Informal JHA Council, 13-14 September, Copenhagen

Danish EU Presidency press release: Informal Meeting of the Ministers in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, 13 – 14 September 2002

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"On 13 – 14 September 2002 the Informal Meeting of the Ministers in the area of Justice and Home Affairs will take place. Ministers of Justice, Interior and Integration from the EU Member States will participate together with Commissioner Antonio Vitorino and the chairman of the Committee on Citizens’ Freedom and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs.

The Informal Meeting will take place at Eigtveds Pakhus in Copenhagen.

Minister of Justice Lene Espersen and Minister for Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs Bertel Haarder will be hosting the meeing.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers and US Attorney General John Ashcroft have been invited to participate in parts of the meeting.

At the Informal Meeting there will be discussions on six central issues of importance to the EU co-operation on Justice and Home Affairs:

1. A common refugee definition (to be discussed Friday 13 September, 9.00 – 11.00 am)

On October 31 2001 the Commission proposed a Council Directive on minimum standards on the qualification and status of third country nationals and stateless persons as refugees and as persons otherwise in need of international protection (protection qualification directive).

The aim of a common refugee definition is to approximate Member State’s practice with regard to recognising refugees and persons otherwise in need of protection and thereby limit asylum shopping.

The Danish EU-Presidency has chosen to prioritise the negotiations of the protection qualification directive. A prioritisation which finds support in the conclusions from the European Council in Seville. The Presidency has prepared a discussion paper with a number of questions, which are meant to provide an opportunity for an informal
discussion of some of the core problems of the directive and hopefully pave the way for the future negotiations.

2. Integration of third country nationals (to be discussed Friday 13 September, 11.00 –12.00 am)

The European Council has on several occasions focused on the integration of third country nationals with a legal stay in the Member States. Reference is especially made to the conclusions from Tampere, Nice and Seville.

On 4 – 5 July 2002 the Danish EU Presidency hosted a conference on integration of third country nationals on the labour market. Given the numerous requests from the European Council to put more emphasis on integration issues and as a follow-up of the conference an informal discussion regarding this item is foreseen. The Presidency has formulated a number of essential questions regarding which conditions are of importance in order to achieve successful integration and on how an informal ex-change of positive experience and best practice may take place in the future.

3. A common return programme (to be discussed Friday 13 September, 3.00 – 4.15 pm)
The Commission presented a Green Paper on a Community Return Policy on Illegal Residents on 10 April 2002. The Green Paper tables a number of proposals, which may form part of a common policy regarding return. In the conclusions from the European Council in Seville it is stated that - based on the Green Paper – elements of a return programme, including an accelerated repatriation to Afghanistan, have to be adopted at the latest by the end of the year.

On this background the ministers responsible for asylum and immigration will be presented with a number of questions on which persons should be included in a return programme and how such a programme should operate. There will also be a discussion of how a concrete return programme to Afghanistan could be implemented.

4. The Schengen co-operation and the enlargement (to be discussed Friday 13
September, 4.15 – 6.00 pm)

The enlargement of the EU will result in the new Member States joining the Schengen co-operation, entailing the lifting of the internal border control combined with a series of compensating measures, including an efficient control of the external borders and access to the Schengen Information System.

The Schengen acquis will however not be applied in relation to the new Member States until the Council has ascertained that the conditions are met. This presupposes among others that the candidate countries have implemented the Schengen acquis and are able to employ the rules properly and efficiently. Beyond this, a series of technical questions, among others in relation to the enlargement of the Schengen Information System will have to be clarified.

During the informal meeting of the ministers, the Danish Presidency is contemplating a discussion of the guidelines for the continued job in anticipation of the candidate countries entering the Schengen co-operation.

5. The prevention and combating of drug related crime (to be discussed Saturday 14 September, 9.30 – 11.00 am)

In December 1999 the European Council adopted a five year drugs strategy (2000-2004), which lays down the overall guidelines and objectives for the European actions in the field of drugs. The strategy was later followed-up by an action plan that outlines a number concrete actions to be taken with a view to implementing the strategy. The European Council adopted the action plan in June 2000.

A mid-term evaluation of the European Union drugs strategy and action plan will be carried out before the end of 2002.

In connection with the mid-term evaluation the Danish Presidency proposes that the political guidelines of the future actions of the European Union in the field of drugs should be discussed at the ministerial meeting.

6. The co-operation between EU and US in fighting terrorism (to be discussed Saturday 14 September, 12.00 am – 2.30 pm)

The co-operation between the EU and the US in fighting terrorism has been strengthened since the terrorist attacks on the US on 11 September 2001. In that connection negotiation have been initiated on a co-operation agreement between the US and Europol providing for the exchange of personal data. The EU and the US furthermore discuss how to strengthen the operational co-operation between law enforcement authorities. Apart from this the EU and the US have initiated negotiations on an agreement in the field of judicial co-operation with a view to extend co-operation on prosecution of criminal offenders.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has accepted an invitation from the Danish Presidency of the European Union to meet the EU Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs in connection with the Informal JHA Ministerial Meeting. At the meeting the Danish Presidency contemplates a common discussion with a view to strengthen and extend the co-operation between the EU and the US as part of the fight against terrorism."

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