top of page

The Third Pillar of the European Union known as Justice and Home Affairs


International Affairs Academy, Document of the Day - Free Professional Development

THIRD PILLAR: JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS (JHA) The Union’s objective was to develop common action through intergovernmental methods to provide citizens with a high level of safety within an area of freedom, security and justice. Under the third pillar, the Maastricht Treaty contained provisions relating to controls at the Union’s external borders, combating terrorism, the creation of Europol, the establishment of a common asylum policy, combating illegal immigration, and judicial cooperation in criminal and civil cases. The abolition of internal borders and the free movement of persons made it necessary to coordinate the national legislative and regulatory provisions, which were often very different, in a number of legislative areas. Some of those areas had already been subject to intergovernmental cooperation under the Schengen Implementation Convention of 1990, but the level of cooperation was inadequate and needed to be extended, though competence for preservation of law and order and for safeguarding internal security remained with the Member States.

The Maastricht Treaty has had a positive impact on European citizens, as they study, work and travel, and in other aspects of their daily lives. A Europe of freedom: travelling, residing and working freely in every EU country Freedom of movement and residence for persons in the EU is the cornerstone right of Union citizenship, which the Maastricht Treaty attributes automatically to every national of a Member State (‘Every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

EU citizens can move to and remain in another EU country for up to three months, or for longer if they prove that they have financial resources to support themselves, while EU students may remain for the duration of their studies. All EU citizens enjoy equal treatment with nationals of another Member State with regard to access to employment, working conditions and all other social and tax advantages. By 2017, some 14 million European citizens had chosen to work or live in another Member State and benefit from social protection and civic rights. A Europe with an identity: EU citizenship The Maastricht Treaty bestowed citizenship of the EU on the citizens of the Member States.

The rights associated with EU citizenship entailed:

the right to move and reside within the territory of the EU;

the right to vote in, and stand for election in, local and European elections in any Member State;

the right of protection by the diplomatic authorities of any Member State when travelling outside the EU;

the right to petition the European Parliament; and

the right for citizens to bring cases directly to the European Court of Justice.

The most important point was that European citizenship was not intended to supplant other identities (‘Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship’). A social Europe: social policy Under the Maastricht Treaty, the promotion of a high level of employment and social protection became one of the tasks conferred on the European Union. A fundamental objective of the ongoing Europe 2020 strategy is fostering a high-employment economy that leads to social and territorial cohesion.

The EU social policy makes it easier for workers to move freely within the EU (e.g. through the coordination of social security schemes across the Union so that workers receive their pensions and social security benefits when moving within the EU). It also limits working hours, tackles workplace discrimination and makes working conditions safer. The European Pillar of Social Rights, jointly signed by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on 17 November 2017, at the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg, Sweden, continues the policy direction introduced by the Maastricht Treaty and provides new and more effective rights for citizens.

It has 3 main categories: Equal opportunities and access to the labour market Fair working conditions Social protection and inclusion A safer Europe: security The Maastricht Treaty established Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) as one of the EU’s ‘three pillars’, and formally introduced collaboration between the Member States on policies such as immigration and police cooperation. Under this pillar, the EU created Europol in 1995, then in 1998 the European Judicial Network in criminal matters (EJN) was established, to help in the fight against serious crimes such as corruption, drug trafficking and distribution, and terrorism.

The Treaty of Amsterdam, signed in 1997, introduced the concept of the ‘area of freedom, security and justice, in which the free movement of persons is assured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.’ In 2004, the EU established the European arrest warrant, which requires a Member State to arrest and transfer a suspect or a criminal to the Member State issuing the warrant. First response teams during an exercise in the Justus Lipsius building of the Council of the European Union ‘The Social Pillar captures what Europe believes in. We want a Europe that tackles unemployment, poverty, and discrimination, a Europe that gives equal opportunities to the young and vulnerable. The Social Pillar builds on our common values and will guide our future work for a fairer Europe.’ Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, signing the proclamation on behalf of the more knowledgeable Europe: education and training, research The Maastricht Treaty established education as an area under EU competence.

Education and training are key elements of the EU’s strategy to overcome socio-economic crises affecting European countries, to boost growth and jobs, and to foster social equity and inclusion. EU educational exchange programmes such as the incredibly successful Erasmus and Erasmus+ programmes have created a genuine ‘Erasmus generation’. Studies show that graduates with international experience fare much better on the job market: they are half as likely to experience long-term unemployment compared with those who have not studied or trained abroad. By 2017, the Erasmus programme had enabled 3.5 million students to enjoy a period of higher education in another State to their own. A more connected Europe: physical and digital networks.

