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NEWS

Interior Ministers in Bucharest discuss migration and asylum policy and stepping up the fight against terrorism

Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar attended an informal meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Bucharest on 7 February 2019. The main topics were the EU’s migration and asylum policy, the stepping up of the fight against terrorism in the EU, and police cooperation in a globalised world.

During the morning discussion on strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation, the ministers examined the recommendations of the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Terrorism. Generally, they endorsed the conclusions and recommendations, which coincide with the activities in the Member States. Minister Poklukar emphasized the importance of a multi-sectoral approach for the prevention of radicalisation that could lead to violent extremism or terrorism. “Our experience shows that good results can only be achieved through involving all relevant actors who come into contact with individuals in their daily work. We need to address all stages of radicalisation, including forms of hostility and rejection. Special attention should also be paid to activities on the internet.” Terrorism should be tackled in a comprehensive, planned and systematic manner. We need to act proactively to prevent the development of the first indicators of radicalisation leading to terrorism through violent extremism. It is essential to promote the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders, in particular schools, health institutions, and social and probation services. Mr Poklukar emphasised there needs to be a connection between an internal and external dimension: “Slovenia has consistently pointed out that the Western Balkans region should continue to be an area of priority due to its geographical proximity. A lot has already been done to share best practices and transpose EU standards into the region. Slovenia will continue its activities through the initiative on integrated approach to internal security, which has already produced some tangible results and has established partnership with third countries.”

 

Further, the Ministers addressed the challenges faced by Member States’ law enforcement agencies in the digital age. The Romanian Presidency suggested strengthening the exchange of experience and expertise, particularly in the area of digital platforms and applications used by law enforcement agencies. The ministers welcomed the proposal and agreed that the Europol platforms and the existing ENLETS data exchange network should be used to that end.

 

A lunch discussion was focused on the Schengen area. Mr Poklukar pointed out that a return to the normal functioning of the Schengen system and enabling its smooth operation has always been and will continue to be one of Slovenia’s key priorities. He regretted a stalemate in the talks to amend the Schengen Borders Code, which would lead to greater transparency in decision-making process regarding the re-establishment and prolongation of internal border controls. “Schengen is not our property, it belongs to our citizens. So we must do our utmost to restore our citizens’ confidence in a normal functioning of the area of free movement of persons.” the Minister said. He also noted we should be aware this is one of the key freedoms of the EU having the greatest impact on people’s daily lives.

 

In a debate on migration and asylum policy of the EU, the ministers supported the development of a temporary solution to address the issue of the relocation of migrants rescued at sea until the conclusion of the negotiations on the common European asylum system. The Commissioner explained the solution would consist of a set of temporary measures based on the idea of supervised centres, with EU agencies providing assistance to Member States, and with the Commission providing funding. In principle, such a solution was also accepted by Mr Poklukar, who pointed out that the temporary mechanism should be predictable and “developed in such a way as to avoid any pull factors. This can be made possible provided that only the persons entitled to international protection are included in the (voluntary) relocation scheme, while others who are not eligible for such protection have to be returned. The temporary mechanism should also take into account absorption capacities of Member States.” Relevant EU agencies play an important role in this regard and should work together more closely even within the existing mandate”, said the Minister. We also need to further strengthen cooperation with third countries to curb illicit migration flows (some progress has already been noted in the recent period, particularly in border control and in countering smugglers and trafficking in human beings). Assistance to third countries should be continued in order to further build reception capacities (e.g. in Bosnia and Herzegovina), to reinforce channels for legal entry into the EU and to achieve effective return (through return and readmission agreements).

 

In the margins of the meeting, Minister Poklukar met with his counterparts from Croatia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Greece and Sweden.