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26 March 2023
Internal Affairs News

Making Europe a safer place for its citizens

A Safer Europe is one of the key commitments made by the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council at the beginning of its mandate. The deliverables are significant and based on solidarity, pooling resources and information exchange.

Intensive negotiations amongst co-legislators ended successfully with agreement on the Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard, providing for a strengthening of the Agency in terms of staff and technical equipment, and giving it a broader mandate to support Member States’ activities on border protection, return and cooperation with third countries. The proposed new rules will incorporate the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) into the Frontex framework, to improve its functioning. To ensure coherent management of external borders and to be able to respond to future crisis situations, a standing corps will be set up, with up to 10.000 operational staff by 2027. This standing corps will include operational staff members from Frontex, staff from Member States under long-term secondments and/or short-term deployment, and a reserve for rapid reaction. The proposed rules will also allow Frontex to provide technical and operational support to Member States in return operations. The agency will provide this support at the request of the Member State concerned or on its own initiative but in agreement with that Member State. Last but not least, cooperation with third countries will be strengthened by giving the agency wider scope for action and not limiting its options for cooperation to just neighbouring countries. By the adoption of this new legislation, EU shows strong commitment towards improving the protection of its external borders as part of a comprehensive approach to migration.

This comprehensive approach to migration is also manifested through other initiatives, such as the strengthening of cooperation and coordination between liaison officers deployed to third countries by Member States or the EU in order to deal with immigration-related issues. Coordination between Member States in cooperation with third countries is essential to making sure that the EU’s response to illegal migration is as strong as possible. These new rules will allow us to make the most of the work of the liaison officers on the ground, including on issues like returns or fighting migrant smuggling.

As part of the overall migration management, we have also worked to make returns more effective by agreeing on a partial general approach on the Return Directive (recast). Taking into account that criminality knows no borders, the EU is introducing new rules on interoperability between EU information systems in the area of justice and home affairs. Easier information sharing will improve security, allow for more efficient checks at external borders and contribute to preventing and combating illegal migration. To make sure those who pose a security threat or are lying about their identity are detected, competent authorities carrying out checks need to have a full picture of the persons in front of them. The interoperability components will allow authorities to quickly access all relevant information available in existing databases and to check biometric data against these databases in order to detect cases of multiple identity.

In order to reduce identity fraud, thereby making it harder for terrorists and criminals to act, while facilitating free movement of genuine travellers, the EU is introducing tighter security of ID cards of EU citizens and of residence documents issued to EU citizens and their non-EU family members. The new rules will improve the security of these documents by introducing minimum standards both for the information contained in them and for the security features common to all Member States that issue them. These new rules will enter into force 2 years after adoption, meaning that by that time all new documents issued must meet the new criteria. The proposed rules include strong data protection safeguards, to ensure that the information collected does not fall into the wrong hands. In particular, national authorities will have to guarantee the security of the contactless chip and the data stored in it, so that it cannot be hacked or accessed without permission.

The strengthening of EU law enforcement authorities’ capacity to fight terrorism and serious crime, by improving their access to financial information for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of certain criminal offences, is another important achievement in the field of internal security. Since criminals proved to be able to transfer illicit funds across borders very quickly, law enforcement authorities should act even more quickly. The new rules will give law enforcement authorities a clear framework within which they can access and exchange financial information.

Changes to the EU visa code have also been adopted, to improve conditions for legitimate travellers and to also offer more tools for responding to the challenges posed by illegal migration.

Following the needs of law enforcement authorities to exchange knowledge and thus strengthen capacity to recognise, understand and use data in present realties of rapid technological developments, the Romanian Presidency initiated the creation of a platform at EU level in order to exchange of best practices and cooperation in analytical work by approving the Council Conclusion on Novel Actionable Information.

The preventive approach to policing methods was at the focus of Council conclusions on certain aspects of European preventive policing adopted during the Romanian EU Presidency, namely by extending the initial competences of operational support officers towards a preventive dimension.

Also, as part of the fight against terrorism, the Romanian Presidency has paid particular attention to the prevention and countering of radicalisation, focusing on practical results that could bring added value to the efforts made by the Member States. Given the urgency of effective measures to tackle radicalisation in prison, a set of good practices in addressing this challenge and in dealing with terrorist and violent extremist offenders after release has been drawn up and approved by the EU Council. Similar exchanges of information and expertise have been carried out on other topics related to radicalisation offline and online, with a view to identifying options for a tailored response to these threats.

In the same field of countering terrorism, special emphasis was also put on enhancing the cooperation between the EU Member States competent national authorities. Moreover, an increased support to third partners from priority regions has been promoted,  as part of the broader efforts to increase the sinergies between the internal and external security of the EU.

In the broader context of strengthening the internal security of the European Union, the Romanian Presidency has also started a future-oriented debate on the EU response to terrorism, reviewing the progress achieved so far and focusing on areas which should be regarded as a priority, as well as on practical and legislatives gaps which need to be addressed, taking into account the current and emerging security threats.

In our common efforts of countering the new emergent threats, during Romanian EU Presidency significant progress was achieved in the implementation of Action 1 of the 2016 Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats. Given the importance of a more coordinated approach between Member States as well as between EU Institutions due to the multidimensional nature of such threats and their effects on the security of the EU, the Presidency had the initiative of creating a guide of best practice as a way of improving and consolidating the common understanding on hybrid threats.

The reform of the Common European Asylum System was actively discussed in the first three months of the Romanian EU Presidency, in a push to move asylum files forward. Intensive negotiations both at the technical and political level were pursued in the framework of a ‘’package approach’’, as supported by the majority of the Member States.

Against this background, the Romanian Presidency took the lead and tackled the issue of ‘’temporary arrangements’’ with support from the European Commission. Between February and June 2019, informal debates have been held at different levels. Based on these discussions and on the input and support from different stakeholders, the Romanian Presidency presented a report on a series of non-binding elements on temporary arrangements for disembarkation.

The report presented by the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council follows the comprehensive approach decided by the European Council in June 2018, and is without prejudice to the ongoing asylum reform, including the reform of the Dublin Regulation. The elements of the report are based on best practices used in previous disembarkation cases, are non-binding, open only to voluntary participation by all Member States and limited in time. They cover Search and Rescue operations and other sea arrivals based on humanitarian grounds, as these are situations where the European Union experiences most challenges today.

The effective pursuit of the objectives of the Union in the area of home affairs is closely linked to providing a predictable and yet flexible framework for responding to new challenges, including the instruments to finance these objectives. From this perspective, the Romanian Presidency substantially advanced the negotiations on the sectoral proposals concerning the financial instruments dedicated to this area of ​​action reaching partial general approaches for all three dedicated instruments: Border Management and Visa Instrument (BMVI), Asylum and Migration Fund (AMF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF). Overall, the three Regulations enlarge the scope of the support initially proposed by the Commission for the migration, asylum, border protection and internal security policy areas.

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