The last two weeks have seen EU Member States discuss matters related to asylum and migration in three Council configurations.
At the Justice and Home Affairs Council (11/12 October) a report on the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) as represented by the Austrian Presidency. The Commission proposal on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCG) was discussed. Member States expressed their general wish to strengthen the mandate of the EBCG, in particular on returns and cooperation with third countries. They also shared their views on the size, composition, tasks and powers of the EBCG standing corps, as well as on the timeframe needed to fully establish the corps.
Ministers also discussed a Commission proposal reforming the return directive. They generally welcomed the proposal and agreed that the number of returns of those without the right to stay needs to be improved. Ministers focused, in particular, on one of the new elements introduced by the proposal: the border procedure for returns, including its links with the asylum border procedure.
Ministers held a debate on the Commission sectoral proposals for the field of home affairs in the context of the Multiannual Financial Framework and the question of the implementation of the external aspects of migration in these proposals more specifically. Most member states agreed on the inclusion of dedicated components for the purpose of addressing the external dimension of migration in the thematic facility of each home affairs fund.
During the Foreign Affairs Council (15 October) the external aspects of Migration were discussed together with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. Ministers were also briefed by the Director-General of the International Organisation for Migration António Vitorino. They took stock of progress and recent developments, and underlined the importance of the strategic partnership between the EU, the IOM and the UNHCR in Libya.
The European Council (18 October) highlighted the importance of strengthening cooperation with countries of origin and transit, particularly in North Africa, on migration. Member States decided to establish a joint task at Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre. Smuggling networks’ online communications should be better monitored and disrupted. The Council, with the support of the Commission, is invited to develop a comprehensive and operational set of measures to this end by December. The European Council invited the European Parliament and the Council to examine, as a matter of priority, the recent Commission proposals on the Return Directive, the Asylum Agency and the European Border and Coast Guard, ensuring the most efficient use of resources and developing common minimum standards of external border surveillance, with due respect for the responsibility of the Member States. The Council also encouraged the Austrian Presidency to continue the work on the CEAS reform with a view of concluding it as soon as possible.
Photo: (CC) Global Panorama, November 2014