Secretary of State,
Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Poland
“Key outcomes of the Polish Presidency of the EU
in the field of immigration and asylum policy”
Ü Eurasylum: Some of the key priorities of the Polish Presidency of the EU (September-December 2011) in the field of immigration and asylum have included the development of new instruments to manage legal migration; a discussion of the future of the Global Approach to Migration in relation to Eastern Europe and Central Asia; the development of new capabilities for the management of sudden influx of third country nationals; the development of an effective and sustainable policy on returns and readmission of irregular migrants; and actions to conclude work on the establishment of the Common European Asylum System by the end of 2012. Can you guide us through the main activities and decisions relating to immigration and asylum under your Presidency?
Ü Piotr Stachańczyk : As far as legal migration is concerned, the Polish Presidency has continued the work started during the Belgian Presidency on the three directives relating to intra-corporate transferees, seasonal workers and a single permit. The latter is close to adoption both in the Council and in the European Parliament. Regarding the former two directives, there are still some outstanding issues that need to be agreed by the Member States. Due to their political sensitivity and technical complexity, this process will still require more time and will certainly be taken over the Danish Presidency.
Legal migration is not only about economic migration, but also integration. Therefore, the Polish Presidency has been working on the Council Conclusions on the integration of third-country nationals residing legally in the European Union. These Conclusions will provide a basis for further developments in this field during the upcoming Danish Presidency.
In terms of asylum, one of the key priorities of the Polish Presidency in the area of Justice and Home Affairs has been to expedite the work on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). For this purpose an agreement was reached with the European Parliament, which made it possible to adopt the so-called Qualifications Directive that harmonises the criteria for granting international protection and the content of protection statuses granted throughout the European Union. Together with the European Commission, the Presidency has carried out intensive work on the Asylum Procedures and Reception Conditions Directives, putting forward recast proposals on 1 June 2011.
We have achieved positive outcomes on the discussion of the Reception Directive – the negotiations at expert level were finalised, which will facilitate further work by the Danish Presidency. The Polish Presidency was also able to identify the most important issues for the discussion relating to the Asylum Procedure Directive. The Presidency paid particular attention to breaking the deadlock in the negotiations over the Dublin and Eurodac Regulations. In concert with the Danish presidency, we developed a proposal for an early warning mechanism. The decision to include the mechanism in the Dublin Regulation was taken at the Coreper meeting on 2 December 2011, and will be confirmed during the upcoming JHA Council on 13-14 December. Despite great efforts and frequent talks with both the Commission and the Parliament, the Presidency was not able to convince the Commission to present the new proposal of the Eurodac regulation.
On the occasion of this year’s 60th anniversary of the signing of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the JHA Council also adopted a declaration to mark this event at the meeting on 27-28 October. The Convention is the most significant international document on asylum law, and an inherent element of the EU asylum system.
The Arab Spring in the first half of this year obviously caught the attention of the EU. During the Polish Presidency actions in this regard, especially efforts to launch the Dialogue on migration, mobility and security, were continued. The Dialogue (which included Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt) is the first step to enhance cooperation with these countries in terms of migration in its broad sense, and will be followed at a later stage by a GAM instrument in the form of partnerships for mobility. The Polish Presidency has been supporting the process, among other things through its participation in political missions to Tunisia and Morocco. Moreover, in terms of the EU’s southern relations, the 3rd Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development took place in Dakar on 22 and 23 November this year, where the joint Declaration on a strategy for cooperation for 2012-2014 (the ‘Dakar Strategy’) was adopted.
The Polish Presidency also witnessed considerable improvement in cooperation on migration issues with the Eastern neighbours of the EU, both politically and operationally. The Eastern Partnership project was expanded through a Panel on Migration and Asylum which was developed on the basis of experiences and outcomes of the Söderköping Process. After completion of the negotiations, the partnership on mobility was signed with Armenia on 27 October 2011. On 3 and 4 November 2011 the 2nd Ministerial Conference of the Prague Process – Building Migration Partnerships was also organised with fifty EU and non-EU countries, which ended with the adoption of the 2012-2016 Action Plan.
