Tag Archives: European Council

European Council Meeting Conclusions re Migrant and Refugee Flows from North Africa

While most of the European Council meeting of 24/25 March was devoted to economic policy and the Euro Zone crisis, the Council also considered the situation in Libya and the “Southern Neighborhood.”  The Council’s Conclusions noted that the Commission would be presenting “a Plan for the development of capacities to manage migration and refugee flows in advance of the June European Council.”  The Council conclusions also stated that “Agreement should be reached by June 2011 on the regulation enhancing the capabilities of Frontex. In the meantime the Commission will make additional resources available in support to the agency’s 2011 Hermes and Poseidon operations….”

Excerpts from the Council 24/25 March 2011 Conclusions:

“II. LIBYA / SOUTHERN NEIGHBOURHOOD

18. The European Council discussed the situation in Libya and endorsed the conclusions adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 21 March. Recalling its March 11 Declaration, the European Council expressed its satisfaction after the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which expresses the principle of the responsibility to protect, and underlined its determination to contribute to its implementation. It also welcomed the Paris Summit of 19 March as a decisive contribution to its implementation…. [***]

21. The humanitarian situation in Libya and on its borders remains a source of serious concern. The EU will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to all those affected, in close cooperation with all the humanitarian agencies and NGOs involved. The EU has stepped up and will continue its planning on support for humanitarian assistance / civil protection operations, including by maritime means.  [***]

25. The European Council welcomes the recent visit of Presidency and the Commission to Egypt as part of a first phase of consultations to promote a comprehensive approach to migration as between the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood region and the European Union. In this context the European Council invites the Commission to present its proposals on the Global Approach to Migration as well as on the Mobility Partnership well in advance of the June European Council.

26. The European Council also looks forward to the presentation by the Commission of a Plan for the development of capacities to manage migration and refugee flows in advance of the June European Council. Agreement should be reached by June 2011 on the regulation enhancing the capabilities of Frontex. In the meantime the Commission will make additional resources available in support to the agency’s 2011 Hermes and Poseidon operations and Member States are invited to provide further human and technical resources. The EU and its Member States stand ready to demonstrate their concrete solidarity to Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements and provide the necessary support as the situation evolves.  [***]”

Click here for full document.

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Filed under Egypt, European Union, Frontex, Libya, Mediterranean, News, Statements, Tunisia

Agenda Items for 11 March Extraordinary Meeting of European Council

Discussion topics will include:

  • – measures to help overcome the dramatic events unfolding in Libya;
  • – mobilisation of further resources to meet the humanitarian situation created by the influx of returnees from Libya;
  • – challenges to the EU posed by irregular migration;
  • – the evacuation of EU citizens;
  • – support to the political transitions underway in Tunisia, Egypt and the broader region.

Click here for President Van Rompuy’s invitation letter.

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Van Rompuy to Convene Extraordinary Meeting of European Council on 11 March

EC President Van Rompuy has called an extraordinary meeting of the European Council: “In light of the developments in our Southern Neighbourhood, and Libya in particular, I decided to convene an extraordinary meeting of the European Council. The meeting will take place on 11 March 2011 in Brussels at 11.30 am.”

Click here for full statement.

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JHA Council: Commission is Studying Different Funding Possibilities to Assist with Impact of Migratory Flows from North Africa

A Justice and Home Affairs press release summarizing today’s JHA Council meeting includes the following brief summary regarding the topic of migratory flows from North Africa:

“Over lunch, ministers discussed the situation in Northern Africa, and particularly the situation in Libya and the influx of migrants, above all from Tunisia to Italy. Since the beginning of the year, some 6000 immigrants have arrived mainly to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Following a formal request for help from the Italian Ministry of Interior, received on February 15, Frontex and Italy have started a Joint Operation in the central Mediterranean area on Sunday 20 February. Joint Operation Hermes 2011, originally planned to commence in June, was thus brought forward. Assets and experts for this operation were made available from a large number of EU member states. More information.  In addition to that, the Commission is studying different funding possibilities through various EU instruments, such as the European Refugee Fund, the European Return Fund and the European Border Fund.”

It is unclear whether the JHA Council will address this topic further tomorrow when the Council meeting resumes.

Click here for full JHA press release.

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Filed under Aegean Sea, European Union, Frontex, Libya, Mediterranean, News, Statements, Tunisia

Italy, France, Spain, Malta, Cyprus Call for Redistribution of Asylum Seekers

The Ministers of the Interior of Italy, France, Spain, Malta and Cyprus met in Rome on Wednesday in advance of today’s JHA Council meeting and agreed to ask the EU for assistance in regard to the expected flow of migrants from North Africa.  The Ministers will call for the creation of a special EU fund to provide financial support to the frontline states directly affected by significant numbers of migrants and for the redistribution or relocation of asylum seekers among all EU member states so that the states of first arrival do not experience an unfair burden.  Michele Cercone, spokesperson for Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, noted that current European standards do not provide a mechanism for the redistribution between member states of migrants seeking asylum, other than on a voluntary basis.

