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EU Interior Ministers confirm Framework SIS II Timetable and agree on EUROPOL

EU interior ministers, led by Dragutin Mate, President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, discussed the proposal for a Council decision establishing the European Police Office (Europol) in Brussels today. Consensus was reached on all key questions. Some Member States requested additional explanation on budgetary expenditure and the Presidency will attempt to provide it by the April meeting of the Council. As Minister Mate pointed out, "The adoption of the decision is important, as we need a strong European police office which will support Member States with information and analysis in the fight against organised crime and terrorism."

Interior ministers unanimously adopted the conclusions on further development of the second-generation Schengen Information System (SIS II). Following the enlargement of the Schengen area, more time is needed for the development of mechanisms to ensure the stability of the system and the security of its data. After the first consultation with experts, the Presidency proposed the new date for the beginning of the system's operation to be September 2009. A more detailed timetable will be prepared by the European Commission; the Council, along with the experts, will acquaint themselves with it in June. Council President Mate said: "I am delighted that consensus has been achieved. SIS II will be one of the biggest information systems in the world with various kinds of data. Our primary responsibility is to ensure the security of data and the stability of the system. The Ministers also unanimously supported the Presidency's proposal for the setting up of "Friends of SIS II", a group of the first Member States to test the system and thus pave the way for the others."

In a mixed committee discussion, the Slovenian Presidency presented its efforts and the progress achieved with the European Parliament and Member States on the draft return directive. The Presidency believes the negotiations are in the final phase and could be concluded by May this year, with an agreement with the European Parliament to be reached in the first reading. The Presidency thus appealed to all Member States to adopt a constructive approach to enable the adoption of the directive. The latest discussions in the Council have indicated, according to Minister Mate, "that Member States want to adopt an instrument which will enable effective return procedures. Some questions remain unresolved so the negotiations with the European Parliament need to be continued."

Following the meeting, the Protocols on the Accession of the Principality of Liechtenstein to the Schengen and Dublin acquis were signed. On behalf of the EU Council, the Protocols were signed by Minister Mate, who expressed his satisfaction and stated that "the Protocols enable the Principality of Liechtenstein to accede to the Schengen area. We are aware of the significance of good cooperation with the Principality of Liechtenstein and the Swiss Confederation, which belong among our closest European partners."

During a working lunch, EU interior ministers discussed visa dialogue with the United States. The ministers were acquainted with the proposal put forward by the Slovenian Presidency on a common approach to negotiations with the United States based on common guidelines. The proposed guidelines will be further discussed by the Committee of Permanent Representatives with a view to harmonisation. It was agreed that negotiations and the signing of a memorandum with the United States will be suspended by all Member States concerned until 13 March. Further, the Commission will complete the analysis of responsibilities pursuant to the memorandum and prepare the mandate for the beginning of negotiations between the European Union and the United States. The EU-USA Troika meeting will be held on 13 March at Brdo pri Kranju.


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Date: 29.02.2008