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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Commission Report [COM(1999) 69 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Commission Report [COM(1999) 508 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Commission Report [COM(2000) 708 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Commission Report [COM(2001) 700 final - SEC(2001) 1751 - Not published in the Official Journal]

Commission Report [COM(2002)700 final - SEC(2002) 1407 - Not published in the Official Journal]

Commission Report COM(2003) 675 final - SEC(2003) 1206 - Not published in the Official Journal

Treaty of Accession to the European Union [Official Journal L 236 of 23.09.2003]


According to the February 1999 Report, the main short-term requirement to be fulfilled by Malta was the withdrawal of the geographical reservation it had applied to the Geneva Convention. Malta also had to provide more information on the practical implementation of the laws on asylum, prevention of illegal immigration and combating organised crime, particularly the drugs problem and the means used to deal with it. Finally, efforts were required to ensure that Malta played a greater part in international judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters.

In its October 1999 Report, the Commission stressed that Malta needed to adopt a number of legal instruments and to strengthen its capacity to implement Community law, particularly in areas such as asylum, immigration control and the fight against organised crime and drugs.

In the November 2000 Report, the Commission found that progress had been made in the field of justice and home affairs. Although efforts still needed to be made to ratify a number of conventions relating to judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, the degree of alignment on the acquis was deemed satisfactory on the whole.

In its Report of November 2001, the Commission stated that, since the last report, Malta had achieved little progress in the field of justice and home affairs.

In its Report of October 2002, the Commission concluded that Malta had made satisfactory progress in bringing its legislation and structures in the field of justice and home affairs into line with the acquis. Prior to accession, Malta must now focus on bringing its policies on visas, immigration and customs cooperation into line and on effective application of such policies, particularly as regards the Schengen action plan, asylum, data protection and money laundering.

The November 2003 Report congratulates Malta on the progress made in 2003 but encourages it to focus on the plan of action for adopting the Schengen criteria and on asylum law. In particular, Malta should shorten asylum procedures and improve its reception and detention facilities for asylum seekers.

The Treaty of Accession was signed on 16 April 2003 and accession took place on 1 May 2004.


Free movement of persons

The principle of free movement and the right to residence of all European citizens is provided for by Article 14 (former Article 7a) of the Treaty as well as by the provisions on European citizenship (Article 18, former Article 8a). Among the matters of common interest to the Member States, the Maastricht Treaty included asylum policy, the crossing of the external frontiers of the Union and immigration policy. The Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force on 1 May 1999, incorporated these into the EC Treaty (Articles 61 to 69), while making provision for a transitional period of five years before Community procedures would be applied to the full. In the long term " an area of freedom, security and justice " will be created without checks on persons at internal frontiers, irrespective of their nationality. At the same time, common rules must be laid down relating to checks on the external frontiers of the Union, visas, asylum and immigration policies. The action plan of the Council and the Commission of 3 December 1998 sets out a timetable for the measures to be adopted in order to achieve these objectives within five years.

Some Member States already apply common rules in these areas under the Schengen Agreements, the first of which was signed in 1985. These intergovernmental agreements have been incorporated into the European Union following the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty and now constitute part of the Community acquis to be adopted by the applicant countries.

Poland has stated that it wants to comply with the provisions of the Schengen Agreement. It has begun to prepare for this and has asked the Member States for assistance, in particular with regard to the strengthening of checks at the external frontiers.

Asylum policy

European asylum policy, a matter of common interest to the Member States since the Maastricht Treaty, is based mainly on instruments without legal force such as, for example, the London resolutions of 1992 on requests for asylum manifestly unfounded and the principle of "host third countries" or on international conventions such as the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees.

On 15 June 1990, under the Schengen Agreements, the Member States signed the Dublin Convention, which came into force on 1 September 1997, determining the State responsible for examining applications for asylum lodged in one of the Member States of the European Union. This matter had not been settled by the Geneva Convention but various implementing measures were subsequently adopted by the Committee that it set up.

In addition to the Council and Commission action plan of 3 December 1998, a comprehensive strategy is necessary. Hence the task force on asylum and migration set up by the Council.

Immigration policy

Immigration policy, a matter of common interest since the Maastricht Treaty, comes under intergovernmental cooperation in the field of home affairs but does not yet really exist as a European policy. No rules have been drafted relating to the entry into the Community and the right of residence of nationals of non-member countries. However, the action plan of 3 December 1998 does provide for the adoption of specific measures in this area.

Judicial cooperation in civil matters

Few measures have been adopted in the area of judicial cooperation in civil matters, an area in which the EU can act since the Maastricht Treaty. To date, the most important measure is the Convention on the service of documents in civil or commercial matters in the Member States of the European Union. Following the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty, there is now a proposal for a Regulation to replace this Convention. The main instruments to facilitate civil judicial cooperation have been drafted at international level (the Brussels and Rome Conventions, for example).

In addition, in December 1998, the Council and Commission action plan listed the objectives to be attained in the medium term (two years) and the longer term (five years) and set out the list of measures to be adopted for that purpose.

Police, customs and judicial cooperation in criminal matters

The existing legislation in these fields stems mainly from the cooperation framework defined in Title VI of the European Union Treaty or the " third pillar ". The Amsterdam Treaty amended the legal provisions in the matter by creating a link with the " area of freedom, security and justice ". Now Title VI deals mainly with police cooperation, the fight against organised crime, the fight against drug trafficking, the fight against corruption and fraud, judicial cooperation in criminal matters and customs cooperation.

