Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said that the German Council Presidency in the field of European home affairs policy was a great success. “We have accomplished a great deal under the German Council Presidency, also in the group of home affairs ministers. Our goal was to improve practical cooperation, for instance among the police and security authorities, but also in matters concerning immigration and the joint protection of the external borders.
“At the very end of the German Council Presidency, and following in-depth and difficult negotiations with the USA, we even managed to achieve consensus on the contents of a new agreement governing the use of airline passenger data. The new agreement will replace the existing interim agreement, which will expire on 31 July 2007. It will provide legal certainty for all stakeholders, ensure a high security standard and provide robust data protection for the long term.
“We have made major progress on numerous projects and initiatives. For instance, we have reached political agreement to transpose the Prüm Treaty into the legal framework of the EU. This means that in the future Member States will grant one another automated access to their DNA and fingerprint data and to vehicle registration databases. With the entry into force of the Protocols amending the Europol Convention we will be able to adapt Europol to modern law enforcement requirements and to noticeably increase its efficiency. We have also brought about political agreement on incorporating Europol into the EU’s legal framework. In this context, Europol’s mandate will be extended to cover all forms of serious cross-border crime. We have managed to strengthen the European border management agency Frontex significantly, which will translate into improved protection for the external borders. The amending regulation enables the agency to provide rapid border intervention teams to assist Member States particularly affected by illegal migration. Furthermore, guest officers may be given executive powers during Frontex-led missions. This will make joint measures much more effective. At the same time we managed to launch a coastal patrol network in the Mediterranean Sea and around the Canary Islands, and to set up a centralized record of surveillance planes, helicopters, ships, and technical equipment provided to Frontex by Member States.
The negotiations concerning the Visa Information System have been concluded, which is a major step forward in the fight against illegal migration, helping in particular to prevent what is referred to as visa shopping. We furthermore stayed on schedule for the introduction of SISone4all. As a result, we will be able to remove checks at the borders with and between the new Member States starting at the end of the year. This is thanks to Portugal and the fact that it took over the relevant project management early this year. Finally, we have managed to institutionalize the intercultural dialogue at the European level in the first six months of this year. And we have taken a major step in the right direction by setting up the Future Group to plan the home affairs policy agenda beyond 2010.
All in all we have thus accomplished a lot, also with the help of our partners in the trio presidency, Portugal and Slovenia. The baton will now be passed on to Portugal, as it will take the lead in a few days. Our partner can count on our utmost support in facing the challenges ahead,” Minister Schäuble said.
Now it is important to follow up on several projects under the Portuguese Presidency. Apart from the introduction of SISone4all, progress is needed on the introduction of SIS II. The second generation of the Schengen Information System will bring major new features, such as the retention and communication of fingerprints and photos. It is scheduled to become operational in December 2008. Obviously, the process of transposing Prüm and Europol into the legal framework of the EU needs to be guided. Data protection in the Third Pillar and the Removal Directive will continue to be part of the home affairs ministers' agenda; however, significant progress has already been made on these issues under the German Presidency. The global approach to migration has been extended to eastern and south-eastern regions; this move now needs to be implemented by Portugal and Slovenia. Cooperation with Africa will continue as a focus. Portugal is planning to host a conference of Mediterranean countries in November. Solving the refugee situation in the Mediterranean will continue to be high on the agenda.
New items on the Portuguese agenda will include negotiating the Directive on sanctions against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals, and the Directive to cover the entry of highly skilled third-country nationals, and taking the development of the common asylum system further.
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