Minister Flanagan joins Justice & Home Affairs Ministers in Bucharest for two days of discussions on counter-terrorism; asylum & migration; electronic evidence; and police & judicial cooperation
8 February 2019
EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers gathered in Bucharest this week for two days of dialogue to help set the agenda for the 6 months of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Minister Flanagan welcomed the opportunities for Ministers to help shape the Presidency agenda to deliver increased EU cooperation to ensure the safety of citizens, in particular in an ever developing technologically driven Union.
While in Bucharest, Minister Flanagan engaged in a number of bilateral and multilateral meetings. He met the UK Minister of State for Immigration, Caroline Noakes MP, to discuss ongoing cooperation in the context of the Common Travel Area. He also joined colleagues from Germany, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands to discuss how to ensure the most robust police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters moving forward.
Minister Flanagan also met with the Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, Michael O’Flaherty, to discuss hate crime, disability rights and freedom of expression.
On the first day of the meeting, Home Affairs Ministers gathered to discuss a number of topics including counter-terrorism, police cooperation and EU asylum and migration policy.
The first item on the agenda of the meeting was on ‘strengthening Counter-Terrorism co-operation across the EU’.
Minister Flanagan said: “Significant work has been undertaken by the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Terrorism and Ministers had a preliminary exchange of views on how best to address any practical or legislative deficiencies in the fight against terrorism across the EU. In today’s highly connected world, counter-terrorism measures simply cannot be effective unless countries work together. Where policies fall under national competence only, we have an opportunity to learn from one another and emulate best practice. During the Romanian Presidency, I expect to see further analysis and discussion about new measures the EU can take to combat terrorism and ensure our citizens are best protected. Our European values are shared values and together we strive to continuously improve our defence of them against those that seek to undermine our freedom”.
Minister Flanagan welcomed the opportunity for discussions in the margins of the meeting with the EU Counter Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove.
Moving onto the topic of ‘Policing in a connected world’ Minister Flanagan engaged in a discussion on ways to improve and utilise knowledge on digital data and ensure its availability to all Law Enforcement Authorities. Reaffirming Irelands commitment to the protection and promotion of the Union’s area of freedom security and Justice, Minister Flanagan expressed Irelands wish to further our participation and cooperation in developing the toolboxes needed to increase knowledge, share capacity and further build relationships between Member States Law Enforcement Authorities at a European Level.
Minister Flanagan welcomed the discussion on ‘EU migration and asylum policy’ which he recalled has been a reoccurring agenda for some time: “Increased migration flows into the EU has been an issue that has challenged us over recent years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Today’s discussion was aptly headed ‘A step closer to finding the right solution’ and what the outcome of our talks have shown is that we are all still very much committed to working together to find the best way to manage migration through the introduction of a system that works for the long term. We need a system that works for the Union, ensures no member state finds themselves in a position of being overburdened and is fully in compliance with our international obligations. Ireland supports the concept of solidary and we have demonstrated this in very practical ways not only by voluntarily taking part in the original relocation programmes for Greece and Italy but also by being part of a small number of Member States that showed willingness to take charge of a number of migrants rescued in recent months to ensure they could be disembarked safely and without further delay at the safest close port. Ireland will continue to help in whatever way we can while we finalise the structure of a fit for purpose, resilient Common European Asylum System”.
On the second day of the meeting Justice Ministers from across the EU came together to discuss ‘ways to further develop judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters’ and to examine the use of existing measures in this area. Noting that 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam and with it the inclusion of judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters, Minister Flanagan acknowledged the valuable work that has been undertaken in this important area: “This is an area of work that benefits from our mutual trust in each-others systems. We can recognise and enforce civil and commercial judgements knowing that we share common minimum standards and have the collective oversight of Court of Justice of the European Union. The extensive range of EU legislation that has been adopted in this area in the last 20 years has proved to be of immense value to citizens and business in the Member States. We have a number of measures that are important in the context of our ever increasing mobility, both in terms of families and businesses and we should look at making sure that these measures are working at their most efficient. This is because these measures are part of the facilitation of the freedom of movement that is now so normal to us that we sometime forget what a great achievement it is”.
Ministers also discussed the importance of the practical application of the proposed measure for accessing electronic evidence in Criminal investigations and exchanged views on how best to protect the rights of individuals in cyberspace while ensuring there can be an effective criminal law response to any abuse of cyberspace. Minister Flanagan noted the importance of engaging with major service providers generally and the need to increase this engagement when the operational date for the e-evidence proposal becomes clear. Going forward the Minister also noted the importance of engaging with third countries on this. “We have the opportunity to set standards in relation to accessing e-evidence while ensuring the protection of fundamental rights of individuals. We need to invest in developing international agreements that respect the rights of citizens on the one hand and can still on the other deliver the evidence needed for the investigation of criminal offences. Access to e-evidence is not only a European Issue, it is a global issue and one that requires global solutions. We have made some good progress on this front but we have a long way to go.”