The existing legislation relating to justice and home affairs presupposes a high degree of specific cooperation between government departments as well as the preparation and effective application of rules and regulations. To this end, the first "Octopus" programme was financed by the European Commission and the Council of Europe between 1996 and 1998. The aim of "Octopus II" (1999-2000) is to facilitate the adoption of new legislative and constitutional measures by the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and also by some Newly Independent States along the lines of the rules in force in the EU by providing training and assistance for all persons responsible for the fight against corruption and organised crime. In addition, a pact to combat organised crime was signed by the EU and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe on 28 May 1998.

Within the Union, the Council and Commission action plan of 3 December 1998 sets out the various measures to be adopted in the short term (two years) and the medium term (five years) in order to establish a genuine area of freedom, security and justice. These measures include the setting up of the European Police Office (Europol), the organisation of relations between the Office and the judicial authorities of the Member States, the incorporation of the Schengen acquis relating to police and customs cooperation, and the organisation of the gathering and storage of the requisite information concerning transborder crime.

The Europe Agreement and the White Paper on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the internal market

The Europe Agreement with Poland includes provision for cooperation in the fight against drug abuse and money laundering.

The White Paper does not deal directly with third-pillar subjects, but reference is made to first-pillar matters such as money laundering and freedom of movement of persons, which are closely related to justice and home affairs considerations.


A new law on data protection entered into force in March 2002. An appeals committee for data protection matters was set up in 2003. However, Malta has not yet fully aligned its legislation with the Community acquis.

There has been progress on aligning visa legislation on the Community acquis. A new visa system has been introduced which imposes visa requirements on nationals of 42 countries. Malta must still bring into line with the Community acquis its list of third countries whose national do not need a visa.

With regard to external border controls and preparations relating to the Schengen acquis, Malta has adopted a "Schengen Action Plan". This plan analyses manpower needs at border-crossing points and in the offices which will be linked to the national Schengen Information System (SIS). Malta has continued preparations to participate in the second generation SIS (SIS II). In the course of 2003, Malta signed bilateral cooperation agreements with Albania, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Libya, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey. A similar agreement is being negotiated with Morocco. Malta is currently modernising its border-surveillance equipment. The coastguard possesses an ultramodern patrol boat and should be receiving a second in 2004.

With regard to immigration, Malta has fully aligned its policies on transporter responsibility, illegal immigration and employment, admission of self-employed foreign nationals and family reunification. The readmission agreement concluded between Malta and Italy was signed in December 2001 and has since come into force. Similar agreements have so far been negotiated with Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. Administrative structures to combat illegal immigration are in place but efforts must be stepped up.

Following the adoption of the new asylum law in 2000, Malta has appointed the personnel who will be responsible for vetting asylum applications. The individuals concerned, along with the border police, have received specific training. In December 2001 Malta lifted its geographical reservation regarding the Geneva Convention.

As regards implementing the legislation, Malta must step up its efforts concerning fast-tracking, legal aid and integration for persons with asylum-seeker status. The lengthy procedure involved means that asylum seekers are kept in detention centres for several months.

In December 2000 Malta signed the United Nations convention against transnational organised crime (Palermo Convention) and its first two protocols. Cooperation agreements on this subject have been signed with Slovakia, Hungary, Tunisia, Sweden, Greece and, more recently, Albania. Similar agreements are being negotiated with fifteen other countries. Amendments have been made to the criminal code, bringing Maltese legislation into line with the Palermo Convention - the offence of trafficking human beings has now been incorporated. Malta still has to align itself on the EU Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of 29 May 2000 and to sign the United Nations Protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition. In the field of police cooperation, Malta possesses a solid, reliable and perfectly coordinated police force. However, it has not yet concluded a cooperation agreement with Europol, despite having officially applied to participate as an observer.

As regards the fight against terrorism, Malta has ratified the main agreements in force, including the 1999 UN Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism Financing.

Malta has signed all the Council of Europe conventions on corruption. In November 2000 it signed the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. The amendments to the criminal code adopted in April 2002 aimed to implement the Protocol of 27 September 1996 attached to the Convention on the Protection of the European Communities' Financial Interests, and took account of the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (1999). Malta still has to ratify the Civil Convention on Corruption, which it signed in January 2003.

With regard to drug prevention, Malta has been participating as an observer at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction since January 2003. It has also adopted a national drug-prevention strategy for the period 2003-04. Implementation of the strategy needs, however, to be further improved by the signing of cooperation agreements with Bulgaria, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

In the fight against money laundering, Malta has aligned its legislation with the Community acquis by adopting in August 2003 the Money Laundering Prevention Act. A financial information service has also been set up, but its information system needs to be adapted and the training of its judges and public prosecutors improved.

As regards customs cooperation, Malta is currently aligning its legislation on the 1997 Convention on mutual assistance and cooperation between customs administrations (Naples II). The same applies to the 1995 Convention on the use of information technology for customs purposes. Cooperation and mutual aid with certain Member States and third countries has begun with the signing of bilateral protocols with Italy, the United Kingdom and France. Malta must step up efforts to implement the 1996 Joint Action on cooperation between customs authorities and business organisations on combating drugs trafficking.

As far as judicial cooperation in civil matters is concerned, Malta has ratified two additional protocols to the European Extradition Convention. On criminal matters, it has taken part as an observer in the European Judicial Network. The amendments to the criminal code adopted in April 2002 allow ratification of the additional protocol to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. Malta must also ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime. The 2003 report notes that the administrative structures directly linking judicial authorities are now in place, but need further improvement.

Malta has ratified all the human rights legal instruments which are part of the justice and home affairs acquis.

Last updated: 10.08.2005