“Migration needs to be addressed comprehensively. A good balance between solidarity and responsibility remains the crucial element, and this must include an effective mechanism to make sure that the burden is fairly distributed among Member States,” stated the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Dr Michael Farrugia during the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers informal meeting. The informal meeting was held on the 11th and 12th July in Innsbruck, Austria, and was chaired by the Austrian Minister of Interior Herbert Mr Kickl.
High on the informal meeting agenda was the topic of migration, European border protection, and crisis-resistant asylum system. Discussions also revolved on police cooperation, human smuggling and community policing. Over lunch, the Ministers discussed the topic of promoting European values, anti-Semitism and protecting Jewish communities and institutions in Europe.
On migration, Minister Farrugia maintained that the European Union needs to pursue the different strands of work in parallel; external and internal dimension and border control. The EU needs to enhance Frontex’s capacity to operate in and support third countries by enabling it to work with third countries on border control, and enable it to support returns from one third country to another.
The Minister reiterated that search and rescue is regulated at international law under the auspices of the IMO. Member States must work within those parameters and should in no circumstances try to establish rules or guidelines outside of the IMO framework. He emphasized that the Member States carrying out search and rescue activities should not be obliged to also carry all the responsibility for disembarkation and its consequences. A lot of work on the reform of Dublin has already been done and we should further build on it and on other measures to stem flows, he continued.
The Minister also stated that the EU needs to give more support to Libyan coast guards once IMO has formally recognised Libya’s search and rescue region and assets. Minister Farrugia reminded the participants that following the code of conduct for NGO ships introduced earlier last year, there was a drastic decrease of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea. He recommended that in line with the Council of Ministers conclusions, a clear code of conduct should be drafted between the EU and those NGO ships which are eligible to participate in such activities.
Minister Farrugia thanked the eight countries who participated in the ad-hoc agreement regarding the MV Lifeline. Let’s be pragmatic in our conclusions and let’s find a solution for all European countries, concluded the Minister.
In the margins of the meeting, Minister Farrugia held bilateral discussions with the Portuguese Minister for Internal Administration Mr Eduardo Cabrita, the Cyprus Minister of Interior Mr Constantinos Petrides, the Netherlands Minister for Migration Mr Mark Harbers, and the Spanish Minister of Interior Mr Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gomez. Minister Farrugia also held meetings with EASO Executive Director Mr Jamil Addou and with Frontex Executive Director Mr Fabrice Leggeri. The Minister also held other informal meetings with his counterparts.