EU: Meeting of the interior ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom

Meeting of the Interior Ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, Heiligendamm, 22 and 23 March 2006

CONCLUSIONS

The interior ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom met in Heiligendamm, Germany, on 22 and 23 March 2006. They welcomed the interior minister of Poland as a new addition to their group founded in 2003.

The co-operation between the six countries is intended to provide an additional impetus to strengthening the area of freedom, security and justice. Similar to a “laboratory” this small circle will draw up concrete proposals to intensify co-operation in European home affairs. Other EU Member States will be fully informed about proposals made by the G6 countries and can participate in their implementation.

In order to promote integration and fight illegal immigration and terrorism, the ministers have agreed on the following specific measures.

1. Promoting integration and combating illegal immigration

The ministers emphasized the major importance of successful integration for the stability of society. Against this background, they agreed on an intensive exchange of information about their integration programmes and prerequisites, particularly information on types and methods of related tests, if in place. The ministers decided to set up an expert working group to analyze the possibility and main contents of an integration contract with immigrants or comparable instruments.

With a view to the dialogue with the Muslim Community, they agreed to inform each other about the consultation mechanisms and structures of dialogue in place in their countries as well as the inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue and cooperation with countries of origin.

The ministers are convinced that for integration efforts to have lasting success European partners need to have a common understanding of the basis for migration into Europe and effective strategies for combating illegal immigration.

The ministers therefore intend to intensify co-operation in fighting illegal immigration and link national centres. Experts from all authorities concerned (border police, police, immigration authorities) should work together to ensure information is shared at the necessary levels. With the support of EUROPOL, joint investigative teams are to be deployed to combat smuggling and trafficking of human beings or related crimes.

The ministers are committed to working towards adopting a common list of safe countries of origin and support the Commission's and the Presidency's efforts to this effect.

In addition, the ministers are committed to rapidly introducing the Visa Information System (VIS), including a sponsor’s database in VIS and police access to EURODAC, as well as full access of authorities responsible for internal security to VIS. They welcomed the fact that based on the French BIODEV II initiative, diplomatic missions abroad and selected border checkpoints will make greater use of biometrics prior to the introduction of VIS.

With regard to returning illegal residents, the ministers agreed to coordinate their action in dealing with countries of origin and transit particularly in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, to take co-ordinated action encouraging greater cooperation with third countries and to actively support the Commission in negotiating and concluding readmission agreements as emphasized in their common letter to vice-president Frattini. The ministers have decided to take concerted action with the foreign ministers in order that the countries concerned significantly improve their rates of delivery of travel documents. They will assess the actions taken and results obtained with regard to the issuance of travel documents, and develop a common strategy for dealing with countries that still do not cooperate sufficiently.

The ministers agree that effective and long-term protection of the EU’s external borders is a prerequisite for fighting illegal immigration including deployment of national joint support teams of experts in times of crisis; the latter should closely cooperate at operational level with the competent national authorities or centres.

Therefore, they agreed on intensive involvement in joint operations organized by FRONTEX. To improve the information basis, EUROPOL and FRONTEX should draw up joint situation reports and analyses on illegal immigration. This should be a high priority for Europol`s Organised Crime Threat Assessment.

Ministers confirm that increased attention should be devoted to migratory flows from Africa, particularly insofar as they concern illegal immigration, and have agreed to intensify operational cooperation among EU members and improve dialogue and cooperation with African countries of origin and transit. This approach will contribute to implementing the activities foreseen by the "Global Approach on Migration" as set out in the Council Conclusions of 15 and 16 December 2005. The ministers will task an expert working group coordinated from the Canary Islands to establish a regional immigration network in the coastal area of Western Africa, comprising the officers already deployed in this region, in order to enhance operational cooperation and coordination. The same approach should be applied to other parts of Africa, Asia, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

2. Fighting terrorism

In view of the continued threat posed by terrorism, the ministers will maintain the intensity of their counter-terrorism efforts. By taking the following specific measures they intend to enhance their cooperation even further:

- Sharing the task of drawing up joint analyses of Internet use by terrorist organizations (“check the Web”), with the participation of EUROPOL. This will allow the focused use of resources and will lead to notably better results.

- Developing joint support teams that will offer operational assistance in case of serious terrorist attacks: These expert teams or liaison officers will provide on-site support to an attacked country on its request.

- Institutionalizing mutual information visits to the national counter-terrorism centres to further improve the sharing of information and best practices and enhance cooperation.

- Mutually and systematically exchanging information on people expelled by G6 countries for preaching racial or religious hatred, or related activity.

3. Fighting drugs and organized crime

The ministers stressed that fighting drug trafficking and organized crime is a continuing high priority. In this context, the ministers placed special emphasis on South America and the Caribbean as well as on Afghanistan, the Balkan Route, Turkey and West Africa. In order to fight drugs more effectively, they agreed that experts would look into best ways of cooperation between the relevant authorities of the six countries, including the possibility of setting up regional centres in the main countries of origin and transit. Therefore they have welcomed the initiative to make joint use of existing liaison networks in the Western Balkans should cooperate more closely in order to tackle any criminal activity. EUROPOL plays an important role as an information clearing house within the EU.

4. Principle of availability

The ministers again highlighted the importance of significantly improving cross-border information exchange between law enforcement authorities, as already set out in the Hague Programme. To rapidly achieve this objective, they advocate focusing on DNA, fingerprints and motor vehicle registration data. At the same time they stressed that the promising model offered by the Prüm Treaty, including online requests and hit/no hit access, should be considered at EU level as soon as possible.

The ministers underscored that rapid implementation of the availability principle must not depend on the adoption of a framework decision on data protection in the third pillar.

5. Schengen Convention

In order to achieve a tangible improvement of cross-border police cooperation in particular through the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement (CIS), the ministers seek to revise the CIS based on the standards of the Prüm Treaty. This includes, for example, allowing Member States to request assistance from other Member States in the case of major events, large-scale disasters and serious emergencies.

6. SIS II / VIS

The ministers stressed that the planned introduction of the second-generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) and the Visa Information System (VIS) has high priority. They also emphasized that authorities responsible for internal security of participating states must have full and effective access to both SIS and VIS to satisfy the interest of all EU Member States in efficient crime control. In order to ensure a smooth transition to SIS II, the ministers agreed that the existing distribution of system operation responsibilities should remain unchanged.

7. Progress made so far

The ministers welcomed the positive results of cooperation achieved so far and declared that they intend to continue their work in these areas unabated:

- The sharing of information in the field of counter-terrorism has been expanded significantly and will be intensified even further in the future (exchange of data concerning persons suspected of terrorist activity; setting up a joint email early warning system in case of theft of explosives, arms, etc; establishing a monitoring regime for primary substances used in the production of explosives).

- G6 countries have sent a clear message on illegal migration by organizing joint flights to return illegal immigrants, subject to individual removal orders. The sound cooperation mechanism established on the basis of a consolidated network of contact points has proved its worth. The G6 will increase the number of flights and intensify involvement of FRONTEX and the other Member States.

- The ministers’ calls for including biometrics in national identity documents were incorporated in the decision of the EU Council of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs on 1-2 December 2005.

The decision of the Council of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs of 12 July 2005 designated EUROPOL as the central agency for euro counterfeiting, laying the groundwork for an even more efficient fight against euro counterfeiting and successfully implementing the initiative launched at the meeting of interior ministers in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.



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