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Interior ministers discuss asylum system reform and migration in Brussels

Minister of the Interior Boštjan Poklukar attended a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels on 7 March 2019.

In a media statement, the minister summarised the discussions in four main topical points: 
- reform of the Common European Asylum System and resettlement, 
- cooperation between the EU and third countries on migration, 
- home affairs policies, 
- EU response to terrorism.


The EU needs a more flexible asylum system as soon as possible, one that is suited to present and future challenges. It is the foundation for a future comprehensive and functioning migration policy, according to Poklukar. "There was unanimous agreement on this. Where there was far less unity among the Ministers’ views was on the issue pointed out by the German minister, i.e. are we ready to give up the package approach and complete the proposals that are closest to an agreement in the Council. As you know, Slovenia has advocated the package approach right from the start of the Common European Asylum System reform, which means the adoption of an entire package of seven regulations. The regulations are so closely interlinked that they cannot be implemented separately." 


The Minister went on say that we were not happy with the delay in the negotiations. After two years some results should be noticeable; instead, the negotiations practically came to a halt last year. "In order to make some progress at last, I was prepared to show some flexibility today as regards the package approach. I said that we could accept the removal of the Regulation on the European Union Agency for Asylum from the package and its swift adoption. As for the Eurodac regulation and the framework regulation on resettlement, we have some doubts, mostly because they are so interlinked with the other documents in the package, particularly the Dublin regulation," Poklukar said. The Minister had already discussed this so-called mini-package with his German colleague in the morning. 


The European Union has recently intensified its cooperation with third countries in the field of migration. The discussion focused mostly on Northern African countries. Slovenia supports such engagement as only in this way can we actively contribute to reducing migratory flows. We have always welcomed all the activities and measures aimed at achieving this goal and have supported the EU efforts in training the Libyan coastal guard and supporting border checks in southern Libya, Niger and Chad. We will support such measures in the future as well as it is important that assistance is provided to other third countries as well (Morocco and Tunisia). A region that is very important for Slovenia is the Western Balkans and we will devote a large part of our concrete endeavours to this region. 


Over lunch the Ministers discussed the future of home affairs policies with an emphasis on migration policy. According to Poklukar, “the Ministers kept coming back to the topic of the Common European Asylum System, yet no progress was made, which means that the asylum reform remains unsolved.” 


The agenda for the afternoon part of the meeting included a discussion on the EU response to terrorism. The Presidency prepared a document on what had been done in combating terrorism since 2015. The Minister stressed the importance of prompt implementation of the adopted measures in all Member States. "Due to the horizontal nature of these issues we have to ensure effective coordination of measures between EU agencies. The emphasis should be especially on the upgrade and improvement of the already established tools, such as Schengen Information System, Passenger Name Records and exchange of data from national police data bases (Prüm Treaty)." The Minister believes that we need to particularly focus on radicalisation prevention, strengthening of cooperation with intelligence services and cooperation with third countries and other stakeholders. The Western Balkans must remain one of the priority regions, especially on account of its geographic proximity and significance for security in the EU. Here Slovenia is very active and the Integrative Internal Security Governance (IISG) is an excellent platform, which together with other players in the Western Balkan region can effectively contribute to strengthened cooperation in accordance with our standards. Last week, the fourth meeting of the IISG committee took place in Skopje, where some decisions were adopted which are important for the future of IISG and its enhanced efficiency.