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Minister Mate: By adopting the Return Directive we have achieved one of the key objectives of the Slovenian Presidency

At today's session, Members of the European Parliament adopted the proposal for the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (the Return Directive).

After being discussed at yesterday's session, which was also attended by Slovenian Interior Minister and President of the Home Affairs Council Dragutin Mate, the proposal for the Directive was adopted at first reading by the Parliament today. Minister Mate emphasised: "By adopting the directive, we have achieved one of the key objectives of the Slovenian EU Presidency in the field of Justice and Home Affairs. This is the first instrument that will govern, based on common standards at EU level, the legislation applicable to the return of illegally staying third-country nationals and their rights. In most countries, significant progress will be made as regards the duration of temporary custody, which will be shorter."

Following difficult negotiations in the Council working bodies, where the Member States had been seeking a compromise since 2005, and after three political trialogues with the European Parliament and the Commission, the Slovenian Presidency in late May received sufficient backing by the Member States at the level of the Permanent Representatives Committee to formulate a proposal for the Return Directive. The Parliament approved the text of the proposal, except the article concerning free legal assistance, which it proposed harmonising with the provisions of the Asylum Procedures Directive. After additional bilateral negotiations with the Member States and an additional political trialogue with the European Parliament on 4 June 2008, the harmonised text of the proposal was approved on the following day by the Justice and Home Affairs Council, which sent it again to the European Parliament. Minister Mate stated that the negotiations in the Council had been extremely difficult, given that the previous presidencies had been seeking for two years to find a common position in the Council that could form the basis for negotiations with the Parliament, although with very limited success.

With this Directive, return will no longer be left to national legislation but will be regulated at European level, which represents great progress. The Directive regulates the basic rights of people in return procedure, offering everyone the possibility of voluntary return, while placing special emphasis on vulnerable groups, determining that in view of the possibilities, persons in return procedure should be guaranteed the right to family unity, basic medical care and access to education in the case of minors.

Minister Mate concluded by saying that with the adoption of the Directive, we have successfully met the challenge offered by the European Council in December, which had been to adopt an act guaranteeing the necessary rights and assurances to persons in return procedure, while at the same time enabling smooth implementation of such procedures.


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Date: 18.06.2008