At a federal press conference in Berlin on Wednesday, 3 January 2007, the Federal Minister of the Interior, Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, presented the domestic policy work programme, “Living Europe Safely”, for the German EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2007.
To start off the informal ministerial meetings during the German EU Presidency, the EU Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs will gather in Dresden from 14 to 16 January 2007. The meeting will be chaired by the Federal Minister of Justice, Brigitte Zypries, and the Federal Minister of the Interior, Dr Wolfgang Schäuble.
Minister Schäuble stressed, “Even though we have achieved a great deal, we continue to face major challenges in Europe today. International terrorism, organized crime and illegal migration increasingly threaten our security. Especially in these areas, citizens expect Europe to provide solutions. This is at once a policy challenge and a policy opportunity. By taking decisive, joint action, we will be able to strengthen our liberty and security while gaining popular support for the common European project. Europe’s citizens need to feel that Europe provides added value for them. And we can succeed in further integrating and deepening the Community only with the support of the European population. In the long term, only a Union with reformed institutions will be capable of efficiently taking decisions that prove to be sustainable and viable for the future. All Member States must be aware of the fact that all on their own they would be overtaxed to cope with the global security challenges.
“Against this background, the Federal Ministry of the Interior has chosen ‘Living Europe Safely’ as its motto during the German EU Presidency. It stands for the challenge we have set ourselves and for citizens’ expectations of Europe.
“Our policy focuses on the interests of citizens. And this is why we also intend during our presidency to push for greater progress on practical cooperation in the field of European home affairs. The informal meeting of justice and home affairs ministers in Dresden will be a major step in this direction.”
Work programme “Living Europe Safely”
The work programme of the Federal Ministry of the Interior for the German EU Council Presidency encompasses the following issues: the fight against international terrorism and cross-border crime; joint management of migration; cooperation with third countries on domestic affairs; cooperation among public administrations in Europe; promotion of integration and intercultural dialogue; and shaping the future of European domestic policy.
With regard to fighting international terrorism and cross-border crime, Europol in particular is to be strengthened. This means giving Europol additional powers. Another priority will be transposing the Europol Convention into the EU’s legal framework. In the future, Europol should be responsible for fighting all forms of serious cross-border crime, such as a serial killer active in more than one Member State or major disruptions to internal security caused by hooligans. Another important goal is the practical implementation of the three amending protocols to the current Europol Convention. For example, the second amending protocol would allow Europol to participate in joint investigative teams put together by Member State police forces.
Another priority for Germany is improving police cooperation between Member States. Criminals must not have a chance to escape prosecution simply by crossing a border. This is why Germany will work to have the provisions of the Treaty of Prüm on fighting terrorism, cross-border crime and illegal migration, which were adopted by seven Member States in 2005, transposed into EU law. This would give all Member States access to DNA and fingerprint data and vehicle registries, for example, and would allow them to ask other Member States for police reinforcements in case of major international sport competitions or serious accidents.
The German Presidency’s work programme also calls for closer collaboration on monitoring and analysing websites used by terrorist organizations (“Check the Web”), as well as better protection for critical infrastructures against terrorist attack.
For the new Member States, closing down the last checkpoint on the internal border symbolizes EU membership. Removing such barriers helps people in the new Member States experience Europe. This is why Germany finds it important for people to be able to travel soon between the old and new Member States without having to undergo border checks. The prerequisite for opening the borders is for all Member States to be connected to the common Schengen Information System (SIS). This system allows police throughout Europe to identify persons sought on arrest warrants or banned from entering the EU, as well as stolen vehicles. The German Presidency is therefore in favour of introducing “SISOne4All”, which would give the Member States which joined on 1 May 2004 access to the system as quickly as possible. At the same time, Germany will continue to support the introduction of the second-generation Schengen Information System, SIS II, which will replace SISOne4All and add important security features, such as the capacity to store fingerprints and photographs.
With regard to the joint management of migration, the work programme in particular calls for significantly strengthening the European border management agency FRONTEX. The adoption and implementation of the FRONTEX amending regulation should therefore be expedited. In future, more joint teams of Member State border policing specialists should be deployed wherever there is a high incidence of illegal entry attempts and at all larger border checkpoints. These teams must be able to be granted executive powers by the national border protection agencies. Doing so will allow them to contribute significantly to the fight against illegal migration at the EU’s common external borders.
Furthermore, to fight illegal migration and visa fraud, the programme calls for more progress on reforming the common visa law by means of a “visa code” and for creating the conditions for even closer cooperation among the consulates of the Schengen partners. The German Presidency will also work to introduce the common Visa Information System (VIS), which makes it possible to record and compare data of visa applicants, including fingerprints and photographs. The VIS should therefore become a key element in fighting illegal migration and “visa shopping” as well as international terrorism and organized crime.
Germany will also work to improve returns of third-country nationals required to leave the country and to increase practical cooperation among Member States’ asylum authorities.
The work programme also proposes encouraging circular migration as an instrument of migration and development policy, while respecting national sovereignty and differing conditions in national labour markets.
With regard to cooperation between the EU and third countries (external dimension), the work programme emphasizes that the distinctions between domestic and foreign security are disappearing and that threats are often rooted outside the EU. For this reason, the Member States must work even more closely together on foreign relations. Maintaining a dialogue with its neighbours, with the United States, Russia and other third countries lies in the basic security interest of the EU. In particular, the strategically important transatlantic relations need to be strengthened. Challenges such as fighting international terrorism affect the US and Europe equally and can be dealt with only by working together.
With regard to strengthening administrative cooperation, Germany considers it very important for the Member States’ public administrations to work closely together also on home affairs. Efficient administration oriented on the public’s needs, stronger cooperation among the national anti-doping agencies, data protection and greater transparency for the costs of European statistics all play a special role.
An important aim of the German Presidency is to promote integration and intercultural dialogue in the EU. Europe today is home to 64 million migrants. In order to live together in peace, it is important that all acknowledge and accept our shared democratic values. The situation of immigrants is not the same in all Member States, but integration and intercultural dialogue concern all of us, and the German Presidency will work to promote them at the European level.
The work programme also calls for providing impetus to the future shaping of European domestic policy. The Hague Programme defines the priorities in the field of home affairs until 2009, when it ends. New guidelines will be needed for 2010 and beyond. And by then, the Member States and the EU will have to agree on who will act and who will bear political responsibility.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior is overseeing or participating in the following informal ministerial meetings: