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President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council Dragutin Mate presents the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency to the European Parliament

Slovenian Minister of Internal Affairs Dragutin Mate talks in front of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee of the European Parliament

Dragutin Mate, Slovenian Minister of the Interior and President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, presented the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency in the field of Justice and Home Affairs today to the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels.

Minister Mate stated: "We have ambitious plans – the preparations for Slovenia's Presidency lasted for over two years, and activities will take place in anticipation of the successful ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. Special attention will be paid to the security of our citizens, along with the protection of privacy. We have taken over the management of part of the EU's external border, which places upon us a great responsibility for providing security, which we must justify in the eyes of European citizens".

The Minister began his presentation by underlining the effectiveness of the Schengen enlargement, which was a historic event for all of unified Europe. The positive effects of the Schengen enlargement are manifested in good results of police cooperation as well as in increased security of EU citizens through the use of the Schengen Information System. Minister Mate emhasised: "I assure you that the present external border is as safe as the previous ones and that there is no reason for concern. This was confirmed by every evaluation committee visiting our countries in 2006 and 2007". Slovenia intends to promote discussion on how modern technologies can be applied to the surveillance of the external border and to quick passenger control. This will be followed by lifting controls at airports for the new members of the Schengen area, as well as the beginning of new evaluations (Switzerland) and their preparations (Romania and Bulgaria).

Minister Mate continued by saying that the Slovenian Presidency proposes to launch a debate on developing a true common policy in the field of legal migration. This is a very sensitive area. Immigrants should therefore be enabled to integrate successfully and afforded the same opportunities for work, study and success in life. This month, a discussion has already been launched in the Council working parties on the proposal for a Directive on highly skilled workers and a Directive on the status and rights of third-country workers in the EU. Of course, the possibility of legal entry into the European Union for foreign workers will have no impact unless we develop an effective policy of returning illegal immigrants, which, according to Mate, is: "one of the key elements we have at our disposal for a stable and balanced migration policy. This is why we will give priority treatment to the Return Directive and invest all our efforts in discussing the Directive providing for sanctions against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals".

As regards police cooperation, the transformation of Europol into a European agency and the transposition of the Prüm Treaty into European legislation will be the key priorities of the Slovenian Presidency. The Minister underlined that further steps are needed here if we want to have effective mechanisms in the fight against modern crime, especially organised crime and terrorism. As for the Prüm Treaty, the Slovenian Presidency will follow up on the work undertaken by the German and Portuguese presidencies. Slovenia is planning to set up information links between national data systems. The Minister pointed out: "By having the possibility of exchanging data on DNA, fingerprints and number plates, we will actually be able to open the door to a common area of security in the European Union. Of course, any information exchange between Member States must be based on the protection of this information".

The Minister also presented the activities of the Slovenian Presidency in the area of the fight against terrorism, which will focus on continued implementation of the action plan against terrorism, while particularly concentrating on the prevention of terrorist use of explosives.

Minister Mate concluded the presentation with the topic of external relations, where a specific Slovenian contribution will be the area of the Western Balkans, adding:  "Our goals are to strengthen cooperation between police authorities in the Western Balkans in the fight against crime and to transfer certain EU security standards and good practices to that area". The Slovenian Presidency is planning to achieve this with the project "Organised Crime Threat Assessment for the Western Balkans". The long-term objective of the project is for Europol to obtain information on the activities of criminal groups in the Western Balkans, which will improve the fight against crime in the European Union.


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Date: 22.01.2008