Cork East Fine Gael TD and Minister of State at the Department of Justice, David Stanton attended a two day meeting in Brussels at the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council this week.
The discussions in Brussels focused on migration, security and counter-terrorism. The meeting, held in the wake of the London terror attacks, began with a minute’s silence to express sympathy and solidarity with the UK. The continued threat of terrorism was addressed and the Ministers examined possible actions to take to address the potential issues posed by foreign terrorist fighters returning to the EU. The benefits of better information sharing, working with third countries, developing risk assessment tools, addressing the unique problems posed by different returnees, and ensuring consistent criminal justice responses to terrorist crimes was discussed.
In relation to migration, particular focus was placed on the Malta Declaration of last month and the Valletta Joint Action Plan, which set out ways to save lives and reduce dangerous patterns of illegal migration into the EU. Minister Stanton said:
“The EU response to the continued migratory flows to Europe must be multifaceted. The focus of this Council was on those returning to their own countries, working with key third countries and showing internal solidarity through relocation measures. We need to ensure that our asylum systems function well and we need to deter illegal flows. We must also offer further and improved opportunities for legal pathways to Europe.”
Minister Stanton told the Council that Ireland is working closely with Greece to ensure that Ireland meets its commitments for relocations by September this year. Minister Stanton also updated colleagues on Ireland’s successful resettlement programme which has surpassed its resettlement quota.
Minister Stanton also met with the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová to discuss issues arising in relation to cooperation in justice matters between the EU and the UK following the UK exit. The Minister also met with his Hungarian and Dutch counterparts to discuss plans to strengthen the role of the European Network on Victims’ Rights. Noting the potential for the Network to grow and strengthen cooperation between Member States in this policy area, Minister Stanton undertook to work with his colleagues to progress this important work.