Justice ministers from around Europe are gathering in Dublin near the end of the week as euro-deputies convene a plenary in Strasbourg.
EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding and EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, along with EU justice and home affairs ministers, are in the Irish capital to discuss the Irish EU presidency upcoming priorities in the field.
“Proposals being discussed at the meeting have the potential to encourage cross-border trade, promote growth, assist law enforcement and enhance the rights of citizens across the EU,” said Ireland’s justice minister Alan Shatter TD in a statement on Friday (11 January).
The informal gathering is taking place on 17 and 18 January. Among the key issues on the table are data protection, fundamental rights, insolvency, and the seizure of criminal assets.
Breach of privacy rights from Internet giants like Google has come under recent fire in the European Parliament.
German green euro-deputy Jan-Philip Albrecht recently put forward a report that outlines stronger rules to allow individuals to remove their personal details stored on profit-making company databases.
Criminal assets also figure large in the Irish priority.
In December, the European Commission put forward proposals to make it easier to confiscate stolen property or other assets purchased through illegal means.
The value of such assets is estimated in the hundreds of billions with Italy alone topping off at around €150 billion annually, says the commission. Criminals also have huge assets in the United Kingdom and in Germany.
Meanwhile, in Strasbourg, deputies will be discussing the on-going crisis in Syria as pariah president Bashar al-Assad attempts to muster up dwindling internal support.
The discussion takes place on Wednesday in the presence of the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Also on Wednesday, deputies will vote on legislation to make credit rating agencies “fairer and more accountable.”
The legislation aims to restrict the timing of sovereign debt ratings and force the agencies into providing more detailed explanation in their deliberations.
Investors would also be allowed to claim for any damages that might occur should the agency have fumbled in its analysis.
Youth unemployment will also get the deputies’ attention.
A debate is scheduled on Monday with EU employment ministers on how to get young people a job, education or internship offer after four months’ unemployment. The debate is followed by a vote on a draft resolution Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann will address the plenary, giving his views on the future of the European Union, how to deal with the economic crisis, and the next multi-annual budget.
Back in Brussels, Serb Prime Minister Ivica Dacic will meet Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci on Thursday for EU-mediated talks on better day-to-day relations.
The stakes are high because the EU has made starting accession talks with Serbia conditional on progress in the negotiations.
Tension went up still further this week when Serbia formally adopted a proposal to give autonomy to ethnic Serb enclaves in Kosovo. The plan – which foresees a special Serb-run police force and courts – was described by Kosovo’s envoy to Brussels as an attempt to partition Kosovo.
The European Commission, for its part, will be discussing external issues during a roundtable meeting of commissioners.