Parliamentary Tracker: Revision of Dublin, Qualification Directive, Refugees situation in Greece, EASO reform.. (LIBE debates on March 9,2017)

by Luigi LIMONE (Free-Group Trainee)

Main Points on the Agenda
MEETING DOCUMENTS ARE ACCESSIBLE HERE

REVISION OF DUBLIN REGULATION (Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (recast) – Presentation of the draft report by rapporteur Cecilia Wikström.

According to the EP Rapporteur Cecilia Wikström (ALDE – Sweden), the Dublin system has collapsed and the current reform gives the European Parliament the possibility to have a rethinking of the whole system. She underlined four main points to accomplish such a reform:
a) every member state has to participate in the system;
b) the management of external borders has to be reformed;
c) applicants’ secondary movement has to be reduced;
d) the system needs to earn applicants’ trust, with regard to information and access to fair asylum procedures in particular.

Cecilia Wikström said that the proposal should be based on solidarity and not on ad-hoc  emergency measures. The European Union needs a pragmatic and practical mechanism to relocate applicants in Europe, as well as the introduction of the principle of shared responsibilities among Member States.
One of the key points of her draft report deals with admissibility in the first country of arrival:  admissibility check procedures prior to the establishment of the Member State responsible, as proposed by the Commission, would imply introducing an unreasonable new additional burden on frontline Member States.
She also proposed simplified procedures for family reunification and the possibility for applicants to be registered as a group in case there are some connections, for example language, ethnic origin and so on.  The latter provision would enable Member States to relocate those people as a group, thus reducing the costs for translation, simplifying the procedures for relocation and limiting secondary movement.
She also proposed a transitional system as far as the distribution quotas are concerned: for the first period, those Member States who are new to the migratory phenomenon will receive less migrants, in order to become familiar with refugee reception and asylum applications.
She then highlighted the importance of a strong link between the relocation system and the protection of external borders. An efficient relocation system would reduce the burden on frontline Member States. With this respect, she proposed the introduction of sanctions, such as an interruption of structural funds, for those Member States which do not respect their obligations.
The fight against secondary movement is the key element of the proposal.
For this reason, applicants’ registration in Eurodac is necessary, in order to establish an efficient relocation system capable of limiting secondary movements. Member States must therefore register applicants and respect the rules concerning the reception of asylum seekers. This would create a predictable system capable of making people feel safe in the first country of arrival. In this way, secondary movements would be discouraged and migrants would stop relying on smugglers in order to reach the Member State they wish to live in.
Among the issues which require further attention, Cecilia Wikström mentioned the situation of unaccompanied minors: thousands of migrants still go missing today and the EU has to provide them with protection, so that they receive appropriate care and they do not fall into the hands of smugglers or criminal networks. She therefore proposed some provisions regarding the quick appointment of guardians and the creation of teams for the assessment of the situation of child asylum seekers. Specifically, every single Member State should be able to offer an appropriate system for the reception of unaccompanied minors.

According to Alessandra Mussolini (shadow rapporteur for EPP – Italy), the draft report is very decisive and ambitious and many of the innovations introduced will be able to increase the flexibility of the Dublin system. The key elements for the reform of the Dublin system are greater solidarity and a greater sense of shared responsibility among Member States. To reach this solidarity, mutual recognition between Member States and their full participation in the Dublin system are required. With regard to admissibility, she stated that the reform proposed by the rapporteur would make the definition of admissibility criteria faster, while reducing the burden on frontline Member States. She also appreciated the wider flexibility family reunification criteria and the possibility to consider groups of people who share the same language or the same ethnic origin, since it would make registration and relocation procedures faster. On unaccompanied minors, she said that in order to prevent them from disappearing or falling into the hands criminal networks, Member States should need greater specialisation and greater solidarity as well as more responsibility and safety.

