Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer said:
I found the meeting to be highly constructive. We addressed important issues for Europe’s future. Europe’s strength lies in its coordinated action. I saw broad consensus in many respects on all of the open questions. This makes me optimistic about the prospects for substantial decisions on important issues in the next six months.
European police partnership
In the first part of the meeting, the home affairs ministers reached a very broad consensus on ways of expanding police cooperation. Seehofer said:
In Europe we are dealing with criminal networks who ply their nefarious trades across borders, for example in drug trafficking, in the smuggling of people, and in the sexual abuse of children. Our answer to cross-border crime has to be stronger European cooperation among security authorities. That is why we need to ensure that the police in every member state are able, in compliance with the applicable laws, to access the information they need from every other member state at all times.
The project of bringing new impetus to developing a European police partnership met with broad approval. Making more effective use of the existing possibilities for exchange of information will be one area of focus. The home affairs ministers are also pushing to boost funding for the EU agencies in the area of home affairs (especially Europol and Frontex) considerably, so that – among other things – new data analysis technologies such as artificial intelligence can be used.
Search and rescue at sea and combating human smuggling activity
The second part of the meeting focused on migration to Europe. All member states declared their willingness to work together on a long-term solution instead of ad hoc negotiations. Seehofer said:
Europe is a community of values. Respecting human dignity and human rights is the most important thing, and preventing deaths in the Mediterranean is our shared goal. This includes helping those who have been rescued at sea. For those who arrive at the external borders, we need a pragmatic process supported by Europe, with as many member states as possible taking part. This also applies to returning those who have no right to claim protection in the EU. Conferences will be held soon in Europe to agree on concrete steps. I found my counterparts very willing to continue our focused discussions.
There was also consensus that enhanced cooperation with third countries is a key part of fighting human smuggling and an effective return policy. As some of the next steps, a conference hosted by Italy on 13 July 2020 will mark the start of closer cooperation with North African countries, including to combat human smuggling.
The full work programme of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community for Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union is available for download here: