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Minister of the Interior and JHA President Dragutin Mate at the Meeting of the Future Group on European Asylum Policy, Integration and Police Cooperation

Dragutin Mate, Minister of the Interior and President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, co-chaired the Meeting of the High-Level Advisory Group on the Future of European Home Affairs Policy at Brdo pri Kranju today. The interior ministers of the current and upcoming trio presidency, one minister of the subsequent trio presidency from early 2010 to June 2011, Vice-President of the European Commission Jacques Barrot, and representatives of the General Secretariat of the EU Council discussed the future of asylum policy, integration and police cooperation.

Minister Mate stated: “Today’s discussion confirmed that we are on the right track and that we share common views on future asylum policy, police cooperation and integration. Since its official establishment last year, the Future Group has met four times, while today’s meeting of the Future Group has been the first to be held under the Slovenian Presidency. At the January informal ministerial meeting we discussed the interim report on the work of the group and received positive responses by the Member States, which is an important signal for our future work.” The final report on the work of the group is already being drawn up and coordinated by the group of experts called “Sherpa” and will be discussed at the next meeting of the group this June. The final report will be presented at the informal Council under the French Presidency, and will serve as a source of ideas for the European Commission in drafting the next five-year plan in the area of home affairs.

In the discussion the ministers reaffirmed that the Common European Asylum System should represent an efficient mechanism to protect persons genuinely in need of protection, and should be tied to humanitarian policy and development, while ensuring equal treatment of asylum seekers. Moreover, its establishment is also necessary to face migration, which represents a challenge for the entire EU. The ministers agreed that all efforts should be invested in maintaining the credibility of the common system and fighting against the abuse of asylum procedures (asylum shopping). The latter should be efficient, without unnecessary delays for the individuals concerned and with effective return procedures in place upon meeting the conditions. The ministers called for the establishment of transparent and fair mechanisms of burden-sharing and solidarity. Furthermore, they supported practical cooperation between the Member States and cooperation with third countries, as they can be helpful in eliminating the reasons for illegal migration and asylum flows. In this context, it was especially emphasised that asylum should be distinguished from migration. Minister Mate concluded the discussion on asylum policy by saying: “The capacity of the developing countries to receive refugees needs to be strengthened through regional protection programmes.”

The discussion of the second topic – integration – started with an introductory speech by Günther Platter, Austrian Federal Minister of the Interior, who pointed out that cultural diversity, while enriching both the Member States and the Community, represents a challenge as regards the creation of general common rules and values of co-existence. Understanding and accepting the values of the Member States and the EU are essential elements of effective integration. The discussion emphasised that successful integration is a good opportunity not only for immigrants, but also for the Member States and the Union as a whole. Since it can be an important part of security policy, integration will have to be given more attention within home affairs policies after 2010, especially as regards the implementation of integration policy at the national and local levels and the identification of a common framework and joint measures for successful integration of third country nationals. The Member States’ representatives pointed out that it is both important and urgent that integration measures be implemented in due time. The Member States will continue discussing intercultural issues and exchanging experience on intercultural challenges through national contact points on integration. The conclusions will be discussed at annual ministerial conferences on integration; the first one will be organised during the French Presidency.

At the end the ministers discussed the future of police cooperation and its strengthening in the field of training EU police officers and exchanging experience, with the intent to improve professionalism. The ministers agreed that there is still some margin of manoeuvre for operational cooperation, especially through Europol. Police cooperation can be improved by a series of measures in training, education, harmonisation of equipment standards and interoperability of telecommunication systems. Changes in security environment dictate changes in data exchange.

By way of conclusion, Minister Mate emphasised that we are increasingly faced with new and demanding challenges, which need to be followed by new measures. Strategic development relies on good ideas and visions and on the ability to find a balance between dealing with security issues and respecting human rights.


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Date: 04.04.2008