According to Elly Schlein (shadow rapporteur for S&D – Italy), the main problem is that while the European Parliament is discussing the reform of the Dublin system for the fourth time, the Council is not even looking at the proposal of the Commission. For her, one of the major obstacles of the current Dublin system is the management of EU external borders.
On admissibility, she confirmed that the introduction of systematic admissibility checks before the application of the Dublin criteria would imply a significant additional burden on frontline Member States, thus reducing their incentives to properly register applicants and promoting secondary movements.
She also said that an automatic relocation mechanism would help the system move forward. On reception, she said that EU Member States should provide decent reception conditions, instead of applying coercive measures. In her opinion, the EU should be able to find a balance between the duties of Member States and the responsibilities of applicants.
She appreciated the reforms on guardianship for unaccompanied children and the flexibility on family reunification- For her, Member States have in fact to respect the family links applicants may have with a Member State different from the country of first arrival.
Elly Schlein was quite critical on the proposal for a transitional period for countries who are less accustomed to receiving refugees. For her, this “exception” would create different responsibilities among Member States and it might therefore weaken solidarity.

Daniel Dalton (shadow rapporteur for ECR – UK) was quite disappointed regarding the proposal for the introduction of the automatic and mandatory relocation system proposed by Commission. In his opinion, Member States cannot be forced to take people if they do not want or they are not ready to do so. He also criticised the conditionality between participation of Member States in mandatory relocation and suspension of EU financial support:  for him, it is completely unacceptable to link the two things, since imposing sanctions on Member States could undermine solidarity and mutual trust. According to him, the EU should reinforce its control procedures in order to fight secondary movement and prevent migrants from absconding. Migrants should be discouraged to take journeys, by giving them the impression that they could not choose the Member State they want to live in.

For Cornelia Ernst (shadow rapporteur for GUE/NGL – Germany), the Dublin system is dead and anyone who says anything else is a dreamer. The system has totally failed and if the Member States wants to get something out of it, they should start thinking not only about their own interests but also about the interests of asylum seekers. She welcomed the proposal to extend family reunification conditions, since in her opinion family goes beyond the mother/father/child relationship. She also welcomed the positive changes concerning guardianship for unaccompanied minors. She found the proposal to register migrants in groups quite positive and she agreed that Member States should be more flexible when dealing with reception of migrants.
On the other hand, she was very critical about the differences in the application of the legislation among Member States. She said, in particular, that the problem of secondary movement would continue to exist as long as refugees were locked up by some Member States, such as Hungary. In her opinion, the European Parliament should make pressure on Member States, so that they all respect the system in the same way. Adopting exceptional measures in order to avoid secondary movements is not the solution, since the real problem is the approach chosen by some Member States. As far as external boundaries are concerned, she said that the proposal of the Commission was too theoretical and it did not take into account the concrete situation that frontline Member States were facing.

For Jean Lamber (shadow rapporteur for Greens/EFA – UK), the key point of the Dublin system is to ensure that the application for asylum is examined and that Member States respect their obligations to do so. She was quite satisfied with the innovations regarding children and unaccompanied minors. On relocation, she found the idea of collective registration and transfer very interesting. However, according to her, today one of the main obstacles to relocation is integration. It is therefore fundamental to reduce barriers to integration in the European societies.

According to Laura Ferrara (shadow rapporteur for EFDD – Italy), the proposal of the Commission is highly critical of the Dublin reform and nothing seems to have changed over the years. The main point of the proposal appears to be the need to block secondary movement. However, in her opinion this should not be considered the priority, since the main issue is that frontline Member States will continue to be overburdened. People can’t be forced  to stay in bad conditions and, as a consequence, they try to reach other countries where reception conditions are better. The key aspect of the reform of the Dublin system is solidarity. Therefore, the EU needs to put into place an automatic relocation mechanism, which should always be applied and not only for emergency situations. On family reunification, she said that the Member State responsible for the examination of the asylum application should always be that in which the applicant has some family connections. As a result, the applicant should be transferred to that Member State as fast as possible.