The Maastricht Treaty gave the EU the competence to develop trans-European networks (TENs) in the areas of transport, telecommunications and energy. This has helped to develop the internal market, reinforce economic and social cohesion, link hard-toaccess or peripheral regions with the core of the Union, and connect the EU with its neighbouring states. Since 1993, the EU transport infrastructure policy has contributed to an increasingly coherent, integrated network for all means of transportation. Back in the mid-1990s the EU started to support digital networks, with a view to developing Europe-wide broadband communications. The ongoing Connecting Europe Facility has provided more than EUR 9 billion to support investment in broadband networks and panEuropean digital services. The WiFi4EU component aims to provide free public Wi-Fi in up to 8 000 communities by 2020. A greener Europe: environment The Maastricht Treaty made ‘sustainable and non-inflationary growth respecting the environment’ one of its objectives and paved the way for further advances. The Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) integrated environmental protection into all EU sectoral policies and ‘combating climate change’ was a specific goal in the Treaty of Lisbon (2007).

The EU plays a key role in international environmental negotiations; for instance on biological diversity, protection of the ozone layer, climate change and sustainable development. In 2018, the European Commission proposed new rules to ban single-use plastic products, such as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws and drinkstirrers, which will have to be made instead exclusively from more sustainable materials; today, these products constitute 70 % of all marine litter items. A consumer-oriented Europe: consumer protection The Maastricht Treaty gave a proper legal basis to the EU’s consumer policy, situating it within the framework of the internal market and tasking it with protecting the health, safety and economic interests of consumers.

Today, the EU consumer policy safeguards consumer rights through legislation, guarantees the safety of products within the single market, and ensures that full and consistent information is available to the consumer when buying goods or services. For instance, EU rules protect against misleading advertisements, price indicators, labelling and contract terms, and require allergen information to be provided on food products, whilst origin information is mandatory for fresh meat. An economically stable Europe: the economic and monetary union and common currency - the euro The Maastricht Treaty established the completion of the economic and monetary union (EMU) as a formal objective (‘achieve the strengthening and the convergence of their economies and to establish an economic and monetary union including, in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty, a single and stable currency’).

The Treaty set convergence criteria, known as the Maastricht criteria, which Member States are required to meet to enter the third stage of EMU and adopt the euro as their currency. The purpose of setting the criteria was to achieve price stability within the eurozone and maintain it even in the event of the accession of new Member States. The day the euro was introduced on to the financial markets The completion of EMU, in the form of monetary integration, was achieved by 12 Member States in 2002, with the launch of the euro. The introduction of the euro reinforced competition between the Member States adopting the new currency, and increased price convergence. The euro also became an international currency, used extensively outside the eurozone and as a major reserve currency. Thanks to the EMU and the euro, EU citizens can travel in most EU countries without exchanging currencies, and easily transfer funds to other countries; they can borrow money with lower interest rates and they enjoy a higher purchasing power through lower inflation. A Europe with international standing: a common European policy for external affairs.

The Maastricht Treaty expressed the will of the Union to assert its identity on the international scene. Its aims were to preserve peace, reinforce international security and promote international cooperation, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The EU foreign and security policy enables the EU to speak and act as one in world affairs. With the inception of the legal personality of the EU (Treaty of Lisbon, 2007), the EU has been able to conclude and negotiate international agreements, become a member of international organisations, and sign up to international conventions, such as the European Convention on Human Rights. Acting together gives the EU’s 28 Member States far greater international weight than they would have if they each pursued their own policies. The EU is the world’s biggest trader, with the world’s second largest currency, the euro, and it is the world’s largest donor of development finance. In recent years, EU foreign policy has had a positive impact in reducing piracy in Somalian waters, re-establishing relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and securing a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015.

Consider sharing our conversation to other international Affairs professionals and students. Today is a great day to see if a professor you know can add to our discussion on the third pillar of the EU?

Recent Posts

See All

Summer BIED Society Review is here!!!! Take a look at our new authors. Our Summer conference is here! Our key speaker Kriti Upadhyaya, gave a great talk on India! We are actively recruiting new


Featured Posts