Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Schengen governanceOn 7 June 2012 State Secretary Robert Marolt attended a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg.
Within the Mixed Committee the ministers took note of the state of play of the second-generation Schengen Information System (SIS II). Its setting-up is on schedule, according to Commissioner Malmström, and unofficial results of the milestone test are good. The system has to undergo another big test, i.e. the so-called comprehensive test, which will be the first test of the functioning of all its components in practice. Slovenia regularly complies with its obligations to SIS II.
A discussion on Schengen governance followed. The Ministers took note of the Commission's report on the situation in the Schengen area. It was the first report pursuant to the Council's conclusions of March 2011, which focused on the strengthening of Schengen governance. The main topic of the meeting was the so-called Schengen package, which refers to the legislative proposals of the Commission, i.e. on a new Schengen evaluation mechanism and amendment to the Schengen Borders Code.
A key open question concerning the new evaluation mechanism is the question of the legal basis. After a lengthy discussion, member states, including Slovenia, unanimously supported Article 70 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This legal basis, unlike Article 77, which was proposed by the Commission, makes it possible for the evaluation mechanism to remain under the competence of the member states though with a considerably strengthened role of the Commission in the preparatory and follow-up phases of the evaluations. Once established, the new evaluation mechanism will further strengthen mutual trust and functioning of the Schengen area and protect the right to free movement of persons as one of the key benefits of the EU. The ministers agreed that the European Parliament should be strongly involved in the negotiations on the new evaluation mechanism despite the changed legal basis.
The proposed amendment to the Schengen Borders Code, which also received political support in the Council, foresees a special procedure if serious deficiencies in external border control are established (Article 26) when quick response is required to exceptional circumstances that threaten the functioning of the Schengen system as a whole. On this basis it will be possible to temporarily reinstate control at internal borders under the conditions laid down in the Regulation. Member states were in agreement that they would need to retain the exclusive competence in cases when the fundamental areas of national sovereignty were at stake, i.e. maintaining public order and providing internal security.
During the regular part of the meeting ministers adopted conclusions on a global alliance against child sexual abuse online. It is one of the priorities of the EU. Slovenia expressed its strong support to the development of such an alliance.
In the afternoon the ministers took note of the state of play concerning the establishment of the Common European Asylum System. The Danish Presidency made significant progress in this area and in late May the mandate was confirmed for the beginning of negotiations with the European Parliament on the most demanding dossier in this framework, i.e. the Asylum Procedure Directive. Even though it is without doubt an important step towards the final goal, Slovenia has some reservations concerning certain solutions, which we believe will have a negative impact on the duration and effectiveness of procedures. "We have been pointing this out from the start, and I reiterated it today," State Secretary Marolt said.
The Council also took stock of the implementation of the Council conclusions on solidarity, i.e. on measures adopted to help Greece. The Commission also informed ministers on the current status of negotiations as regards readmission agreements. At the end of the meeting State Secretary Marolt briefed the ministers on the conclusions of the Brdo ministerial conference.