This Thursday, Portuguese Minister for Home Affairs Eduardo Cabrita chaired an informal video conference between European Union (EU) Ministers for Home Affairs.
Also taking part in the meeting, from Brussels, was European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.
The agenda for the meeting included a discussion on the European Commission's proposal on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, where there was an analysis of the external dimension of migration: cooperation with neighbouring countries, the coordinated management of migratory flows in the countries of origin and transit, as well as the opening up of legal migration channels. At the press conference after the meeting, the Minister for Home Affairs mentioned that there had also been a debate on the need to set regulations based on European solidarity values.
The Portuguese Presidency will be working on three political and technical dimensions:
-The external dimension of migratory policies, based on the principle that migration is a common challenge for Europe that should include dialogue with third countries of origin and transit, reinforcing cooperation for development, the prevention of hazardous journeys and irregular crossings, and investment in legal migration routes.
-Controls on the external borders of the European Union, particularly through Frontex, which implies the reinforcement of human, financial and technological resources.
-The balance between the principles of responsibility and solidarity, in all Member States, in order to respond to migratory challenges.
The importance of Schengen
The video conference between the Ministers for Home Affairs also addressed the importance of concerted safeguarding and management of the Schengen area. Minister Eduardo Cabrita believes that “Schengen is one of the main achievements of the European project and it is essential for the freedom of movement of people and workers, but also for the defence of the internal market”.
This is why Members States are in agreement “as to the importance of keeping Schengen in operation, defending its relevance and coordinating operations regarding measures restricting movement, justified by health reasons”, the Minister for Home Affairs explained.
The 27 Member States also discussed Europol's new mandate and its coordination with the police forces in each country.
Minister Eduardo Cabrita said that the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union has undertaken a commitment to work intensively with the European Commission and with the Member States so that at the next formal Council, to be held in March, it will be possible to adopt a convergence strategy between all the Member States. A Jumbo Council will also be prepared, to be attended by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and the Ministers for Home Affairs with the aim of discussing the external dimension of migration.
“Commitments are needed on migration and asylum”
While admitting that it was not easy to reach a consensus on migration and asylum, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson highlighted the importance of this. Johansson pointed to the difficulties related to the fact that the ministers have been unable to meet in person since the European Commission presented the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. She went on to say that the debate on this topic will continue over the coming months and that the discussion at this meeting was “very constructive and the Member States showed their willingness to continue the technical and political debate so that this dossier can proceed”.
The role played by Frontex, as well as some concerns related to its operation, were also on the agenda for the meeting. In the Commissioner's opinion, the European Union “must trust in a Frontex that is robust and functional when it comes to issues of migration and asylum, the Schengen area and security”.
Ylva Johansson expressed her enthusiasm about the planned Jumbo Council, which will bring Ministers for Home Affairs and Ministers for Foreign Affairs together: “Because the external dimension is critically important and much can be done in terms of return and readmission and the fight against human trafficking.”