Click here (IT) for article.

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Filed under Cyprus, European Union, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Spain, Tunisia

JHA Council Meets 24-25 Feb – Meeting Topics Include North African Migrants, EASO, Greek Asylum Reform, EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, and Frontex 2011 Work Programme

The two day JHA Council meeting begins today in Brussels.  According to the Background Note, “ministers will discuss the major influx of migrants from Northern Africa, particularly from Tunisia, to Southern EU member states, especially Italy. They will also look at the state of play on three other important internal border and migration issues:  the implementation of Greece’s National Action Plan on Migration Management and Asylum Reform; [and] the EU-Turkey readmission agreement. In this context, the Communication will present an evaluation and future strategy for EU readmission agreements;…  Ministers will then have exchange of views with the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well as with the Executive Director of the recently established European Asylum Support Office (EASO).”  Additionally, “FRONTEX will present to the committee its work programme for 2011.”

Click here for Background Note and here for Agenda.

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Filed under Aegean Sea, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia, Turkey, UNHCR

Italy and Malta Call for Extraordinary Meeting of EU Council to Discuss Mediterranean Migration Emergency

Italy has requested an extraordinary meeting of the Council of EU Heads of State to discuss the migration situation in Italy.  According to the EU Observer, “Hungarian [EU Presidency] sources told EUobserver that Budapest ‘will do all it can to accommodate the Italians,’ but the timing is tight, and it is far from certain whether other EU member states will view the situation the same way as Rome.”  The next regularly scheduled meeting of the EU justice and home affairs ministers who would ordinarily consider the situation and Italy’s requests for assistance is scheduled for 24-25 February.

Mario Mauro, MEP, Head of the Italian Delegation (PDL) of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, has also called upon Herman Van Rompuy, José Manuel Barroso, and EP President Jerzy Buzek to convene a meeting of the EU Heads of State within the next few days.  Mauro’s press release describes the situation as “an epic emergency comparable in intensity and scale to the fall of the Soviet Bloc in 1989” and further says that “[w]hat is happening in the Maghreb countries has to fully put into question the weakness of the EU Mediterranean Strategy. The European Commission’s solidarity initiatives or parliamentary debates will not be enough, nor will the prompt use of FRONTEX instruments. We must realise that history is making us face a challenge that has to be tackled with the same determination and the same resources used in recent years to stabilise Eastern European countries. Southern European countries should not be left alone to deal with this urgency.”

In the meantime, the Times of Malta reports that Tunisian security forces are expanding their efforts to secure the departure points in Tunisia.

Click here for MEP Mauro’s Press Release.

Click here and here for articles. (EN)

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EP Adopts Recommendation to Council on EU-Libya Framework Agreement

On 20 January 2011 the European Parliament adopted a slightly watered down recommendation to the Council regarding the negotiations on the EU-Libya Framework Agreement.  The adopted text is similar in most, but not all respects to the Draft Proposal prepared 23 November 2010 by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Rapporteur MEP Ana Gomes.  One substantive difference between the draft proposal and the final adopted text is a weakening of the language addressing the negotiation of the readmission agreement with Libya.  The final adopted text is also critical of the secrecy of the Council/Commission negotiations with Libya.

The Draft Proposal prepared by MEP Ana Gomes in Nov. 2010 called for an end to negotiations on the readmission agreement with Libya given the poor human rights conditions in Libya.  (Click here (pdf) or here for ECRE interview with MEP Gomes.)  The final text eliminated the call for an end to negotiations on readmission and replaced the language with a call for the respect of the rights of persons subjected to a future readmission agreement.

The Draft Proposal’s language stated:

“(d)  [the Council is urged] to cease pursuing a readmission agreement with Libya, as sending individuals back to a country with a record of continuous human rights violations and the use of the death penalty would be in breach of EU legal obligations;”

The final adopted text now states:

“(d)  [the Council and the Commission are reminded] of their obligations to ensure full compliance of the EU’s external policy with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, particularly its Article 19, which prohibits collective expulsion and grants the principle of ‘non-refoulement’;

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(f)  [the Council and the Commission are urged] to ensure that a readmission agreement with Libya could only be envisaged for irregular immigrants, excluding therefore those who declare themselves asylum-seekers, refugees or persons in need of protection, and reiterates that the principle of ‘non-refoulement’ applies to any persons who are at risk of the death penalty, inhumane treatment or torture;”

