On Friday, 12 March, the minister of the interior Mr Sandis Ģirģens participated in an informal videoconference meeting of the Ministers of the Interior of the European Union (EU) organized by the Portuguese Presidency.
The ministers of the interior discussed the European Commission's (EC) new proposal for a directive aimed at improving critical infrastructure protection in the EU, thus replacing the rules adopted in 2008.
It is important to improve the protection of critical infrastructure, as this will make it possible to ensure the continuity of the provision of essential services to society and the ability to restore them quickly in various critical situations. The most important basic services for society are electricity and gas supply, water supply, financial services, transport services, digital services, health services, services provided by public administration, etc.
Critical situations or their consequences are those caused by natural disasters, accidents, terrorism, internal threats or public health emergencies, such as those currently facing the whole world (Covid-19 pandemic).
It is also important that owners of critical infrastructure could be able to resume normal operations as soon as possible in crisis situations where the above services are disrupted.
As Mr Ģirģens pointed out at the meeting: “I agree that it is time to review the provisions of the directive adopted in 2008 and adapt them to today's challenges and needs. Public services must always be available to the public, so new changes to the regulations that protect these services must be regularly reviewed and applied.
It should be noted that the Civil Protection Plan developed and adopted by the Ministry of the Interior in 2020 is also an important step towards the state ready for overcoming a possible crisis.
However, it is essential that the national security of EU Member States is duly taken into account in ensuring the continuous operation of critical infrastructure and strengthening the resilience of its owners to crisis situations, as well as not creating a disproportionate additional administrative burden on public administrations."
Member States will be required to adopt national strategies to promote the resilience of critical infrastructure, as well as to assess all potential threats.
Critical infrastructure owners will also be required to carry out regular risk assessments, as well as to report incidents and take various measures to ensure their resilience to crisis situations.
Ministers continued to discuss migration issues, including the EC's statement on promoting cooperation between all parties involved in the return of non-EU migrants to their countries of origin.
The EC Pact on Migration and Asylum emphasizes the promotion of cooperation and improved relations with third countries in the field of return, with a view to establishing a common EU return system and addressing challenges identified by the EC, such as differing EU Member States' legal and administrative regimes and refusal by third countries to take in returnees.
At the meeting, Mr Ģirģens positively assessed the EC statement, emphasizing that the development of close and successful co-operation with third countries is an essential precondition for strengthening the EU migrant return policy. The Minister also emphasized that, although the possibilities of voluntary return should be used as much as possible, it is equally important to use forced return of persons if necessary.
At the meeting, EU home affairs ministers also discussed improving cooperation between the EU and North African countries, expressing their willingness to engage in a regular political dialogue in areas such as migration, civil protection, security, democracy, the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights.
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal could become the EU’s initial partners, possibly supplementing the list at a later stage.
The Ministry of the Interior