MEPs interventions:
According to Tomáš Zdechovský  (Czech Republic – PPE), the Dublin system cannot be based on penalties. Member States who do not respect their obligations should not be sanctioned and coercive conditionality between participation of Member States and financial support cannot be accepted.
According to Jussi Halla-Aho (ECR – Finland), Member States should not forget that most of the people who arrive in Italy or Greece hope to travel across Europe and not to stay in the county of first arrival. The EU therefore needs to discourage people to take journeys, making it clear that applicants cannot choose where they want to go. For him, Italy and Greece are called on to put into practice measures of return and readmissions of migrants driven by socio-economic causes as soon as possible.
For Kristina Winberg (EFDD – Sweden), the reform under discussion will collapse soon,  since Member States will start experiencing some problems relating to its implementation.
Ana Gomes (S&D – Portugal) proposed the introduction of new solutions based on the creation of safe and legal pathways for asylum seekers. On relocation, she said that the introduction of an automatic mandatory relocation mechanism would be a very good element.   In her opinion, the use of structural funds needs to be reconsidered: the EU should stimulate  Member States’ solidarity through structural funds. She also raised some concerns on how to reinforce the role of EASO within the relocation mechanism.
In conclusion, the Rapporteur Cecilia Wikström (ALDE – Sweden) stated again that the EU should stop adopting ad-hoc solutions and should make more concrete efforts to reform the Dublin system, in order to reinforce the stability of the system itself. She reiterated the importance of helping overburdened countries, Italy and Greece in particular, in a spirit of solidarity and equal responsibilities. According to her, the EU needs, however, to establish a system that is able to function not only for Italy and Greece, but which can prevent from having a similar situation in other parts of Europe in the future. Member States should therefore act in solidarity and remember that they are dealing with people who are in need of international protection.

 

2) “Qualification Directive” : (Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on Standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status of refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection and for the content of the protection granted and amending Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents – Presentation of the draft report by rapporteur.
Tanja Fajon (S&D – Slovenia), Rapporteur underlined the importance to reform the qualification system, by stating that around 1.5 million people have arrived in Europe over the last two years. According to her, the EU needs a step forward to reform a system which is still based on the principle of the first country of arrival. She also raised some concerns on the role played by cohesion funds. According to her, these funds, which mostly go to the EU Eastern countries should be used as a condition to stimulate Member States to respect their obligations. Her report has been drafted after several meetings with NGOs working in this domain.  According to her, the key elements for an efficient qualification system are a more equitable distribution of burdens among Member States and the introduction of new measures aiming at a rapid integration of refugees within the European societies.
Among the essential elements proposed in the report, she highlighted:
a) the adoption of efficient measures to encourage refugee integration and avoid secondary movement;
b) equal treatment for refugees and EU citizens and non-discrimination against minority groups;
c) the equation between asylum and subsidiary protection in terms of length of residence permits (5 years for both status).
As regards the revision of international protection, it should be optional and it needs to take into account the situation of the applicant’s country of origin. The introduction of a systematic revision of the status is not a good element and could represent an additional burden for the Member State responible.
The draft report also proposes to extend the criteria of eligibility to international protection to new categories, in particular to persons in need of protection due to a natural or a man-made disaster. The definition of family members should be broadened as well and it has to include brothers and sisters in order to encourage family reunification.

According to Alessandra Mussolini (shadow rapporteur for EPP – Italy), the EU needs  some common ground on the reform of the qualification directive. It is essential to simplify, streamline and speed up the procedures if the EU wants to fight illegal activities and reduce the burdens on Member States. She also found very important to harmonise the timeframe for residence permits of the two status of international protection. As regards family links, she said that the more the EU tried to define new categories eligible to international protection, the more the other categories are excluded, with possible negative impacts on vulnerable people. She also raised some concerns on married minors, for whom the situation could me more difficult to be examined.

According to Jussi Halla-Aho (shadow rapporteur for ECR – Finland), secondary movement and asylum shopping are the major threats to the Schengen area and to the credibility of the asylum system. He also recalled that many people in the world flee the general economic conditions of their countries and not for reasons of real persecution. This constitute an abuse of the asylum system. In his opinion, a regulation is the right instrument to harmonise measures within the EU. However, the liberal interpretation and the maximum standards of protection adopted in the draft report should be substituted by a conservative interpretation and minimum standards, since the objective of the system should be to discourage and not to encourage migration flows. He said that he could not accept the inclusion of environmental migrants as beneficiaries of international protection and he stated that international protection should be always temporary and that subsidiary protection should last no more than one year. He also reiterated the importance to asses the situation in the country of origin before the renewal of the status of international protection, while taking into consideration that the purpose of the system should always be to send people back home as soon as possible, in particular those who do not show a cooperative and open attitude towards the integration into the society of the host Member State.