The final adopted text is critical of the secrecy surrounding the Commission’s negotiations with Libya:

“(a) [The Parliament] [n]otes the recent Council decision to finally allow a limited number of Members of Parliament to read the mandate given to the Commission to negotiate a Framework Agreement between the EU and Libya; regrets however the delay in this decision and calls for the EP to be granted access to the mandates of all international agreements under negotiation, in accordance with Article 218(10) TFEU, which states that Parliament shall be immediately and fully informed at all stages of the procedure;”

The final text urges the Council and Commission to take steps to encourage Libya to ratify and implement various international agreements and to allow the UNHCR to work within the country.  For example, the Council and Commission are urged-

  • “to strongly recommend that Libya ratify and implement the Geneva Convention on Refugees of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, including full cooperation with UNHCR so as to guarantee adequate protection and rights for migrants, and adopt asylum legislation that recognises refugees‘ status and rights accordingly, notably the prohibition of collective expulsion and the principle of ’non-refoulement‘;”
  • “to request that the Libyan authorities sign a Memorandum of Understanding granting UNHCR a legal presence in the country, with a mandate to exercise its full range of access and protection activities;”
  • “to encourage Libya to fully respect its pledges given when acceding to the UNHRC and thus urges Libya to issue standing invitations to those appointed under UN special procedures such as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as well as the Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances and the Working Group on arbitrary detentions, as requested in the recent Universal Periodic Review on Libya; calls in the same spirit for unfettered access to the country for independent scrutiny of the overall human rights situation;”

Click here for final adopted text.

Click here for draft proposal.

Click here for link to EP’s Procedure File – Negotiations on EU-Libya Framework Agreement.

Click here (pdf) or here for ECRE interview with MEP Ana Gomes.

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ECJ Invites Council to Submit Statement of Defence re EP Challenge to Frontex Sea Borders Rule

In an Order issued on 28 July, the European Court of Justice invited the European Council to submit a statement of defence in:  Case No. C-355/10, European Parliament v. Council of European Union (Application under Article 263 TFEU for annulment of Council Decision 2010/252/EU).

Here are the relevant portions of the Order (several footnotes omitted):

“1. By application under Article 263 TFEU, notified to the Council on 26 July 2010, the European Parliament asked the Court to annul Council Decision 2010/252/EU of 26 April 2010 supplementing the Schengen Borders Code as regards the surveillance of the sea external borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union.

2. In support of its action for annulment, the European Parliament argues that the Council in adopting the contested decision exceeded the implementing powers set out in Article 12(5) of the Schengen Borders Code to adopt additional measures governing border surveillance.

3. The Council is invited to submit a statement of defence, in accordance with Article 40(1) and Article 81(2) of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice.

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(Thank you to the editor at Blogging Portal.EU for bringing this new development to my attention – and now back to my vacation break.)

Click here for the full document from the ECJ.

Click here for previous post (with links to earlier posts).

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Publication of Council Decision re Rules for Sea Border Operations Coordinated by Frontex

The Council decision on the surveillance of  sea external borders has been published in the EU Official Journal: “COUNCIL DECISION of 26 April 2010 supplementing the Schengen Borders Code as regards the surveillance of the sea external borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union.”

Malta has strenuously objected to certain provisions within the new rule and has said that its decision not to host Frontex’s Central Mediterranean enforcement operation, Operation Chronos, was due to the disembarkation provisions contained in the new Frontex rule.  It should be noted that Malta has more recently said that its decision not to participate in Operation Chronos was due to the lack of need for the operation given the “success” of Italy’s push-back practice.

Malta’s objection to the guidelines is largely focused on the following provision in the rule for sea border operations:

“2. Disembarkation

2.1. The operational plan should spell out the modalities for the disembarkation of the persons intercepted or rescued, in accordance with international law and any applicable bilateral agreements. The operational plan shall not have the effect of imposing obligations on Member States not participating in the operation.  Without prejudice to the responsibility of the Rescue Coordination Centre, and unless otherwise specified in the operational plan, priority should be given to disembarkation in the third country from where the ship carrying the persons departed or through the territorial waters or search and rescue region of which that ship transited and if this is not possible, priority should be given to disembarkation in the host Member State unless it is necessary to act otherwise to ensure the safety of these persons.”

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström pointed out during her recent official visit to Malta that the rule could be interpreted by the member states participating in an operation so as to provide for disembarkation of migrants at a location other than the host state.

(HT to Steve Peers (Univ. of Essex) via Bernard Ryan on Migration and Law Network list serve.)

Click here for the Council Decision.

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Filed under European Union, Frontex, Malta, Mediterranean, News