|Another meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council took place in Luxembourg on April 6. The home affairs part of the meeting was chaired by the Czech Minister of the Interior, Ivan Langer.
The biggest success of the meeting was the election of the new Europol director. The Council agreed on the British candidate, Rob Wainwright. The Minister of the Interior, Ivan Langer, called this election a big success of the Czech EU Presidency – thanks to a compromise, the situation from 2004, when Europol had to work 9 months without a director, will not be repeated.
n the area of home affairs the following main topics were discussed – fulfilment of the Czech Presidency plan for the SIS project, the current state of the VIS (visa information system), the proposal of a guideline of a single work and residence permit for the citizen’s of third countries (single permit),
and the issue of Guantánamo. The Minister of the Interior, Ivan Langer, said to this issue: “At yesterday’s EU – USA summit the United States officially asked the EU for help and cooperation. Today we agreed on further procedures of the discussions. However, the USA still bears the main responsibility and the decision about accepting or not accepting the prisoners is up to each member state. “
On March 30 and 31 Prague hosted a conference of the national rappor-teurs of the EU member states, which was attended by the leading experts dealing with people trafficking.
The lack of mutually comparable data, whose analysis would help to address the problems of the individual EU member states and to find common effective solutions, was identified as one of the essential problems for taking key measures against people trafficking. That was the reason why the Czech Presidency approached organizing this conference, which was, by the way, the first event focused on this topic within the whole EU.
As a tool for a closer cooperation the Ministry of the Interior created a special website: www.national-rapporteurs.eu . This website contains basic information on the structure of the national rapporteurs in the individual EU member states, including contacts, relevant national web sites, and basic national documents. The objective of the conference was to start a discussion about the possibilities of creating a functional network of the EU countries’ national rapporteurs.
The cooperation with the European Commission and especially with the OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator will ensure interconnection even in non-EU regions, where a lot of victims of people trafficking come from.
The Czech Republic, as well as some other post-communist countries, has gone through a specific development in the area of people trafficking. At the beginning of the 1990’s the Czech Republic was an important source country for some western Europe countries. Due to its economic growth it gradually became a target and transit country. However, in the last few years there has been evidence of a slightly increasing number of men and women from the Czech Republic who are exploited sexually or at work abroad. At the same time it can be expected that this slightly increasing tendency is going to continue, which is undoubtedly related to the current global economic crisis. The Czech Republic perceives people trafficking as a crucial issue, which is why it chose it as one of the partial priorities of its EU Presidency.
|During the Czech Republic’s EU Presi-dency your depart-ment has been in the centre of all the action. What is a typical “Presidency“ day in your depart-ment like?
In comparison with the working days that we were used to before the Presidency each “Presidency“ day is full of surprise and changes. Every day our department monitors the political situation in the EU member states as well as our own political situation. We work daily with the results of the meetings of the EU Council’s working bodies which influence the agenda of the Czech Ministry of the Interior and the Czech EU Presidency. We must estimate immediately what impact the results of the meetings will have on the political level within the EU. Regarding the Presidency agenda we are every day in contact with all the departments of the Ministry of the Interior and also with the Office of the Government, the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic in Brussels, and with the General Secretariat of the Council. The changes in the schedule of the Minister and of the summit meetings that the Minister has to attend happen within minutes and we have to be prepared for them. It is not exceptional for us to spend a whole day on the telephone, writing emails and at the same time preparing some documents for the Minister. Just like in other fields, details are very important in our work and so even a small mistake in a formulation that occurs in the Minister’s documents might cause an international problem. Every day we put a lot of effort into all the events and meetings of our Presidency that we are responsible for, so that they all go smoothly, including the slightest details.
At the end of April, Prague, as the capital of the Presidential country, will be hosting a meeting of the EU-USA ministerial Troika. What do you expect of this meeting?
This meeting is one of those which confirm that for a long time the home affairs agenda has not been only the “interior” matter of the member states, or of only the Czech Republic. Since the events of 9/11 and since the subsequent development we have seen very clearly that “home affairs” have a very strong outer dimension. The European Union has several strategic partners in the area of these external relations and the most important one is undoubtedly the USA. The cooperation between the EU and the USA has gone through years of development and now we can, as the EU Presidential country,
|contribute to its further progress thanks to our good relationships with the USA. We have extended the cooperation with the USA by cooperation in the area of international protection of children. At the Troika meeting we will be talking about the results of the conference on safer Internet for children, in which the USA will also be participating in Prague in April. Another issue, for which we do not claim credit but which has to be dealt with, is the issue of the EU’s coordinated attitude towards the closing of the detention centre in Guantánamo. This current topic will, of course, also be discussed during the Troika meeting. Generally, I think that now we can say that the Czech Presidency has contributed to establishing very good relationships with the new American administration.
More than half of the Czech EU Presidency is over. When you look back at the past months, how would you evaluate them?
I can evaluate the previous months by saying that we have managed everything very well. What we used to hear from our colleagues from other EU member states years before our Presidency has been confirmed – it pays to be prepared. I can safely say that the Ministry of the Interior was prepared for the Presidency agenda. I take my hat off to all my colleagues, not only from our department but from all the departments of the Ministry. They are knowledgeable, resourceful, and very well prepared. They do not rely simply on good luck and nothing can surprise them. They are willing to sacrifice their own free time and private life to these exceptional six months in the life of our country. I hope all those who decide about the fate of this country behave in the same way.
What important events is the Ministry of the Interior preparing under the auspices of the Czech EU Presidency?
The end of the Presidency, preceded by a few discussions with third countries, will be really demanding for us. We have already mentioned the Troika meeting with the USA. There will also be a Troika with Russia in the middle of May. Also, at the beginning of May an informal meeting of the Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum will be taking place in Prague, as well as several other conferences, two of which will be a conference on building migration partnerships and a conference on safer internet for children. At the beginning of June we will be finishing the main activities of the Czech Presidency by a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council and then we will also be participating in the results of the heads and governments of the EU states. There are still a lot of things lying before us.
|The Czech European Union Presidency will organise a Ministerial Conference “Building Migration Partnerships”, which will take place in Prague on 27-28 April 2009.
The ambition of the Ministerial Conference Building Migration Partnerships is, through joint preparatory activities, to elaborate a joint declaration, which would enable the participating states to qualitatively improve joint relations towards genuine migration partnerships. This objective aims at providing support to the EU Global Approach to Migration in its Eastern and South-Eastern dimension and the principle has been just recently given a prominent place in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum prepared by the French EU Presidency.
The Czech EU Presidency will be in its efforts assisted by Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. The First Preparatory meeting
| in Prague on 30-31 October 2008 gathered representatives on senior officials level from 39 countries (EU and Schengen Member States, South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Turkey), the European Commission, EU agencies Frontex and Europol and 4 international organisations (ICMPD, UNHCR, IOM, CIS Executive Committee).
The participating states as well as the European Commission and international organisation supported the Czech Republic and its intention to organise the Ministerial Conference. The gathering allowed for active discussions on five thematic topics (fight against illegal migration; return, readmission and reintegration; labour migration; integration; migration and development), which will serve as a basis for preparation of ministerial recommendations to be adopted at the Ministerial Conference.