Cecilia Wikström (on behalf of Angelika Mlinar, shadow rapporteur for ALDE) said that the draft report appeared to be very good and that the reform should be based on incentives instead of sanctions and on the extension of the scope of family reunification.

For Barbara Spinelli (shadow rapporteur for GUE/NGL – Italy), some points of the report need to be totally revisited, since the new regulation risks leading to a downward harmonisation. This holds especially true when it comes to the equation between subsidiary protection and refugee status, since the harmonisation can lead to less safeguards for people in need of protection compared to what some Member States, such as Italy, already grant. She also underlined that the respect of the non refoulement obligation should always be at the base of the reform. She also highlighted the importance of including environmental migrants among the beneficiaries of international protection. She made the example of land grabbing, a phenomenon which is forcing many people from Africa and other parts of the world to leave their countries. She also called for the extension of the residence permits as well as the inclusion of new family ties for family reunification. The spirit should be to include more and more categories as beneficiaries of international protection, and even though it is true that the definition of these categories can exclude other categories, that is the spirit under which subsidiary protection was introduced and the EU therefore needs to continue in that direction.

For Jean Lamber (shadow rapporteur for Greens/EFA – UK), the new regulation must not level down the situation. In particular, she said that the systematic examination of the status each year could become a nightmare for Member States and could have serious damages on integration. For example, in the case of integration in the labour market, employers would be discouraged to take people on, if they know that after one year they will not probably be there anymore. For her, the alignment between asylum and subsidiary protection is necessary. The definition of family should be extended as well, together with the scope of those in need of protection, including environmental refugees.

3) Refugees/Migrants issue in Greece: State of play and future scenarios. Exchange of views with Ioannis Mouzalas, Minister of Migration Policy of Greece.
Ioannis Mouzalas talked about the current migration situation in Greece. He said that there had been around 850,000 migrants in Greece in 2015 and that Greeks had showed great solidarity and friendship towards the migrants, with the exception perhaps of the people of the islands, where some populist responses and reflexes had aroused.
On the situation of reception centres and refugee camps in his country, he said that their conditions had not not been very good in the beginning, but the situation had improved over time. According to him, Greece has managed to build around many  new centres and has made concrete efforts to create new safe spaces inside the camps for unaccompanied minors. As far as the migration situation on the islands is concerned, conditions are worse than the mainland mostly because of overpopulation, and Greek people living on the islands are often afraid of these massive arrivals. However, the Greek government has planned to create 10,000 further housing slots in the islands and it wants to provide refugees and asylum seekers with cash payment as well as work permits in the cities where they live.
In his opinion, the EU needs an automatic procedure to provide overburdened countries, such as Greece, with the assistance they require. The EU cannot continue to manage migration flows through voluntary support. Solidarity cannot be voluntary, because such a voluntary clause would create a situation in which only some Member States would be willing to participate in solidarity actions and actually this is already the case in Europe with countries, such as Germany, Greece, Italy and Sweden, which are facing alone the current migration crisis, while others are not participating in the system at all.

