At the 27th of January 2009, a delegation of CEP met with Mr. Jacques Barrot, vice-president of the EU and EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security. At the Commission’s headquarter in Brussels, CEP brought the spearheads of European probation to the attention of the Commissioner. “I truly support probation. I can’t wait for the probation sector to emerge as a widely accepted alternative for traditional offender punishment”, Mr. Barrot said at the end of the meeting.
The CEP initiative for an official visit to the European Commissioner of Justice dates back to over a year ago. Shortly after CEP sought contact with the Directorate General Justice, Freedom & Security of the European Commission, it was announced that Franco Frattini, Commissioner at the time, would leave his office in order to become minister of Foreign Affairs in the newly formed Italian government. In May 2008, Mr. Frattini was succeeded by the former Commissioner of Transport, Mr. Barrot. After an in initial period, he agreed to receive a delegation of CEP this January.
The CEP delegation consisted of President Patrick Madigou, Secretary General Leo Tigges and Communications Officer Koen Goei. Shortly after an introductory presentation of CEP as the European organisation for probation, Mr. Barrot indicated that he was particularly interested in further developing the European Area of Justice by making a start with the harmonisation of sanctions and alternative sanctions in the EU. This would be one of the guiding principles of the EU Action plan for cooperation on judicial matters and home affairs in the period 2010-2014, known as the Stockholm programme.
To what extend a harmonisation would be possible for the sector of probation, he asked the CEP delegation. The answer to this question logically results from the priorities which CEP had identified during its consultation round among this members at the end of 2008, i.e.
- Implementation of the EU Framework Decisions in a coordinated and monitored way;
- Research and statistics for better policy development;
- Resettlement of Offenders in order to improve the assistance to offenders on release;
- Development of a regulatory framework for the use of Electronic Monitoring in Europe as private companies start providing cross-border services;
- Establishment of a Centre of Probation Excellence to promote best practices;
- Promotion of work with the victims of crime and the contribution that restorative justice could make.
When listening to these priorities, Mr. Barrot showed a particular interested in the creation of a Centre of Probation Excellence and the design of a regulatory framework for Electronic Monitoring. In addition, he stressed the importance of uniform statistics to create an public image that does just to the reality of probation.
The Commissioner therefore expressed the wish to adopt some of these topics in the Stockholm programme and invited CEP to contact his administrative office cabinet to this matter. “That is an opportunity that CEP will seize with both hands”, reacted CEP President Patrick Madigou.