The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, today published the Agenda for the Informal meeting of EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers which will take place on the 17 and 18 January.
Discussions during the Informal will focus on Ireland’s key priorities, including Data Protection, Insolvency Law, Seizure of Criminal Assets, and a European Missing Persons Day. It will also consider the plight of the refugees arising from the Syrian conflict as well as concerted EU action that can be taken to counter hate crime and intolerance, including racism, homophobic attacks and anti-Semitism.
The Informal JHA is the first Ministerial meeting of Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. More than 50 Justice and Home Affairs Ministers from across Europe will attend the meeting. The European Vice President and Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding, and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, will be in attendance. Participants will also include the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, and representatives from a number of European Union agencies.
Speaking today Minister Shatter said,
“The Informal provides an excellent platform to present Ireland’s key priorities in the field of Justice and Home Affairs. Proposals being discussed at the meeting have the potential to encourage cross-border trade, promote growth, assist law enforcement and enhance the rights of citizens across the EU”.
Ministers will continue consideration of the new Data Protection package which is hugely important to those engaged in the digital economy. The proposals aim to improve individual’s control of their personal data, including “on-line” personal data, and also to streamline the implementation of standards to make it easier for businesses to operate in a cross-boarder environment.
Ministers will also have the opportunity to consider the European Commission’s new Insolvency proposals which were published in December and coincided with the completion and enactment of Ireland’s domestic Insolvency legislation. Ministers across Europe will have their first opportunity to consider developing a uniform approach in the area of cross- border insolvency. Minister Shatter said “modernising the EU insolvency rules will have very real benefits in supporting the restructuring of businesses in financial difficulties and will help to give viable businesses a second chance. It will also provide important provisions for a more informed and coherent EU approach to personal insolvency and a mechanism for the mutual recognition of non-judicial debt settlement arrangements, such as those contained in the Personal Insolvency Act 2012”.
The devastating consequences of the conflict in Syria are a major concern. Latest information from the UNHCR shows that around 607,000 refugees from Syria registered or awaiting registration as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and North Africa. The UNHCR, and other UN agencies and organisations, Syria Regional Response Plan seeks US$1billion to support up to one million Syrian refugees during the first half of 2013. From April 2011 to October 2012, approximately 23,500 Syrian nationals have applied for asylum in the EU 27, 15,000 of these applications have been lodged in Germany and Sweden. The EU is one of the leading international humanitarian response actors in the crisis with Member States mobilising funding of over €184m to date and the Commission has provided over €126m. During the Informal the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, as well as representatives of key European Union agencies, will provide the latest information on the ongoing crisis. Discussions will continue to focus on the importance of alleviating the plight of refugees and displaced persons.
Missing Persons Day
At the meeting Minister Shatter will announce Ireland’s intention to hold our first annual National Missing Persons Day in December each year to raise awareness of open missing person cases. Speaking about this Minister Shatter said “I believe there would be a great advantage to having an annual "European Missing Persons" day which would provide an opportunity to address and highlight the question of missing persons across national and EU lines. There is scope for future collaboration and exchange of experience and good practice at an EU level in this area and I look forward to discussing this suggestion with my JHA colleagues during the course of the Irish Presidency”.
Minister Shatter noted the importance of political leaders actively upholding European values and fostering mutual respect for, and inclusion of, persons of different religious or ethnic background or sexual orientation. Minister Shatter concluded “It is important that victims of hate crimes, including, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance are not ignored - they deserve our full support to protect them from the often daily threat of racist violence”. On the initiative of Minister Shatter, this important issue will be discussed by Justice Ministers on the second day of the meeting.
Dublin Castle will be the setting for the Informal Council meeting. In continuous occupation since its establishment in 1204, Dublin Castle has played a prominent role in Irish history. The Informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers will take place in the newly built conference centre in the Printworks building in the Castle Yard. Minister Shatter, who is one of only two Ministers in the EU to cover both Justice and Home Affairs, also has responsibility for Defence matters and he will host a meeting of Defence Ministers in Dublin in February.
Note for Editors:
The Justice and Home Affairs Council deals with the European Union’s policies on judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters, police cooperation and cooperation on immigration, borders and asylum issues.
The Council currently meets formally twice in each Presidency. During the Irish Presidency it will be chaired by Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence. Member States are represented by their Ministers for Justice and Ministers for the Interior. It is also customary for each Presidency to host an Informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers which for the Irish Presidency is being held on 17 and 18 January.
Over the six months of the EU Presidency, Department officials will be involved in approximately 200 meetings across 50 different dossiers.
The key priorities of the Irish Presidency are stability, growth and jobs. From the Justice and Home Affairs perspectives, this includes:
- Supporting European economic recovery and growth through a number of proposals in the Justice for Growth agenda, including the European Account Preservation Order which is intended to facilitate cross-border business activity within the EU by reducing the risks associated with such activity.
- Seeking agreement on key aspects of the Data Protection package which is aimed at giving citizens more control over their personal data online and to support the development of the digital economy.
- Working with the European Parliament to achieve the possible adoption of the Directive on the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime which will make it easier for authorities to confiscate and recover profits from cross-border organised crime
The agenda for the Informal JHA on 17 & 18 January is available on the event page.