The first informal meeting of ministers of the interior during the Slovenian Presidency was held today at Brdo pri Kranju. It was chaired by Dragutin Mate, Slovenian Minister of the Interior and President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU. In the morning session the EU ministers, for the first time in this configuration, discussed the interim report of the High-Level Advisory Group on the Future of European Home Affairs Policy after 2010 (Future Group). The second part of the morning session was devoted to practical cooperation on asylum.
Minister Mate said: "Today we discussed possible directions of policy-making on security issues, which are very relevant for the future of all EU citizens. We had a very interesting and fruitful discussion with a lot of good ideas, which will help us to prepare a draft future programme of data exchange, migrations, visa policy, border management and external relations."
At the four meetings of the group held so far, the ministers of the present and future Trio Presidencies and Vice-President of the European Commission, Franco Frattini, discussed different aspects and the future of the policy after the expiry of the Hague Programme. Today's discussion was dedicated to a broad exchange of positions on how to develop effective information exchange in law enforcement cooperation at the national and European levels, as well as with third countries, and what systems to use. The ministers agreed that migrations represented a challenge to the EU and that integrated border management with a common visa policy was the right approach. Setting up better security in third countries also plays an important role.
Minister Mate stated: "This is a very important debate as it creates proposals for strategic measures in the area of freedom, security and justice for the Member States holding the presidency in the future and the European Commission. The Future Group will meet two more times during the Slovenian Presidency and will discuss border management, police cooperation and asylum." Summaries of today's debate will be discussed at the next meeting of representatives of its support group (Sherpa), while the final report will be presented at the informal Council under the French Presidency in July this year.
Further discussion was devoted to exchanging opinions on what practical cooperation between Member States on asylum should be like in the future. "The ministers agreed that practical cooperation represented a basis for the harmonisation of national systems and will, in addition to the new legislation, contribute to the setting-up of the Common European Asylum System. A unified European asylum policy would raise the level of legal certainty for third-country nationals seeking protection in Europe on the one hand and prevent 'asylum shopping' and reduce illegal immigration into the European Union on the other," Minister Mate asserted.
The European Support Office also received backing for activities concerning its further setting-up. Such an office could provide effective practical cooperation in the area of asylum. Its tasks, responsibilities and financial structure will need to be studied more in detail in the future.
The ministers also supported the exchange of information on countries of origin. To this end the European Commission proposed the creation of a common portal for the exchange of information on countries of origin.