MEPs interventions:
Roberta Metsola (EPP – Malta) said that in Greece there had been a huge influx of migrants over the past years. For her, real solidarity needs to be improved and it should represent the starting point to deal with this situation. However, she asked for more clarity on the number of migrants who are currently entering Greece and those who are being returned under the EU-Turkey agreement. She also asked for more accuracy on the information regarding the financial aid Greece is receiving from the EU in order to manage the situation.
For Birgit Sippel (S&D – Germany), the situation Greece is facing clearly demonstrates that flexible solidarity is even more senseless if some Member States continue to do nothing.
Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL– Germany), asked about the functioning of the allocation system in Greece, in particular with regard to allocation of minors.
For Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA – Netherlands), Greece is not relocating refugees as it should do, due to the fact that they do not fit the nationality criteria or as an effect of the EU-Turkey deal. According to her, relocation seems to have become a game in Europe.
Malin Björk (GUE/NGL – Sweden) talked about a letter from 160 NGOs concerning the need to change the course of the current EU migration policy. She criticised the stricter externalisation of borders in general and the institutionalisation of Greek islands camps in in particular. According to her, the European Parliament should put more and more pressure on the Council in order to close these camps. The Parliament should also ask for an elimination of the measures on refugee detention and introduce new measures on minor protection, since minors in Greece are now sent back to Turkey under the EU-Turkey agreement.
Monika Hohlmeier (EPP – Germany) asked about the relation between the islands and the mainland, since for her there is a lack of clear figures on the people who have been effectively  relocated form the islands to the mainland and on the people who have been sent back under the EU-Turkey agreement.
According to Elly Schlein (S&D – Italy) the admissibility/inadmissibility checks discussed under the reform of the Dublin system could end up being an additional burden for frontline states, and this can have negative impact on Greece. She also affirmed that minors and vulnerable groups should not be returned to Turkey, and that the Commission and the Council should include some obligations for Member States on that point.
Ana Gomes (S&D – Portugal) asked for concrete numbers on relocation from Greece, as well as for some clarification on the orientation Greece is adopting with regard to vulnerable people. According to her, vulnerable categories should have priority in relocation measures. She also said that unaccompanied minors should not be returned to countries like Afghanistan,  where terrorist attacks are the norm.

In reply, Minister Ioannis Mouzalas said that Greece was the second country in Europe in terms of number of asylum applications received and that the country therefore needed the help of the other Member States, some of which were not cooperating at all. He criticised for example those Member States which had failed to keep their promises in terms of relocation and providing staff for the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). He then stated again that Greece was making concrete efforts in order to improve the situation of refugees, under full respect of international obligations. In particular, he said that Greece was trying to manage vulnerable categories as efficiently as possible, but he called for the support of the EU and its agencies, especially EASO, in terms of resources and concrete assistance.

OTHER POINTS ON THE AGENDA

4) Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union – Presentation of the draft opinion to the BUDG Committee  by rapporteur Daniele Viotti (S&D – Italy)

Birgit Sippel (S&D Germany) talked on behalf of Rapporteur Daniele Viotti. She said that, according to the rapporteur, the proposal of the Commission could be further improved. The rapporteur, in fact, asked for more transparency on the EU agencies and called for a standardisation of the agencies, while stating the importance of taking into account the specificity of each of them. On the revision of the financial regulation concerning the EU Trust Fund, the rapporteur said that the Trust Fund should be used only in exceptional circumstances, since it was not placed under the Parliament’s budget scrutiny.

MEPs’ interventions:
Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP – Czech Republic) said that the LIBE Committee should fight for sufficient flexibility of the EU budget and find a balance between flexibility and control. He completely disagreed with Daniele Viotti’s report and he called for a discussion to reach a new compromise.

 
5) EASO REVISION (Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union Agency for Asylum – Presentation of the state of play of trilogue negotiations by rapporteur Péter Niedermüller.
Rapporteur Péter Niedermüller (S&D – Hungary) stated that the European Parliament wanted a strong independent agency capable of providing support to Member States. He said that there had been some conflicts during the trilogue negotiations, with regard to monitoring, training and power balances in particular, even though in the end negotiations had had some positive results.

MEPs’ interventions:
According to Carlos Coelho (EPP – Portugal), the legal basis for the European Union Agency for Asylum should be set up as soon as possible, since the role its role could be extremely important not only during crisis but also for crisis prevention.

6) UKRAINE VISAS (Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (Ukraine) – Presentation of the state of play of trilogue negotiations by rapporteur Mariya Gabriel (EPP – Bulgaria)
Michal Boni (EPP – Poland) spoke on behalf of Rapporteur Mariya Gabriel. He said that excellent collaboration between the EP, the Commission and the Council had existed throughout the whole negotiation. He also said that Ukraine had achieved all the benchmark criteria necessary to obtain visa liberalisation and that the country had gone even further. According to the rapporteur, every country which respects the criteria should benefit from the liberalisation of visa for its citizens and Ukraine falls within this case.

7) Electronic vote
During the meeting, MEPs were voted on:

a) the compromise text  on UKRAINE – VISA WAIVER agreed during the inter-institutional negotiations (Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement -Ukraine).

b) the draft report on the on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulation (EC) 1030/2002 laying down a uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals.

