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On the 10th and 11th July, the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee received Andres Anvelt, Minister of the Interior of Estonia, and Urmas Reinsalu, Minister of Justice of Estonian, to hear the main priorities of the first Estonian Presidency of the European Council of the European Union. The ministers took advantage of this meeting to present their guidelines about diverse topics such as immigration and asylum policies, data protection, and safety.

The Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union will certainly have to face a titanic job during the next few months. Despite the fact that this presidency will appear to be short due to the summer and Christmas holidays, Estonian leaders are ambitious and hope for their presidency to be a success for the European Union.

The Estonian Minister of the Interior, Andres Anvelt, was received by the MEPs of the LIBE Committee on the 10th July. His speech was reminiscent of the 6th-July meeting, which occurred in Tallinn, where the situation in Italy was discussed. His main preoccupation is to make progress on managing and facing the migration crisis. According to the minister, this issue must be taken as having two dimensions. If we consider the short-term issue, a greater help must be provided to Italy. The recent arrivals reminded us the failure of the distribution of the asylum seekers between the member states. On a long term point of view, Mister Anvelt told MEPs that the Dublin regulation will have to be reformed to allow the implementation of an ‘efficient’ return policy by using the Schengen Information System. The Estonian Minister said that Europeans should demonstrate more flexibility in the implementation of the responsibility and solidarity principles.

At the same time, Andres Anvelt emphasized the importance the Blue Card mechanism. This Blue Card has been created to attract highly skilled people. This mechanism is not used equally by all the member states. Indeed, some like Germany issued more than 12,000 Blue Cards in 2014, and some other a very few (e.g. Sweden issued no blue cards in 2014). While managing asylum seekers seems to be difficult, the question of highly skilled people will certainly be rapidly discussed due to the difference in treatment made between ‘educated’ people and population fleeing (civil) wars.

The next day, Urmas Reinsalu, Minister of Justice, gave his speech in front of the LIBE Committee. One of his major tasks will be to conclude talks on the European Public Prosecutor. He indicated that a regulation will be finalised on the 17th July. Currently, around 20 countries are willing to participate in the creation of the European Public Prosecutor after four years of negotiations.

As a ‘connected’ country, the Estonian Presidency wants to finalise some issues about data protections and consider an EU membership to Convention 108 of the Council of Europe (Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regards to Automatic Processing of Personal Data). Moreover, Estonia wants to make cyber-investigations easier. It also wants the European Criminal Records Information system to be strengthened and extended to non-European citizens.

This programme is only part of what the Estonian government wants to accomplish, concerning the area of freedom, security and justice, during its presidency of the Council of the European Union. It is ambitious and will required a lot of hard work. Nonetheless, some of the propositions will be the continuity of the Maltese presidency which ended on the 30th June.

Pierre Angelloz-Pessey

Sources:

Priorities of the Estonian Presidence: https://www.eu2017.ee/priorities-estonian-presidency.

Recording of the LIBE Committee meeting of July, 10th: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ep-live/en/committees/video?event=20170710-1500-COMMITTEE-LIBE.

Recording of the LIBE Committee meeting of July, 11th (afternoon): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ep-live/en/committees/video?event=20170711-1500-COMMITTEE-LIBE.

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