Thursday, 26 January 2012

Copenhagen Informal JHA Council Meeting...how does EASO fit in?


Today and tomorrow EU JHA Ministers are meeting in Copenhagen in the information JHA Council Meeting.  Although the meeting is informal, in the sense that no formal decisions are taken, the meeting is nonetheless an important one since its discussions are strongly triggered by the Presidency's priorities, and will play a key role in shaping the discussions and decisions taken during the formal meetings.

EASO features in many of the discussions being held, and on the Presidency's site you can find (left hand column) a number of thematic discussion documents for download.  We particularly recommend Discussion paper 1 on Solidarity, as this is where EASO features most prominently.

And since we have a particular liking for Commission Malmstr öm, we're pasting her blog post on her participation at the informal meeting.

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FORMAL INFORMAL IN COPENHAGEN

I’m attending a so-called informal council meeting in Copenhagen. And by “informal”, I don’t mean relaxed discussions by the fire, without any strict agenda. On the contrary, we are more numerous than ever – all EU member states, candidate countries, Schengen countries, plus all our agencies – EASO, Frontex, Europol and Cepol, aswell as the chairman of the LIBE committee in the European Parliament. Thus, a fairly large group of people, in the enormous conference hall at Bella Center.
The difference from a “formal” ministerial is that we don’t take formal decisions.
On the agenda is, among other things, the issue of solidarity in asylum matters as well as the green paper on family reunification and the proposal to create a European system for passenger data, PNR.
The first discussion, about solidarity in asylum matters, was launched by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. As usual, he was crystal clear in his statements and reminded us all that 80 percent of the world’s refugees are in developing countries. It’s always good to be reminded of the global perspective.
The discussion was somewhat fluffy – everyone supports solidarity in asylum matters between EU member states in principle, but few are willing to create a coordinated system for actually helping member states that are under great pressure. However, all member states are contributing to relieve the situation in Greece, and almost all are contributing with resources to the EASO and Frontex agencies. We are also close to being in agreement on the European resettlement program. These are all positive steps. The European Commission is also trying to add a monitoring system and a early warning mechanism to the so-called Dublin regulation, in order to identify problems in member states’ asylum systems. So, there was an unwillingness to commit to concrete targets, but a fairly good discussion none the less.

Discussing with High Commissioner Guterres. Photo: Mia Åsenius
During our lunch, we spoke about integration and family reunification. Family reunification is a vitally important element in the integration of refugees and a fundamental right. The provisions in this field are specified in an EU directive, and according to the Stockholm Program (which sets the framework for a large part of our work), this directive is to be reviewed. Now, the Commission has published a green paper with questions, open for debate. Integration problems exist, as do cases of abuse of the system – such as arranged marriages – but the question is if those problems are solved with a new directive. A majority of countries seemed to think that such a solution would not be the best one. The consultation is ongoing, and everyone can have their say.
Soon, we will be discussing a European PNR system, after which we are having dinner, courtesy of the Danish Presidency. Tomorrow, I am off to Malmö and Lund in my home country of Sweden.

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