Brussels, 18 May 2001












JAI 32

AG 8






Subject :

High-Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration

   Progress report on activities undertaken during the Swedish Presidency





Delegations will find attached a progress report on activities undertaken during the Swedish Presidency in the High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration.



High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration – activities undertaken during the Swedish Presidency



The priorities of the Swedish Presidency for the High Level Working Group in line with the recommendations contained in the report to the European Council in Nice were to move from the planning to the implementation phase and thus to concrete action.  Extensive consultations with international organisations and partner countries have taken place with a view inter alia to supporting the Commission in its work with the new budget line B7-667 and the programming phase.


Commitment on the part of the Member States in the pursuit of a joint strategy of a cross-pillar nature remains crucial to ensure the effective implementation of the Action Plans and the establishment of a genuine partnership with countries of origin and transit.


1. Dialogue with countries of origin and transit



An extended Troika mission was led by the Presidency to Tirana on 11-13 March 2001, (Presidency, assisted by the General Secretariat of the Council, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Commission) in order to engage in a dialogue with the Albanian authorities with a view to establishing a partnership for the implementation of the Action Plan for Albania and the neighbouring region.


Meetings were held with the National Commissioner for Refugees, the Ombudsman, the Head of Police, the Minister for Public Order, Prime Minister, representatives of the Albanian Parliament, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.  Consultations also took place with UNHCR, IOM, Friends of Albania, OSCE and ICMC (International Catholic Migration Commission).


A shift in the situation in Albania, which has now become mainly a transit country rather than a country of origin, and a willingness and commitment on the part of the Albanian government and authorities was observed.


Priorities identified for further action were within the following areas:  implementation of the Albanian asylum legislation of 1997;  action to combat trafficking in human beings and illegal networks;  border control efficiency including reception facilities;  return policies and action to facilitate return.


The EU delegation expressed the intention to extend an invitation to the Minister for Public order for a follow-up meeting in Brussels later on in the year.


B.  Dialogue with Sri Lanka


An extended Troika delegation (Presidency, assisted by the General Secretariat of the Council, Belgium, United Kingdom, Commission) visited Sri Lanka from 26 February to 2 March 2001.  The main purpose of the visit was to hold preliminary discussions with the Government of Sri Lanka on the Action Plan for Sri Lanka.


The work of the HLWG in general and the background to the Action Plan for Sri Lanka was explained in some detail.  The importance of taking the process further in a spirit of partnership was emphasised several times during the meeting.  The Sri Lankan side was invited to comment on the Action Plan and to submit proposals and suggestions regarding areas for future co-operation.


Sri Lanka was willing to engage in a positive dialogue with the EU and would revert to the EU before the end of May 2001 with proposals and comments, after which a new meeting could be held between the HLWG and the Sri Lankan authorities.  The Sri Lankan side envisaged that possible areas for co-operation could include support to the Human Rights Commission, police training, legislation and support regarding the implementation of the Poverty Framework as well as the framework for Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation.


COASI was briefed about the mission to Sri Lanka at its meeting on 8 March 2001.



The Head of Consular Affairs of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited Stockholm on 20 April 2001 for a Troika meeting on Justice and Home Affairs issues, asylum and migration, and the HLWG Action Plan for Iraq. 

The EU side informed about the development of the EU acquis in the asylum and migration area, Article 36 developments, and the implementation of the HLWG Action Plans, and reiterated the importance of the full implementation of the Geneva Convention.


Turkey stated that the decision had been taken in principle to lift its geographical reservation of the applicability of the Geneva Convention, but the geopolitical situation of Turkey had to be taken into account for the time being.  Turkey also gave some details of its visa policy, and efforts to adapt it to harmonised EU visa policy.  Turkey expressed interest in the Action Plans for Albania and its neighbouring region, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.  Turkey was willing to discuss bilateral transit agreements with the EU Member States for voluntary repatriation.  Turkey expressed its difficulties to repatriate from Turkey and hoped for support from the EU side to help it conclude readmission agreements with third countries, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.


Turkey also presented its priorities for technical co-operation with the EU, namely reception centres for illegal migrants and housing for asylum seekers, and a proposal to establish an "international fund" for the repatriation of unsuccessful asylum seekers from Turkish territory.  Turkey expressed interest in information sharing on issues regarding organized crime, in the area of combating the smuggling of illegal migrants, and in becoming a member of Europol.


The Commission informed that the issue of transit agreements for return to Northern Iraq will be discussed further in a Commission expert meeting in mid-May 2001, which will report back to the HLWG at its meeting in June 2001.  The EU side would then revert to Turkey.



