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Ministerial conference in Vilnius to discuss challenges in EU’s external border control

Ministry of the Interior
Publication date 20.1.2022 9.21 | Published in English on 20.1.2022 at 12.17
Press release 8/2022
The EU flag.

Representatives of the EU Member States, the European Commission and EU agencies will meet in Vilnius, Lithuania on 20–21 January for a conference on external border control organised by Austria, Greece, Lithuania and Poland. The conference serves as a forum where Member States can discuss ways to develop the EU’s external border control to be better equipped to respond to current and future challenges. State Secretary Akseli Koskela will represent Finland at the meeting.

“The 1,340-kilometre long border between Finland and Russia is also a part of the external border of the Schengen Area. Effective border control is of paramount importance to us, and we welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with other EU Member States,” Koskela says.

Tensions at the external borders with Belarus and efforts to instrumentalise migrants are increasing the pressure on the EU to find common solutions for addressing these situations. Demands have also been made for more effective external border control with physical barriers, in other words by building walls on borders.

More efficient and flexible measures needed to respond to emerging challenges at external borders

In Finland's view, it would be important to modify the Schengen Borders Code to ensure that when responding to emerging challenges at both their external and internal borders, the Member States have access to measures that are effective, proportionate and more flexible, and that respect fundamental and human rights. Finland also supports continuing the practice whereby the Member States are allowed to quickly reintroduce border controls at their internal borders if necessary.

As part of its Schengen package, the European Commission submitted a proposal in December to amend the Schengen Borders Code. The aim of the proposal is to improve regulation on the reintroduction of internal border control and create various coordination mechanisms for incidents and crises at internal and external borders. The Commission has also presented a proposal to revise the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism, which aims to verify that Member States correctly implement the Schengen rules. This will ensure effective external border control in all Schengen countries.

In addition, in early December the European Commission proposed temporary measures to help the Member States affected by the actions of Belarus in dealing with the emergency situation. These measures make it possible to extend the registration period for asylum applications, to apply an accelerated asylum procedure broadly at the external border, and to limit reception conditions to cover basic needs. A proposal for a regulation issued later in December would include similar exemptions to universally applicable permanent legislation.

EU needs a comprehensive migration and asylum policy

In September 2020, the European Commission issued a comprehensive communication on the reform of migration and asylum policy, which included legislative proposals. Efforts to solve the problems in the Common European Asylum System, including action in crisis situations, carry the greatest political weight.

In Finland's view, a comprehensive migration and asylum system, which the reform aims to build, would significantly reduce the EU’s vulnerability when faced with attempts to instrumentalise migration. Therefore, pursuing the reforms under the leadership of the Council Presidency will be a key objective for the spring.

Collective practices for identifying and countering hybrid threats

Finland strongly advocates for common EU practices to effectively identify and combat hybrid threats. A key element here is the hybrid toolbox to be prepared by the Council’s working parties in spring 2022 within the framework of the Strategic Compass. The French Presidency seeks to create concrete, easy-to-implement measures to combat hybrid influencing targeted at one or more countries.

Akseli Koskela, State Secretary, tel. +358 295 488 526, [email protected] 
Matti Pitkäniitty, Head of International Affairs Unit, Finnish Border Guard tel. +358 295 421 131, [email protected]