Stockholm, 09/02/2001 (Agence Europe)

Immigration: Mrs Klingvall, announces meeting with Albanian authorities and Troika in Bosnia and Yugoslavia


On Thursday, as we previously indicated (see yesterday's EUROPE, p.6), the Ministers particularly insisted on the need to "give impetus" to the implementation of the conclusions from the Tampere Summit (hoping among other things that the working groups within the Council - which are slow and have organisational problems - have more time to examine the proposals that are submitted to them), to harmonise asylum and immigration 12olicies in the EU and to involve the candidate countries in their work. Results of the work which took place on Thursday are:


a) implementation of Tampere conclusions. "For the continuation of our work, it is necessary to move from a national view to a European view, in order to accelerate the process," Maj-Inger Klingvall, Swedish Minister for Migration and Asylum policy told the press' He pointed out that the Belgian Presidency would, in the second half of this year, carry out an assessment of the progress achieved. Mrs Klingvall underlined that the reunification of families and temporary protection are priorities, which are especially dear to her. As for Thomas Bodstrom, Swedish Justice Minister, he cited as priorities, during the same press conference, the continuation of the work on Europol, Eurojust and the European Police Academy (including the location of the seat of the future Academy). Commissioner Antonio Vitorino welcomed for his part the fact that the Tampere scoreboard was recognised as being "a method of working" and, with regards to the right to initiatives in these matters, he asserted that "the initiatives from the governments are welcome, but only in

a) the field covered by the scoreboard and in so far as there is coordination between the Members States." Antonio Vitorino announced that the Commission would present before the end of the month of June a series of proposals - global "asylum" package, Directive on temporary protection, minimum standards for asylum seekers, reception conditions for refugees, fight against the trafficking of human beings for sexual ends, regrouping of the family for legal immigrants, French initiative against people smugglers - and hoped that these proposals would be approved under the Belgian Presidency.

b) Cooperation with accession candidate countries. The Ministers raised this issue during lunch, and the British Home Office Minister Jack Straw took advantage of the opportunity to call for a strengthening of cheeks on the Balkan borders and for revision of the Dublin convention (in order to enable asylum seekers to return to the first country of arrival). The Swedish Presidency underlined in this context the need to take measures to avoid the trafficking of human beings and illegal immigration, in collaboration with the countries of origin and the EU accession candidate countries. Mr Klingvall announced on this issue that the Swedish Presidency would soon meet the Albanian authorities and that a Troika mission would go to Bosnia-Herzegovina .

c) Asylum. The talks on this sensitive issue were, as foreseen, very heated. The German Minister for the Interior Otto Schily called for the interests of the countries most exposed to immigration to be taken into account (he not only cited Germany, but also Greece, Italy and Spain), and Mr Vitorino said he shared these concerns. Mr Klingvall, for his part, felt that "when there is a harmonisation of the asylum policy, it is necessary to work on the basis of high minimum standards and to ensure that they represent decent conditions for the asylum seekers.". The fears of seeing the creation of a "fortress Europe" are exaggerated, he asserted, adding that it is necessary to create an area of freedom and justice while developing a European asylum system. Mr Vitorino, in underlining the important role played by the media in this area, felt "it is a debate for the citizens, and its result will depend upon the way in which they perceive the future society." The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Rudd Lubbe took part in the debate, by insisting on the need to carry out preventive actions in the countries of origin: however, he added, "to tackle the problem at the source will not justify closing the asylum door in Europe. In any case no wall will be high enough to prevent people coming in.' In the EU, we must achieve a common vision on a "common asylum area", he said, while noting that economic migrants today more numerous than refugees.