The Justice and Home Affairs Council, home affairs and migration ministers discussed the draft Stockholm Programme on the 30th November 2009. There was broad consensus on creating a more secure and open Europe where the rights of individuals are safeguarded.
The ministers agreed that effective measures against cross-border crime must go hand in hand with guaranteed legal security for the individual. Police cooperation needs to be made more effective, for example by making better use of Europol, and the rights of individuals strengthened by measures including the EU’s swift accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The meeting also discussed the issue of setting up a special coordinator for combating human trafficking. The purpose of the proposal is to achieve better coordination and use of all of the EU’s resources to combat human trafficking.
“Combating human trafficking is an important priority. We have highlighted this issue in various ways. In the Stockholm Programme we set out clear objectives for action against human trafficking. A coordinator is one way of further intensifying these efforts,” says Minister for Justice Beatrice Ask.
There was consensus in the Council that the EU needs a flexible migration policy to meet future labour needs while illegal migration must be combated. The importance of a common asylum system that safeguards the rights of migrants and guarantees an effective and legally certain processing of asylum application were emphasised.
“I am particularly pleased that the EU now affirms that well-managed migration can be positive for all actors, the Member States and the EU as a whole, as well as for the country of origin and the individual migrant. This should be an integral part of the further development of a common immigration policy,” says Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy Tobias Billström.
Further, the issue of strengthened solidarity between the Member States on migration issues and the situation in the Mediterranean was addressed. In this context, discussions also addressed the role of Frontex, the rights of migrants and the level of ambition in the section on asylum policy. The Presidency also aimed for a balance that would be acceptable to all the Member States and the Council took several important steps forward.
The ministers received a progress report from the Presidency on the work to deepen EU cooperation on the area of asylum.
An agreement has been reached between the Council and the European Parliament on the establishment of a European Asylum Support Office. At today’s Council meeting, the ministers agreed to place this office in Malta. The Support Office is to promote and improve practical cooperation in the area of asylum, support harmonisation efforts in the EU and facilitate work in national agencies. The formal decision will be made at a later stage. In addition to the Asylum Support Office, the EU is striving to improve reception conditions and make them more equal across the Union. There is also a proposal for the establishment of a common resettlement programme for the EU.
On Tuesday, the EU justice ministers will continue to discuss the Stockholm Programme. The Programme is to be adopted by EU heads of state and government at the European Council on 10–11 December.
The Stockholm Programme is to define the framework for EU police and customs cooperation, rescue services, criminal and civil law cooperation, asylum, migration and visa policy for the period 2010–2014.