EU heads of state and government have adopted the framework for the Stockholm Programme to be implemented during the 2010-2014 period.
Portions of the newly adopted programme relevant to migrants include the following (emphasis added):
5. Access to Europe in a globalised world
5.1 Integrated management of the external borders
The Union must continue to facilitate legal access to the territory of the Member States while in parallel taking measures to counteract illegal immigration and cross-border crime and maintaining a high level of security. The strengthening of border controls should not prevent access to protection systems by those persons entitled to benefit from them, and especially people and groups that are in vulnerable situations. In this regard, priority will be given to the needs of international protection and reception of unaccompanied minors. It is essential that the activities of Frontex and of the European Asylum Support Office are coordinated when it comes to the reception of migrants at the EU’s external borders. The European Council calls for the further development of integrated border management, including the reinforcement of the role of Frontex in order to increase its capacity to respond more effectively to changing migration flows.
The European Council therefore
▪ requests the Commission to put forward proposals no later than early 2010 to clarify the mandate and enhance the role of FRONTEX, taking account of the results of the evaluation of the Agency and the role and responsibilities of the Member States in the area of border control. Elements of these proposals could contain preparation of clear common operational procedures containing clear rules of engagement for joint operations at sea, with due regard to ensuring protection for those in need who travel in mixed flows, in accordance with international law; increased operational cooperation between Frontex and countries of origin and transit and examination of the possibility of regular chartering financed by Frontex[.] In order to promote the proper enforcement of the applicable statutory framework for Frontex operations, the Commission should consider including a mechanism for reporting and recording incidents that can be satisfactorily followed up by the relevant authorities,
▪ invites FRONTEX itself to consider, within its mandate, establishing regional and/or specialised offices to take account of the diversity of situations, particularly for the land border to the East and the sea border to the South; creating such offices should on no account undermine the unity of the Frontex agency; before creating such offices, Frontex should report to the Council on its intentions,
▪ invites the Commission to initiate a debate on the long-term development of FRONTEX. This debate should include, as was envisaged in the Hague programme, the feasibility of the creation of a European system of border guards,
▪ invites the EASO to develop methods to better identify those who are in need of international protection in mixed flows, and to cooperate with Frontex wherever possible,
▪ considers that the evaluation of the Schengen area will continue to be of key importance and that it therefore should be improved by strengthening the role of Frontex in this field,
▪ invites the Council and the Commission to support enhanced capacity building in third countries so that they can control efficiently their external borders.
6. A Europe of responsibility, solidarity and partnership in migration and asylum matters
The European Council recognises both the opportunities and challenges posed by increased mobility of persons, and underlines that well-managed migration can be beneficial to all stakeholders. [***] Furthermore, the European Council recalls that the establishment of a Common European Asylum System (CEAS) by 2012 remains a key policy objective for the EU.
The European Council calls for the development of a comprehensive and sustainable European migration and asylum policy framework, which in a spirit of solidarity can adequately and proactively manage fluctuations in migration flows and address situations such as the present one at the Southern external borders. Serious efforts are needed to build and strengthen dialogue and partnership between the EU and third countries, regions and organisations in order to achieve an enhanced and evidence-based response to these situations, taking into account that illegal immigration enters the Union also via other borders or through misuse of visa. An important objective is to avoid the recurrence of tragedies at sea. When tragic situations unfortunately happen, ways should be explored to better record and, where possible, identify migrants trying to reach the EU.
6.2 Asylum: a common area of protection and solidarity
The European Council remains committed to the objective of establishing a common area of protection and solidarity based on a common asylum procedure and a uniform status for those granted international protection. While the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) should be based on high protection standards, due regard should also be given to fair and effective procedures capable of preventing abuse. It is crucial that individuals, regardless of the Member State in which their application for asylum is lodged, are offered an equivalent level of treatment as regards reception conditions, and the same level as regards procedural arrangements and status determination. The objective should be that similar cases should be treated alike and result in the same outcome.
6.2.1 A common area of protection
There are still significant differences between national provisions and their application. In order to achieve a higher degree of harmonisation, the establishment of a Common European Asylum System (CEAS), should remain a key policy objective for the EU. Common rules, as well as a better and more coherent application of them, should prevent or reduce secondary movements within the EU, and increase mutual trust between Member States.
