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Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council and Commission Pledging Conference on Relocation and Resettlement, 12 May 2011 – Brussels

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Brussels, 11 May 2011

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, in charge of Home Affairs, will meet with European Union Home Affairs ministers in Brussels on 12 May 2011 in the morning, on the occasion of an extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council dedicated primarily to the situation in the Southern Mediterranean and the presentation of the Commission Communication on Migration of 4 May. The state of play regarding the revision of the FRONTEX Regulation aiming at strengthening the Agency will also be discussed.

In the afternoon, Commissioner Malmström has invited the Home Affairs Ministers to participate in a Conference on the extension of the pilot project for the relocation, to other Member States, of persons who are beneficiaries of international protection in Malta, and on resettlement of refugees stranded in North Africa.

Main Council agenda items:

1. Migration

What is expected at this Council? The extraordinary Council will discuss the migration situation in the light of the action plan presented by the Commission in its 4 May Communication on Migration. This debate will be followed by a migration-focused discussion at the 24 June European Council.

Commission's position: The Commission expects the Council to support the main lines of action set out in its 4 May Communication on migration for a more structured, comprehensive response to the challenges and opportunities of migration. These proposals, which come in addition to the urgent short-term measures already taken by the Commission to deal with the migration situation in the Southern Neighbourhood and migration pressures on frontline Member States, will be followed by flanking initiatives in the coming weeks and months. A first series of proposals, notably on integration and migration relations with the Southern Mediterranean, will be submitted to the College for adoption on 24 May.

Background: On the 4th of May 2011 (IP/11/532 and MEMO/11/273, the Commission presented its comprehensive strategy for a common EU asylum and migration policy, also in view of the current developments in the Mediterranean. The initiatives cover various aspects of migration, including provisions for:

Effective and credible controls at the EU external border (strengthening of Frontex; exploring the feasibility of creating a European system of borders guards).

An improvement of Schengen governance (guidelines to ensure a coherent implementation of the Schengen rules; revised evaluation mechanism based on a Community approach; a possible EU-coordinated mechanism allowing for the temporary reintroduction of controls at the internal borders, as a last resort and under exceptional circumstances)

An effective and responsible approach to tackling irregular immigration (effective implementation of EU legislation and rethinking of the EU readmission policy).

Promoting mobility in a secure environment (possible development of a 'new generation' of border checks; proper use of visa liberalisation combined with safeguards).

Achievement of a Common European Asylum Policy (adoption of the Commission proposals already tabled).

Further development of common rules on legal migration and an exchange of experience and best practices on the integration of migrants.

Deepened relations with third countries in the framework of the Global Approach to Migration, in particular through enhanced dialogues and Mobility partnerships with countries in the Southern Mediterranean.

2. Strengthening Frontex Agency

What is expected at this Council: The Presidency will provide the state of play on negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the revision of the Regulation of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex).

Commission's position: The Commission expects that the European Parliament and the Council will deploy all necessary efforts to find an agreement on the Commission's proposals by the end of June, considering that such an agreement would help Frontex to better assist the EU in facing the current migration situation.

Background: In February 2010 (IP/10/184 and MEMO/10/45), the Commission made proposals to strengthen European Union's border management agency, Frontex. The proposals include reinforcing the legal framework to ensure full respect of fundamental rights during Frontex activities and enhancing the operational capacity of Frontex to support Member States. With the new proposal, Member States would put more equipment and more personnel at the Agency's disposal. Frontex would be able to co-lead border patrols operations with EU Member States or lease and buy its own assets (such as vessels or helicopters). It would also be allowed to provide technical assistance to third countries and deploy liaison officers in third countries.

  1. Evaluation and future strategy for EU readmission agreements (EURAs) What is expected at this Council? The Commission will present its Communication evaluating the implementation of the EU Readmission Agreements already in force and assessing the ongoing readmission negotiations.

Commission's position: In this Communication, adopted on 23 February, the Commission identifies weaknesses in current EU Readmission Agreements and makes several concrete recommendations for an improved and renewed EU readmission policy. For example, the Commission proposes to further enhance human rights aspects and the monitoring of the implementation of EU Readmission Agreements. The Commission also highlights the difficulty in negotiating stand-alone readmission agreements due to the lack of incentives for third countries.

Background: Readmission Agreements set out clear obligations and procedures for the authorities of the third country and of EU Member States, as to when and how to take back people who are irregularly residing in their territories. In the Stockholm programme, the Council invited the Commission to present an evaluation of EU Readmission Agreements and ongoing negotiations, on the basis of which "the Council should define a renewed, coherent strategy on readmission". The Communication will also be discussed with the European Parliament and with experts from the Member States. These discussions should finally lead to the adoption of a renewed EU readmission policy.

Pledging Conference on relocation and resettlement

What is expected from the Member States? The Member States are expected to discuss and review their commitments and pledges on the relocation of persons who are beneficiaries of international protection present in Malta and on the resettlement of stranded refugees in North Africa.

Commission's position: The Commission took the initiative to gather the Ministers, expecting confirmation of their commitment to engage in further relocation of refugees from Malta and to resettle refugees stranded in North Africa. This would demonstrate the concrete solidarity the EU and its Member States are willing to show in times of need, both internally with its own Member States and to its international partners. The Commission is ready to provide funding for the extension of the pilot project of relocation from Malta, as well as for resettlement from North Africa undertaken on a voluntary basis by Member States.

Background: The implementation of the EU relocation pilot project with Malta has been ongoing for more than a year and it has been a success in demonstrating concrete intra-EU solidarity by the relocation of refugees present in Malta to other Member States. In April, the Council adopted conclusions on solidarity, where it reaffirmed the need for solidarity towards Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements and welcomed the Commission's intention to extend the existing pilot project for the relocation of refugees from Malta. Several Member States have announced their intention to participate in this project. In its conclusions, the Council also requested the Commission to facilitate resettlement activities undertaken on a voluntary basis by the Member States, also by means of financial support. The resettlement of refugees stranded in North Africa had already been discussed at a meeting on the 25th of March, with the participation of the UNHCR, during which Member States provided information on their commitments to resettle a number of refugees from the region.