Justice, liberties, citizenship & home affairs

Justice, liberties, citizenship & home affairs

The S&D Group is committed to protecting the rights, freedom and security of all citizens across the EU, whatever their ethnicity, religion or sexuality.

Whether it be dealing with the terrorist threat in Europe or the humanitarian crises on our shores, our approach in the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee is always based on solidarity and co-operation amongst member states. Within our own borders, we must safeguard the progress Europe has made in advancing the rights of minority groups such as Roma and LGTBI communities.

Through our work in the legal affairs committee, the S&D Group ensures that we can respond to the new challenges arising in the online world. We need appropriate data protection and copyright legislation so that we can protect citizens’ online privacy and allow EU innovation to flourish.

In the petitions committee, our MEPs work to bring the EU institutions closer to its citizens. We want to ensure that their voice is heard in Brussels and that their concerns are dealt with directly.

We are committed to a positive approach to legal migration and integration, despite rising xenophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric from the right wing.  The S&D Group strongly believes that the EU cannot remain passive while tragedies unfold on the high seas in the Mediterranean, but must ensure our approach is based on co-operation and solidarity, and people in distress receive the protection they need.

The refugee crisis has shown that the EU’s immigration policy is no longer fit for purpose. We need a comprehensive response to the situation to ensure we have:

•    A system in line with our international human-rights obligations
•    A strategic approach to migration and asylum based on solidarity and co-operation
•    Safe and lawful routes into Europe for those claiming asylum
•    Creation of a truly European asylum system
•    More focus on the integration of refugees and migrants
•    Effective external-border controls to ensure Schengen can function more successfully
•    Better use of the EU budget to ensure a properly functioning migration and asylum system
•    A comprehensive international response to the ongoing refugee crisis
•    More co-ordinated action to tackle illegal migration and human trafficking

However, we need more than just a plan for irregular migration. We believe in a diverse and multicultural Europe, which respects the fundamental rights and dignity of migrants and encourages integration. Europe needs a positive approach to legal migration, constantly seeking to improve integration measures at an EU and national level – especially to guarantee education and inclusion for the children of migrants. EU citizenship should be available to – but not imposed upon – second- and third-generation migrants, who were born and raised in the EU and are part of European society.

For the S&Ds, the principles of human dignity and equality before the law are the foundations of a just and democratic society. We led the fight to enshrine non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality in the EU treaties – a legal basis for EU action. 

We are currently campaigning for the Commission to extend this to offer comprehensive protection against all forms of discrimination, despite opposition from the right-wing majority in the Council. We also want the Commission to review the existing framework decision on criminal sanctions against racism and xenophobia so that it can include other forms of hate crime, including those involving sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. 

We believe everyone has equal rights to live their lives how they choose, free from discrimination. We want the Commission to develop a comprehensive European response to the fundamental rights issues faced by LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people. An EU strategy or roadmap is needed to tackle homophobia and all other forms of discrimination suffered by people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. We have consistently campaigned to make sure this stays at the top of the agenda and have led calls for an EU response, with backing from the Parliament and EU countries.

We find it unacceptable that the situation for the European Roma community is constantly worsening. We want to see a clear action plan on ways to diminish the social exclusion of Roma people while simultaneously working to find ways to support them and increase their inclusion in society, such as improving educational opportunities, tackling racism and poverty, and giving Roma people more of a voice, politically and socially.

The threat of terrorism is one of the biggest challenges we face in Europe at this time. The horrific attacks in Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, the UK and many other countries show that we face a serious threat and we must act effectively to counter it. It is clear that we still do not share information effectively enough between national law-enforcement agencies. We support the strengthening of Europol to help co-ordinate our responses across national boundaries.

However, the fight against terrorism must not be used as a way of undermining citizens' fundamental rights and police co-operation and investigation must come with appropriate safeguards and oversight. All measures limiting citizens' liberties must be justified and proportionate, and only last for as long as the situation requires. 

Prevention should always be the priority and should include co-ordination of national policies and the promotion of good practices. Our work in the fight against terrorism covers international agreements on the exchange of terrorism-related information between the EU and third countries, tracking terrorist finances, regulation of access to chemicals or potentially dangerous substances, protection of our critical infrastructures and cyber-security.

Whistleblowers play a vital role in holding multinational companies and the global elite to account. The LuxLeaks and Panama Papers scandals would not have come to light if it wasn’t for brave individuals providing information on practices they thought were illegal, unjust or unethical. However, far too often it is these individuals that pay the price, not those they expose. We are clear that the European Union needs harmonised rules to protect whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing and defend the public interest. 

The internet affects almost all aspects of our lives and ever-increasing amounts of our personal data are online. How this data is used and processed is of fundamental importance to all of us. The S&D Group has helped bring our data protection laws into the 21st Century – with two big packages focusing on the processing of personal data by industry and government, and a second covering data used by police and criminal-justice authorities.

The contents of the new data-protection regulation show that we are serious about protecting European citizens' rights in the digital age. Companies or public authorities who process large amounts of data will have to appoint a data-protection officer to ensure that they are fulfilling their legal obligations. Even more importantly, it contains strong penalties for companies who violate the new law, with administrative fines of up to 4% of their overall global turnover.

New laws also ensure strong protections for all EU citizens in how their data can be used by police and criminal authorities. This is essential as if the data of suspects, witnesses or victims is not handled correctly it can compromise their safety as well as their right to privacy or a fair trial. For the first time we now have strict clear laws on how law-enforcement agencies can access and use personal data, which apply equally to all EU citizens. All police forces in Europe must now fully respect the fundamental right of protection of personal data.

Copyright laws should accommodate competing sets of rights (including the fundamental right of access to information and culture for users, and fair remuneration for artists and journalists), be able to cope with rapidly shifting technologies and new media, and support new economic models.

Our strong stance on fundamental civil and digital rights, including freedom of expression and communication privacy, led us to call for the rejection of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).