The development of a Common Asylum Policy should be based on a full and inclusive application of the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees and other relevant international treaties. Such a policy is necessary in order to maintain the long-term sustainability of the asylum system and to promote solidarity within the EU. Subject to a report from the Commission on the legal and practical consequences, the European Union should seek accession to the Geneva Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
6.2.3 The external dimension of asylum
The EU should act in partnership and cooperate with third countries hosting large refugee populations. A common EU approach can be more strategic and thereby contribute more efficiently to solving protracted refugee situations. Any development in this area needs to be pursued in close cooperation with the UNHCR and, if appropriate, other relevant actors. The European Asylum Support Office should be fully involved in the external dimension of the CEAS. In its dealings with third countries, the EU has the responsibility to actively convey the importance of acceding to, and implementing of, the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and its Protocol.
Promoting solidarity within the EU is crucial but not sufficient to achieve a credible and sustainable common asylum policy. It is therefore important to further develop instruments to express solidarity with third countries in order to promote and help building capacity to handle migratory flows and protracted refugee situations in these countries.
The European Council invites
• the Council and the Commission to enhance capacity building in third countries, in particular their capacity to provide effective protection, and to further develop and expand the idea of Regional Protection Programmes, on the basis of the forthcoming evaluations. Such efforts should be incorporated into the Global Approach to Migration, and should be reflected in national poverty reduction strategies and not only be targeting refugees and internally displaced persons but also local populations.
▪ the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission to encourage the voluntary participation of Member States in the joint EU resettlement scheme and increase the total number of resettled refugees, taking into consideration the specific situation in each Member State,
▪ the Commission to report annually to the Council and the European Parliament on the resettlement efforts made within the EU, to carry out a mid-term evaluation during 2012 of the progress made, and to evaluate the joint EU resettlement programme in 2014 with a view to identifying necessary improvements,
▪ the Council and the Commission to find ways to strengthen EU support for the UNHCR,
▪ the Commission to explore, in that context and where appropriate, new approaches concerning access to asylum procedures targeting main transit countries, such as protection programmes for particular groups or certain procedures for examination of applications for asylum, in which Member States could participate on a voluntary basis.
7.3 Continued thematic priorities with new tools
The European Council considers that the key thematic priorities identified in the previous strategy remain valid, i.e. the fight against terrorism, organised crime, corruption, drugs, the exchange of personal data in a secure environment and managing migration flows. The fight against trafficking in human beings and smuggling of persons needs to be stepped up.
Building on the Strategy for Justice, Home Affairs and External Relations adopted in 2005 and other relevant acquis in this field, such as the Global Approach to Migration, EU external cooperation should focus on areas where EU activity provides added value, in particular:
– Migration and asylum, with a view to increasing EU dialogue and cooperation with countries of origin and transit in order to improve their capacity to carry out border control, to fight against illegal immigration, to better manage migration flows and to ensure protection as well as to benefit from the positive effects of migration on development; return and readmission is a priority in the EU’s external relations,
The European Council invites the Commission to
▪ examine whether ad hoc cooperation agreements with specific third countries to be identified by the Council could be a way of enhancing the fight against trafficking and smuggling of persons and making proposals to that end. In particular, such agreements could involve full use of all leverage available to the Union, including the use of existing financing programmes, cooperation in the exchange of information, judicial cooperation and migration tools.
7.5 Geographical priorities and international organisations
As regards the Union for the Mediterranean, it will be necessary to enhance the work started in the context of the Barcelona process and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, in particular regarding migration (maritime), border surveillance, preventing and fighting drug trafficking, civil protection, law enforcement and judicial cooperation. The European Council invites the Commission in cooperation with the High Representative to submit such a plan in 2010 and asks Coreper to prepare as soon as possible the decisions to be taken by the Council. The European Council will review the Plan by the end of 2012, and in particular to assess its impact on the ground.
As regards the situation in the Mediterranean area, the European Council considers that a stronger partnership with third countries of transit and origin is necessary, based on reciprocal requirements and operational support, including border control, fight against organised crime, return and readmission. Rapid action to face the challenges in this region is a priority.
The European Council notes that the 2007 EU-Africa Joint Strategy and Action Plan define the scope of cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism, transnational crime and drug trafficking. Both within the EU-Africa Partnership on Mobility, Migration and Employment (MME) and the EU Global Approach to Migration, and the follow up process of the Rabat, Paris and Tripoli conferences, the dialogue on migration should be deepened and intensified with African Partners, focussing on countries along the irregular migration routes to Europe with a view to assisting those countries in their efforts to draw up migration policies and responding to illegal immigration at sea and on the borders. Efforts should be made to enhance cooperation, including the swift conclusion of re-admission agreements, with Algeria, Morocco and Egypt, and, in line with the European Council conclusions in October 2009, with Libya.
West Africa has recently developed into a major hub for drug trafficking from South America to Europe and will require enhanced attention and assistance to stem drug trafficking as well as other transnational crime and terrorism (within the Sahel).
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