8) European Commission Report on the implementation of Directive on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (Presentation by the Commission of the report to the European Parliament and the Council assessing the extent to which the Member States have taken the necessary measures in order to comply with Directive 2011/93/EU and the report assessing the implementation of the measures referred to in Article 25 of Directive 2011/93/EU.  
According to the European Commission, Directive 2011/93/EU is an ambitious and comprehensive legal instrument that covers investigation, prosecution, prevention and assistance to victims of sexual abuse. The transposition of such a directive represents a big step in the right direction, but there are still a number of steps which need to be made, starting from the accomplishment of satisfactory levels of implementation.
There has been a lot of progress with regard to setting up cooperation schemes in order to improve cooperation among national actors. Member States have also made relevant steps forward with regard to blocking the dissemination of materials on child sexual abuse. However, prevention from sexual abuse remains the less developed area.
Further efforts are also required in the field of assistance and protection of child victims, including the family of the victim, as well as in the fields of investigation and prosecution. The European Commission is fully supporting Member States in the implementation of the directive and it is cooperating with Interpol for a stronger control of the Internet in order to protect children and prevent from child abuse and pornography.

MEPs’ interventions:
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (EPP – Sweden), rapporteur for the session, said that Member States should do more in terms of how the directive could be put into practice. Member States have done great progress in implementing the directive and the civil society has played an important role in advocating as well as supporting Member States. However, crimes against children are still frequent in Europe and they need to be combated more concretely. In her opinion, stronger cooperation between Member States is required to fight against the cross-border criminal networks which exploit children. In particular, she said that the number of sex extortion and revenge pornography cases was increasing in Europe.  The EU should therefore make stronger and more concrete efforts to combat these phenomena. For her, a better identification of victims as well as of potential offenders is also needed, if Member States want to put into practice efficient prevention mechanisms.
Birgit Sippel (S&D – Germany) spoke on behalf of the shadow rapporteur for S&D. She said that the party welcomed the report on implementation prepared by the Commission, but she noticed that the two reports had shed light on the differences among Member States’ practices to protect children against sexual abuse. She also highlighted the importance of educational campaigns in order to raise awareness of the consequences of child sexual exploitation.
For Branislav Škripek (shadow rapporteur for ECR – Slovakia), the directive should be implemented in toto and Member States should make efforts to bring about a change in the behaviour of offenders.
According to Nathalie Griesbeck (shadow rapporteur for ALDE –  France), today child sexual abuse is a matter of great urgency in Europe. She clarified that it was not a question of freedom of the Internet, but a question of targeting specifically sexual abuse and other crimes against children. For her, the report of the Commission is very clear and it confirms that there is still much to be done.

9) Croatia preparation of Schengen operational phase.  (Proposal for a Council Decision on the application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in the area of the Schengen Information System in the Republic of Croatia )– Presentation by the Commission and intervention by the Maltese Presidency.
According to the Commission, discussions for the integration of Croatia in the Schengen Information System (SIS) started in 2016 after they country had accepted to undergo this process in 2015. The objective of these evaluations is to allow Croatia to gradually participate  in the Schengen Information System. A wide range of domains were discussed and Croatia was found technically ready to be integrated into the system.
The Commission explained that Croatia had accomplished all the criteria required but that, since the Council had not take its final decision on the full Schengen evaluation process yet, there would be some restrictions applied to Croatia, with regard to entry alerts in particular.

The Council confirmed that a process of verifying the correct implementation of the Schengen acquis across different domains, in particular data protection, had been carried out and Croatia had met all the requirements. The country was therefore found technically ready to join the Schengen Information System. According to the Council, the integration of Croatia is important because it will increase cooperation in the areas of information collection and exchange as well as in the field of police cooperation.

MEPs’ interventions:
Nuno Melo (EPP – Portugal), rapporteur for the session, said that from a legal point of view the assessment of Croatia had been positive and that Croatia had met all the requirements. According to him, the evaluation of the country’s contribution to the Schengen Information System can only take place once Croatia has joined the system.
For Birgit Sippel (S&D – Germany), if Croatia has really fulfilled the criteria, further steps should be made in order to make the country part of the system as soon as possible. However, she raised some doubts as regards Croatia’s readiness to contribute to data protection.

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