|Commission adopts first EU strategy on voluntary return and reintegration in migration
The Commission adopted the first EU Strategy on voluntary return and reintegration, which aims to install voluntary return and reintegration as an integral part of a common EU framework for returns, a key objective under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. Within the strategy, the Commission also outlines plans to strengthen Frontex’s mandate to increase returns of asylum-seekers and migrants whose applications to stay within the EU are rejected. Low rates of voluntary returns persist across the 27 Member States at present due to fragmented systems and insufficient cross-border cooperation, including limited cooperation from third-countries. For reference, Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson stated “Only about a third of people with no right to stay in the EU return to their country of origin and of those who do, fewer than 30% do so voluntarily.” Via a stronger mandate, the aim is for Frontex to be better positioned to support Member States in all stages of the voluntary return and reintegration process, including on pre-return counselling, post-arrival support and monitoring the effectiveness of reintegration assistance. Frontex will soon appoint a Deputy Executive Director to lead a dedicated department for returns. The Question and Answer accompanying the new Strategy can be accessed here. (link)
European Commission is suing AstraZeneca for breaching vaccine contract
|· France: Hundreds of mourners gathered to honour Stéphanie Monfermé, a mother and local police officer in Paris who was murdered at a police station by a terrorist. (link)
· Portugal and Spain: Portugal’s police force are on a grade 4 (moderate) terrorist alert following an Al-Qaeda group inciting lone wolf attacks on Western Europe last week. Spain’s interior ministry has also sent out a communiqué to its police forces. (link)
· Hungary: Hungarian police have cracked down on an international vehicle theft ring, and seized 78 cars, 16 tractors and construction machinery, as well as two trucks, and identified 89 further cars sold abroad. (link)
· Netherlands: Riot police in Amsterdam had to be deployed after huge overcrowding in the Vondelpark in the city centre and COVID-19 rules being broken during King’s Day. (link)
· Sweden: Swedish police have warned gambling businesses are often unknowingly “at risk” of money laundering exploitation. (link)
· UK: Heroin worth over £250,000 was seized by police in the Scottish borders, in a large operation where officers searched seven properties in Galashiels under warrant. (link)
|European Parliament and Council ratify Brexit trade agreement after lengthy delays
Both the European Parliament and the Council of the EU have ratified the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which had been provisionally applying since January 1st 2021. MEPs voted in favour by a substantial majority of 660 votes to only 5 against, while 32 abstained – meaning that the Agreement will permanently enter into force on 1st May. While MEPs across the different Parliamentary groups agreed that the successful ratification of the deal brings certainty and stability, during the plenary session MEPs agreed that Brexit is a “historic mistake” – one which former EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier also stated the EU “must learn from” and German MEP David McAllister described as a “lose-lose situation.” On law enforcement and judicial cooperation, the agreement includes provisions (at pages 682 onwards) concerning, amongst other issues, exchange of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data; transfer of passenger name record data; cooperation with Europol and Eurojust; and finally surrender and replacement arrangements for the European Arrest Warrant. (link)
11 EU states warn EU Commission and Council of the EU to keep out of employment and labour policy
– 4 May: Informal meeting of the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs to discuss, among other things, the EU Action Plan on Drugs, Organised Crime (SOCTA 2021) with a presentation from Europol during the meeting. The agenda can be found here.
– 7 – 8 May: Porto Social Summit. The first day will include discussions on the implementations of the European Pillars of Social Rights. During the second day there will be a meeting of the heads of State and Government in Porto.
– 10 May: LIBE Committee Meeting. On the agenda: exchange of views on the Activities of the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group; framework for the interoperability of the Digital Green Certificate (COVID-19 travel certificate); protection of personal data by the United Kingdom; and establishing an exchange, assistance and training programme for the protection of the Euro against counterfeiting for the period 2021-2027 (the ‘Pericles IV programme’). The LIBE Committee is also voting on the Annual Report on the Functioning of the Schengen Area.