The ongoing GAM evaluation process, including the EC Communication on “The Global Approach to Migration and Mobility”, provided the Presidency with the possibility to launch an extremely significant discussion, in which we would like to continue to participate during the upcoming Danish and Cypriot Presidencies.
Ü Eurasylum: During your Presidency, particular attention was given to possible ways to move forward in negotiations on the Dublin regulation based on the concept of an early warning and preparedness process, in the form of an “asylum evaluation mechanism”. Such an evaluation mechanism would be used as a tool for the prevention of asylum crises and could be set up in parallel to the ’emergency mechanism’, which has been strongly advocated by the European Commission. Can you describe, briefly, the main issues inherent in these negotiations, and the main decisions reached?
Ü Piotr Stachańczyk : The mechanism of early warning, preparedness and asylum crisis management is a response to all the discussions around the transfer suspension mechanism included in the Dublin Regulation. The Presidency has proposed the establishment of the asylum evaluation mechanism. At the September JHA Council meeting, the Ministers expressed unanimous support for the idea of introducing an early warning mechanism that includes an asylum evaluation procedure. In cooperation with the incoming Danish Presidency, we drafted a document that lays down the details of this concept in the short term, which would include the establishment of an identification and quick response system for any shortcomings of the asylum systems of Member States resulting from major mixed migration flows.
The system would include two stages: continuous monitoring of the situation in the Member States in order to provide immediate responses and the establishment of a structured response mechanism in case of growing crisis threats. Such a mechanism would consist of gathering information and estimating the needs of Member States under particular pressure. The key role in this process should be played by the European Asylum Support Office. The Presidency is still working on particular issues that need to be agreed upon with regard to the details of the provisions and rules of operation of the proposed mechanism. We hope that the support of Member States, the Commission and Parliament for the proposal will make it easier for the incoming Presidencies to complete the CEAS by the date specified in the Stockholm Programme.
Ü Eurasylum: Another key focus of your Presidency was on the discussion of the so-called “Schengen governance package”, which consists of a Commission Communication and two legislative proposals for a regulation on a revised Schengen evaluation mechanism and for an amendment to the Schengen Borders Code regarding the rules for the temporary reintroduction of border controls at internal borders in exceptional circumstances. Can you highlight any progress achieved in this area?
Ü Piotr Stachańczyk : The Polish Presidency has taken vigorous action to strengthen the Schengen area in order to respond to the emerging challenges of the Schengen governance. Already at the informal JHA Council meeting held on 18 July 2011 the Ministers of Internal Affairs were able to share their positions regarding the possible strengthening of the Schengen area. After the Schengen governance package was published by the European Commission, the Polish Presidency launched a discussion among the Ministers of Internal Affairs at the September JHA Council meeting.
The new Schengen evaluation mechanism is a priority element in the process of strengthening the Schengen area. The Polish Presidency took action that resulted in a first reading in the Council that was completed on 18 November this year. Currently, the Polish Presidency, in cooperation with the Danish Presidency, is working on a consolidated version of the document that will be used as a basis for further discussion in the Council. The Polish Presidency has defined the problem issues that require further political decisions. Therefore, the Schengen governance package will also be a topic for discussion at the JHA Council meeting in December, with a view to providing further directions on this topic and to continue the process actively.
As regards the amendments to the Schengen Borders Code concerning the rules for the temporary reintroduction of border controls at the internal borders in exceptional circumstances, the Presidency has managed to complete the first reading of the proposal at the level of a working party which resulted in the identification of the main issues for political guidance in further works. On that basis, the Presidency prepared a document outlining possible options to be discussed at the meeting of the JHA Council in December.
Already at this stage of the discussion it has become clear that Members States are keen to reform the whole mechanism for reintroducing border controls at internal borders, in particular by transferring their national competences related to the internal security and public order to the Commission. However, as was requested by the European Council in June 2011, there is room for further discussion on how the mechanism of temporary reintroduction of border controls at the internal borders should be formulated in case of persistent serious deficiencies related to external border controls. After the political guidelines are worked out by the end of the Polish Presidency, it is likely that this issue will be examined in more detail by the subsequent Presidencies.