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In Brussels among other on managing migration

Today, 6 December 2018, Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting took place in Brussels, attended by Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar.

The ministers began the meeting by discussing the Regulation amending the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation. The mostly focused on two topics – support provided by the European Border and Coast Guard in the area of return and cooperation with third countries. Support measures include cooperation between the European Border and Coast Guard and the member states in the area of return, technical and operational assistance to member states in all phases of return, and the information exchange and return management system. The renewed framework for cooperation with third countries gives the European Border and Coast Guard a stronger mandate to assist the security agencies of these countries in managing their borders. »Let me point out that the circle of beneficiaries also includes the Western Balkan countries,« minister Poklukar said in his press statement.


The Republic of Slovenia supports the extended mandate of the European Border and Coast Guard with regard to return activities and cooperation with third countries. »Both elements are of key significance from the aspect of migration management and the Agency needs to play its part in this. I can say that this opinion is shared by a large majority of my colleagues, which is why we confirmed the general approach on these two issues today.« As regards the remainder of the regulation proposal, particularly the issue of the standing corps, Slovenia still has reservations. »As a general rule, however, we can agree to the gradual setting up the standing corps.« Also, Slovenia retains reservations regarding the final figure of 10,000. »Moreover, we have still not seen the criteria, i.e. the distribution key to determine the obligations of each member state. Considering that practically none of the colleagues present here today was prepared to adopt such a proposal by the Commission, I expect that this issue will be revisited soon.«


The ministers also discussed the involvement of the European Border and Coast Guard in Western Balkan countries. »As you are aware, Slovenia is interested in deploying its missions to Western Balkan countries as soon as status agreements have entered into force. Since the existing legal basis already provides the Agency with considerable opportunities to cooperate with third countries, I expect concrete steps to be taken in the next months.«


In further discussion, the ministers addressed the Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. Due to its ubiquity, the World Wide Web is becoming the key channel of communication used for planning serious crimes, including terrorism. Although the efforts at EU level to counter terrorist content began as early as in 2015, terrorist content is still present and circulating on the web, posing a serious threat to the citizens. This is why in its Regulation proposal the Commission proposed a new approach with clear and transparent rules prescribing that objectionable content be quickly and efficiently removed from web platforms. »In today’s discussion I emphasised that the Republic of Slovenia supports the regulation of this issue at EU level. We consider this proposal a welcome addition to the tools available to deal with dangerous content online. Yesterday I attended the Ministerial Meeting of the EU Internet Forum. Based on what was said at the meeting, I can reaffirm that the adoption of this proposal is a matter of urgency in order to confront the terrorism-related challenges. In general I believe that the compromise proposals are a step in the right direction. Some of the text, however, remains open. I therefore proposed to my colleagues to give ourselves more time and let the experts examine the text one more time. While the proposal of the Presidency was confirmed (by qualified majority), I expect that the remaining open issues will be resolved in the next stages.«


Over a working lunch, the ministers discussed the current situation regarding migration management. The Austrian Presidency prepared a document summarising the measures taken  at EU level to better manage migration. »I can say that the many measures taken have been reflected in a reduced number of arrivals on certain migration routes. The document places great emphasis on the measures aimed at better protection of the EU external border, which is something Slovenia has constantly been calling for.  I have therefore welcomed such an approach and their efforts.«


Minister Poklukar reminded his colleagues of the statement made yesterday by Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, that following all the efforts and actions undertaken to better protect our external borders and to ensure security, we believe the time has come to take steps to lift the temporary reintroduction of internal border controls and fully restore Schengen. »I strongly agree with his assessment.« The minister also pointed out that as far as the Republic of Slovenia is concerned, solidarity is a pillar of migration management and asylum system and this should not change. However, solidarity must not be enforced because if it is, it loses its meaning and role. »I agree with colleagues who said that solidarity always goes hand in hand with responsibility.« When discussing solidarity and responsibility, we must keep in mind the main objectives of the reform of the Common European Asylum System. The key objectives are: to ensure quick access of asylum applicants to the asylum procedure and to ensure the examination of the merits of an application by a single, clearly determined member state. »Moreover, it is of key importance for Slovenia for a mechanism to be created at EU level to enable quick and effective asylum procedures in crisis situations. The reality is that such a mechanism is currently lacking in the EU. Only in this way will we be able, as the EU, to effectively help persons who are truly in need of international protection and will not encourage the distribution of illegal migrants with our decisions.«


Later in the meeting, the ministers will discuss topics related to police cooperation. They will review the document prepared by the European Commission in cooperation with EU agencies which contains a comprehensive list of measures to strengthen the fight against migrant smuggling. »You will know that this a large problem in the Western Balkan region, which is why I will welcome the document,« minister Poklukar said in his press statement.


On the sidelines of the meeting the minister met with some of his counterparts, believing that personal contact is very important and provides a good opportunity to exchange information.