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Minister Mate on surveillance of the EU external borders to protect citizens while ensuring openness and accessibility

Dragutin Mate, Slovenian Minister of the Interior and President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, chairs the Ministerial Conference  on the Challenges of the EU External Border Management at Brdo pri Kranju today. At the opening of the conference he emphasised: “Slovenia, which is situated at the Union's external land and maritime border, is hosting an important event – the first political discussion on the challenges of future EU external border management. We are faced with rapid demographic changes, requiring deliberate and decisive action, while on the other hand we wish to preserve the internal security of Europe and its citizens.”

The ministers opened the conference with a presentation of the Commission's Communication on the evaluation and future development of the Frontex Agency. Since its establishment in 2005, the Agency has successfully completed the introductory period and undertaken its tasks. The Agency has achieved good results in coordinating operational cooperation, training and risk analysis. It would make good sense to give consideration to setting up specialised regional operational centres to coordinate activities in certain areas. Minister Mate said: “The Member States note that it is possible and necessary to strengthen the role of Frontex within the existing mandate. In the long term, integrated border management will have to be developed in full respect of human rights and according to the principle of burden sharing and solidarity, particularly in high risk areas at the external EU border.” The discussion showed that most delegations agree with the measures put forward by the Commission in its evaluation. The Member States expect that Frontex will fully implement the 2008 work programme. Further, they supported strengthened long-term cooperation between Frontex and the third countries in border management.

The short-term priorities of the Frontex Agency also include risk analysis and situation assessment, which the Agency is already successfully undertaking. In the future, it will strive to cooperate with other organisations such as Europol and with the competent authorities of the Member States. As regards joint return operations, the direct role of Frontex and the participation of the Member States will have to be strengthened.

Among the long-term priorities, utmost importance should be given to cooperation with third countries in border management within the framework of a global approach, while defining and strengthening the role of Frontex.

In further discussion on the future challenges of EU external border management, the ministers discussed new ideas and technological possibilities that might enhance border control and allow persons to be identified reliably. They focused on the facilitation of border crossing for “bona fide” travellers, an automated entry/exit system and an Electronic System of Travel Authorisation (ESTA). Minister Mate stated: “We have had a positive experience as regards the introduction of large information systems such as the Schengen system, which provide greater security and strengthen border control. Today we discussed the development and possible application of new technologies by means of which we wish to prevent undesired access to the EU, and from our discussion it seems quite clear that in the future we can expect their introduction.” However, the discussion also showed certain reservations, as the introduction of new technologies should neither totally replace the human factor in carrying out border control, nor prevent the facilitation of passenger flow at all types of borders. According to Minister Mate, it will be necessary “to consistently respect human rights by maintaining a high level of personal data protection against abuse.” The delegations agreed that the results of the pilot projects that are currently underway in various Member States should be taken into account. Further, most states supported a study to be carried out by the European Commission on the feasibility and added value of the Electronic System of Travel Authorisation (ESTA).


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Date: 12.03.2008