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Home affairs ministers to discuss migration and EU visa policy

Ministry of the Interior
Publication date 9.3.2023 8.40 | Published in English on 9.3.2023 at 15.24
Press release

EU home affairs ministers gather in Brussels on 9 March for a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council. Items on the agenda include the monitoring of the implementation of the Action Plans on the Western Balkans and Central Mediterranean migration routes. The European Commission presented both plans at the end of last year. Minister of the Interior Krista Mikkonen will represent Finland at the meeting.

The Action Plan on the Central Mediterranean responds to the many challenges of the route. It contains 20 measures to reduce irregular and dangerous migration, provide solutions to the new challenges of search and rescue efforts, and strengthen solidarity and accountability between Member States.

“One life lost is one too many. Combatting people smuggling, creating legal migration routes and having a well-functioning asylum system are important elements of the action plans on migration routes. At the same time, the root causes of migration must be addressed and joint efforts carried out to strengthen the structures in the countries of origin so that they can better respond to new challenges,” says Minister Mikkonen.

The Action Plan on the Western Balkans calls for strengthening border security, speeding up asylum procedures, combating migrant smuggling, enhancing cooperation on returns, and achieving visa policy alignment between the Western Balkan countries and the EU.

The number of migrants entering the European Union through the Western Balkans grew significantly in 2022. The reception systems in many EU countries close to the Western Balkans currently lack capacity. The route also involves criminal activities, such as people smuggling and trafficking in human beings.

The EU needs a more strategic and sustainable visa policy

The home affairs ministers will receive an update on the functioning of the Schengen area. The ministers will also discuss the next steps for EU's visa policy. The Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU aims to open a debate on how to make visa policy more strategic and sustainable.

“The EU common visa policy needs to be developed. Effective visa policy contributes to the security of the Schengen area, both within the area and in third countries,” says Mikkonen.

The ministers will discuss, among other things, the visa suspension mechanism, which was introduced in 2013 but has not worked as planned. The purpose of the mechanism is to allow a temporary suspension of visa-free travel from a third country, if it becomes apparent that it has led to a significant increase in irregular arrivals. 

The system should be reformed because in its current form it does not provide sufficient protection against the misuse of visa-free travel. The Swedish Presidency has proposed a review of the mechanism to enable it to respond to potential problems more quickly and with a lower threshold.

Laura Yli-Vakkuri, Director General, tel. +358 40 720 22 16, [email protected]
Tiina Kivinen, Special Adviser to the Minister, tel. +358 50 566 19 22, [email protected] (requests for interviews with Minister Mikkonen)