The "external dimension" of the area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ) was formalised in the Hague Programme on "strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union", approved by the European Council in its meeting of 4 November 2004. In 2005, the European Commission and Council published, at a few weeks interval, a Communication on "a strategy to the external dimension of the AFSJ" and a "strategy for the external dimension of JHA" in an effort to develop further the guidelines established by the European Council. The present study provides an overview of the various activities undertaken under the umbrella of this so-called "external dimension" (Section 1). It does so by scrutinising the coherence between the stated objectives of the EU in this domain, and the actual developments that have taken place since the approval of the Hague Programme, paying specific attention in the process to the issue of fundamental rights and freedoms. In the light of this assessment, the study also envisages the future prospects of the "external dimension" (Section 2), which will feature in particular in the next EU multi-annual programme on the AFSJ to be adopted in 2009 (the "Stockholm Programme" in its current denomination). We will, in this perspective, take into consideration what the Lisbon Treaty, should it enter into force, has in stock as regards the legal basis and Parliament competences in the context of the "external dimension", and develop a set of recommendations for the LIBE Committee insofar as this domain is concerned.