and a request to allow for its publication would have to be addressed to that institution.

(1) OJ L 46, 18.2.1994.

(1999/C 96/191) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2677/98


by Gerhard Hager (NI) to the Council

(1 September 1998)

Subject: Environmental crime

The Presidency-in-Office has declared that the fight against organised crime will be a key area of its programme.
It maintains that the threat posed needs to be tackled through individual and joint action.

The conclusions of the Cardiff Summit noted that environmental crime was a serious, disturbing matter whose
effects often extended beyond national borders. The Council was consequently duty-bound to take steps.

What practical steps will the Council take to discharge that duty?

What particular forms will those measures take?

How will the measures affect criminal prosecution in the Member States?

Reply

(22 October 1998)

The Meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union held on 28th and 29th May 1998
highlighted, at the initiative of the Danish Minister of Justice, the problems associated with environmental crime.
Further, the discussion at the Cardiff Summit in June 1998 concluded that serious environmental crime was a
grave problem, often with cross border effects.

Within the Council, the Multi Disciplinary Group on organised crime is in the course of implementing a multi
faceted Action plan which aims effectively to prevent and repress those forms of criminal activity which threaten
the organisation and structure of civilised society. In recent months the Multi Disciplinary Group has considered
a paper submitted by the Danish delegation relating specifically to the problem of serious environmental crime,
and consideration is now being given to the best way of pursuing the particular issues raised in this document.
C 96/134 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 8.4.1999

The Austrian Presidency lists the fight against international crime as one of the main objectives of its Presidency,
and action in this area will take place, in whatever form that criminality presents itself.

It should be noted additionally that within the Council of Europe work is continuing on a draft Convention on
Environmental Crime. The Member States of the European Union have actively participated in this work. It is
expected that this instrument will shortly be opened for signature.

(1999/C 96/192) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2679/98


by Gerhard Hager (NI) to the Council

(1 September 1998)

Subject: Judicial cooperation

Organised crime is a priority issue for the Austrian Presidency. Inadequacies in the judicial cooperation system
foster every form of cross-border crime. To speed up and enhance the effectiveness of legal relations, the Council
has adopted a joint action to facilitate direct contacts among authorities. Another measure intended to serve the
same purpose is a proposal currently under discussion to improve judicial assistance procedures, which, however,
fails to address key questions. Further steps are absolutely essential in order to tighten up judicial assistance and
extradition procedures.

1. Will the current Presidency make any moves to speed up and enhance the effectiveness of judicial
cooperation?

2. If so, what will be the substance of its proposals, and what form will they take?

3. If not, why is the Presidency neglecting to explore the avenues open to it?

Reply

(9 November 1998)

The Austrian Presidency is fully committed to the strengthening of arrangements in the field of judicial
cooperation in criminal matters between the Member States of the European Union. This is a topic which was
identified as a priority in the Action Plan to Combat Organized Crime (1) approved by the Amsterdam European
Council and the Presidency recognizes that, while a significant amount has been achieved in that area in recent
years, there is a need to ensure that further progress is made as quickly as possible.

Under the Austrian Presidency the main focus of attention in the field of judicial cooperation will be the
completion of the draft Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters which will enhance and update, as
between EU Member States, the provisions of a number of very important international instruments. Work on the
draft Convention is at an advanced stage and the Presidency is making every effort to enable it to be brought to a
successful conclusion with the minimum of delay.

While the draft mutual assistance Convention is concerned with a wide range of matters, it is undoubtedly the
case that there are other judicial cooperation issues which could usefully be addressed at EU level. Rather than
hold up the adoption of the Convention, it has been agreed that the relevant additional issues should be considered
separately. This is a project which is currently being taken forward by the Austrian Presidency.

Another major priority for the Austrian Presidency has been to secure the effective establishment and functioning
of the EU judicial network which was established by way of a Joint Action adopted on 29 June 1998 (2). The
primary purpose of the new network, is to promote contacts and communication between practitioners with a
view to reducing difficulties and delays that could otherwise arise in relation to requests for judicial cooperation.

It should also be noted that, under the Joint Action adopted on 5 December 1997 (3) for evaluating the application
and implementation at national level of international undertakings in the fight against organized crime, an
evaluation process is under way in respect of judicial cooperation arrangements in operation in Member States.