An EU-Morocco dialogue on the issue of migration has been ongoing since the first EU mission to Rabat on 3-4 June 1999, i.e. prior to the adoption of the HLWG Action Plan.  This dialogue has been maintained by subsequent Presidencies.  The visit to Rabat for a presentation of the Action Plan on 2-4 October 2000 was an important step.  The importance of this dialogue and of an action-oriented approach has all along been recognised by the Swedish Presidency.


A decision to pursue the HLWG migration dialogue in the framework of a working party for social affairs and migration to be established pursuant to Article 73 of the Association Agreement was taken during the French Presidency.

In order not to lose momentum, prior to the formal establishment of the working party, a local informal meeting was held on 22 March 2001 in Rabat hosted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.  Participants on the Moroccan side included Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry for Social Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry for Human Rights and Ministry of Labour.


The informal Rabat meeting helped to pave the way for Morocco's reply to the written procedure of the Association Council EU-Morocco to establish the working party for social affairs and migration.


The formal Moroccan confirmation hereof was received on 4 April 2001.  The formal establishment of the working party has thus come into place.


2. Dialogue with interested third partner countries



A meeting was held on 18 April 2001 with a view to informing the candidate countries about the HLWG Action Plans, about the working methods of the HLWG and about the work undertaken during the Swedish Presidency to establish partnerships with the countries concerned.  On this occasion, the candidate countries were given the opportunity to raise matters of interest to them in relation to the Action Plans and to indicate their own priorities and experiences.



Consultations with the USA, Canada, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and Island also took place on 18 April 2001.  The Presidency informed about the steps that have been taken to establish partnerships and to implement the Action Plans.  The invited countries noted the progress made and informed about their interest to enhance this dialogue which was very much in line with work done on their part and therefore of interest.

3. Dialogue with international organisations and NGOs


Co-operation with international organisations and NGOs as partners and implementing agencies in the activities of the High Level Working Group was further pursued during the country-specific HLWG meetings held in January-March 2001.


UNHCR, ICRC, Amnesty International, MPG, ICMPD, ECRE all contributed to valuable discussion, update on the situation in the countries concerned, gave their views on the Action Plans and informed about their programmes.


The situation in Iraq and the dialogue with Turkey was covered at a HLWG country-specific meeting on 1 February 2001.  The Presidency is preparing a report on the refugee situation in the neighbouring region to Iraq based on contribution from HOMs in the region.


With a view to assisting the HLWG in its endeavour to choose projects suitable for HLWG financing, COMEM on 12 February and 7 May 2001 discussed the Action Plan for Iraq.  COMEM intends to present its proposed list of projects to the HLWG.


The situation in Afghanistan and the neighbouring region was covered extensively at a country-specific HLWG meeting on 8 March 2001, allowing for a thorough discussion about the political, humanitarian and human rights situation, as well as the refugee and migration situation with international organisations and assessing the scope for partnership.  An inventory of actions taken in the different areas of the Action Plan was made.  Enhanced cooperation with UNHCR was discussed.  The next steps to be taken depend on further decisions on the proposed forum and the Afghanistan Support Group.


The situation in Somalia, including political and humanitarian developments, was discussed in depth with a large number of international organisations present at a country-specific HLWG meeting on 31 January 2001.  The EU Troika Mission to Somalia, 26-28 February 2001, informed the Transitional Government in Mogadishu and the authorities in Hargeisa and Garowe about the activities of the HLWG and of the Action Plan for Somalia.


On 16 February 2001 a country-specific HLWG meeting on Albania and the neighbouring region allowed for extensive dialogue and follow-up to the Tirana mission with international organisations, including the Friends of Albania group, with participation from Tirana.  COWEB was briefed on 23 February 2001 about the mission to Tirana.  It was proposed that further dialogue would take place to allow co-ordination between the High Level Steering Group for EU and Albania (HLSG) on the one hand and HLWG on the other.  In particular, HLWG participation is envisaged in the forthcoming HLSG  meeting where asylum and migration issues will be on the agenda.


4. Thematic issues:



A cross-pillar dialogue on the Community instruments for action in third countries is envisaged for the HLWG meeting in June 2001, including guidelines on operational co-ordination, linking relief, rehabilitation and development, country strategies and Community development policy.  This is intended as a first step to an enhanced dialogue for cross-pillar implementation of the Action Plans.



Following the Tampere conclusions and the Commission communication on migration, the HLWG is working on the elaboration of the concept of partnership with countries of origin and transit of migration.


This work may include an analysis of existing EU fora for dialogue with third countries, relevant items to be included in the dialogue for partnership, and appropriate discussion points for the conference on migration to be organised during the Belgian Presidency.


C. Extending the Action Plan for Albania and the neighbouring region to encompass the entire Western Balkan region.


Upon request from several Member States and the Commission, and in follow-up to the Troika mission, the broadening of the Action Plan for Albania and the neighbouring region to encompass the entire Western Balkan region was discussed at a country-specific HLWG meeting on 18 May 2001.