The informal meeting of EU Justice and home affairs ministers was hold in Lille on 3 and 4 February 2022. The ministers for home affairs met on 3 February, along with the European Commission, representatives from Frontex, Europol and the Agency for Asylum.
The informal meeting of ministers responsible for home affairs addressed several current issues: crisis management in Europe, radicalisation and the lessons learned from recent events in Afghanistan and in Belarus concerning border and migration management.
Discussions focused on four subjects:
- The Schengen reform. The Schengen Area is one of the primary achievements of the European Union. The challenges faced over the last few years (migration crises, terrorist attacks, the pandemic, etc.) have demonstrated the need to reinforce the means of protecting our external borders.
- The future of civil protection in Europe. European civil protection policy has been broadly strengthened in recent years. At its core is the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, an instrument for mutual assistance and solidarity created in 2001 and strengthened in 2019 and 2021. In light of climate change and the new risks confronting Europe, the ministers discussed the best use of these reinforced resources, drawing on the expertise of each Member State as well as the resources offered by citizen engagement, such as volunteers and organizations.
- The fight against radicalization. Ministers addressed how to curb the development of ecosystems within our societies that run counter to our values.
- The Pact on Migration and Asylum. The European Union continues to face major challenges in terms of migration and protecting its external borders. These challenges call for a European response to improve our collective control over migratory phenomena and to strengthen our area of free movement. With this aim, the European Commission presented a Pact on Migration and Asylum on 23 September 2020.
The ministers agreed to create a “Schengen Council”, whose first meeting will take place on 3 March, in Brussels. On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty; will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders. A coordination platform should enable more effective steering of the efforts of Member States and EU agencies, especially Frontex, whose role should be further bolstered. At the same time, the ministers will work to see through the legislative reforms under way on the Schengen Borders Code and on the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism without undue delay, which will contribute to enhanced governance of our shared area.
The Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.
The future of civil security in Europe was also discussed. At a time when the concrete consequences of climate change are becoming more and more visible – sometimes dramatically – both in the European Union and in its neighborhood, the ministers agreed on the need to reinforce our capacity to anticipate them and respond jointly. The necessary European tools have been broadly strengthened over the last few years, with the creation of a reserve of common resources and the expansion of the EU civil protection mechanism. This effort must be continued.
Lastly, the ministers were able to observe the significant challenge posed by the growth of cybercrime, through a simulation held the previous day, with the contribution of the International Cybersecurity Forum (FIC). The participants discussed how to respond to this challenge, including the contribution of Europol, the importance of training internal security forces and the issue of creating a balanced regulation for encryption, data retention and access to electronic evidence.