I am back in Dublin again for an informal meeting of ministers for justice and home affairs. Except all the ministers from the EU-countries, the ministers from the candidate countries and the associated countries are present at this informal meeting. No decisions are made, but the meeting gives an opportunity for a more open discussion on various issues. It is also an opportunity for shorter meetings in the corridors. The Irish presidency has growth as their main theme and they want to discuss all questions from this perspective. Yesterday, we therefore discussed labour migration as well as crime prevention, from an economic perspective.
Despite the high unemployment, we paradoxically also have a problem finding qualified labour within some areas. Hundreds of thousands educated Europeans have left our continent to work in Africa, Latin America etc. The long-term demographic development is also worrying.
Many efforts are of course required here – we need more women on the labour market, we need to invest more in education as well as in integration of immigrants that already live in Europe. Labour migration is not the solution to all our problems, but it can be a crucial factor and we need to do more to make Europe more attractive and accessible for people outside of the EU. The Commission has claimed this since a long time, however, in practice it has become increasingly difficult to enter Europe legally, and immigration has actually decreased. We had a good and constructive discussion, more and more Member States are now realising the need for labour. Still, the focus on keeping people away from the EU is great, which is regrettable.
Concerning the fighting of crime, it is clear that a crime is a major violation of the individual victim, but organised crime is also an extremely lucrative economic activity. The money should, to a greater extent, be taken back to the legal economy. We discussed various current law proposals concerning corruption, confiscation of criminal assets and money laundering.
Among the other questions on the agenda was the situation in Syria. We discussed the terrible situation with UNHCR and the High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Guterres. About 25 000 Syrians have fled to the EU so far and 700 000 are being given protection in the neighbouring area, in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Most of them get to stay but some Member States are still sending back Syrian asylum seekers, something which is not acceptable. UNHCR urges EU countries to take responsibility and resettle some of the 500 persons on the UNHCR list for people with special needs. I hope that the Member States can make a difference here; it would be an important signal!
Greece presented their updated action plan on how to get a functioning asylum policy in place. Progress is being made, but there are still many things to do.
Throughout the meeting, everyone obviously felt a great concern for the hostage crisis in Algeria.