Immigration, asylum and borders: the priorities for the next 18 months

Interesting elements  emerge on the implementation of the Stockholm Programme (2010-2014) from the working document of the Council presidency. It is necessary, as it is often the case for official documents, to interpret the silences as well as some cryptic or general information. It therefore follows a summary of the main proposals with some complementary explanatory notes.

Asylum and Immigration: the Spanish Presidency confirms the review  of the implementation of the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, adopted in 2008.  This review will probably involve the civil society as well as the European Parliament and the national parliaments, as per article 70 of the TFEU.

Legal immigration: a call for greater synergy between countries of origin and destination is announced.  A priority will be the conclusion of the negotiations upon the proposals concerning the single application procedure for a single permit to reside and work, common set of rights for third-country workers. Furthermore the Commission will present its proposals concerning seasonal workers ad corporate employees.

Integration of Third Country Nationals: the programme announces that efforts will be made to share best practices of integration policies. However, it does not make clear whether the new measures will be based on the new legal basis of the Lisbon Treaty or will be based on simple cooperation between administrations  and pilot projects funding educational activities, professional training and recognition of qualification and competences.

Illegal immigration: the programme refers to the future development of the integrated management of the external borders (most probably based on the Schengen cooperation, the role of Frontex and  on the entry-exit system developed by the United States)  and the fight against illegal immigration. This will be tackled by strengthening the implementation of the Directives on the return policy as a part of the fight against illegal immigration, common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals, sanctions against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals and more importantly, with the relaunch of the negotiations on the new  proposal for a Directive in the field of the fight against human trafficking.

Another aspect to be underlined is the issue related to unaccompanied minors for whom the possibility of return to countries of origin is evoked “…taking into account the interest of the child” and the link that the future presidencies make between these policies and those related to the EU internal security.

Visa policy: the deployment of the Visa Information System (VIS) remains a priority. Local Consular Cooperation will be further promoted and the possibilities of establishing Common Visa Application Centres  (probably under influence of the newly nominated High Representative for the Foreign Policy) will be also examined. The evaluation of the Visa Facilitation Agreements  (the European Visa waiver) will be considered as a priority. Here the reference is extremely vague: indeed it could be questioned whether the European Union will learn any lesson from the problems that rose during the implementation of the US Visa Waiver  programme towards EU citizens (up to now there are still 5 Member States to whom this programme has been refused ).

Schengen Area: the completion and successful launch of the new generation of the Schengen Information System (SIS II) is fundamental. Work on the improvement of the Schengen Evaluation procedure will continue. A timid reference to the necessity to improve evaluation on mechanisms of the system is also made (although one can see on the one hand the desire of the Member States to keep the control over it and on the other hand the Commission which invokes its new role and the European Parliament increasingly frustrated of internal fights).

International protection: work on the legislative measures directed to the establishment of the second phase of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) will continue to be prioritised and should be concluded by 2012. Its objective is the establishment of a common asylum procedure and a uniform and ambitious status for those granted international protection. Particular emphasis will also be put on reinforcing practical cooperation, including through the establishment of the European Asylum Office (which the Euroepan Parliament should approve in the next few months).

Cooperation with third countries in the framework of the EU Global Approach: new forms of dialogue and cooperation with third countries in this field and the promotion synergies between migration and development will be promoted. The EU will pursue an enhanced, structured and comprehensive dialogue with Latin America and the Caribbean region on migratory issues.

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