TALLINN - Estonian Minister of the Interior Lauri Laanemets took part in a meeting of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Thursday, where two draft regulations of the EU's migration and asylum package were approved, including the organization of voluntary relocation.
The drafts will now move forward for discussion in the European Parliament, spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior said on Friday.
Laanemets described it as a significant achievement, as the package, which has been largely stagnant for years, is progressing in the manner desired by Estonia.
"From the beginning, Estonia has clearly stated that we do not support mandatory relocation, but each member state should be able to choose how to provide assistance to another member state under migration pressure in one way or another. This must take into account the specificities and real capacities of each country at a given time," he said.
According to the compromise drafts, contributing to the solidarity mechanism is mandatory, but relocation is voluntary. Each member state can choose which solidarity measures to offer to a member state under significant migration pressure.
"These measures can include relocation, financial contributions, or alternative measures such as sending experts and equipment. All contributions are equally weighted. The method and financial value of alternative offers will be agreed bilaterally between member states," the minister of the interior explained.
The agreement supports a border procedure that links the international protection procedure with the return procedure, providing flexibility in the detention and choice of place for processing aliens. The aim of the asylum and return procedures at the border is to quickly assess whether applications are unfounded or inadmissible and promptly return individuals who do not have the right to stay in the country.
The EU has signed readmission agreements with 18 countries, and in addition, there are six non-binding agreements, with negotiations ongoing with six more countries. According to Laanemets, the reduction of migration pressure must be based on developing partnerships with third countries, operating uniformly within the European Union, and the goal must be to provide protection to people in need closer to their regions of origin.
"The compromise on the EU's migration and asylum package after eight years of deadlock is a significant victory for our dedicated officials and also for the previous ministers of the interior who have vigorously defended Estonia's positions during this time and have made a significant contribution to achieving the desired outcome," Laanemets said.
In addition, the meeting provided an overview of common internal security threats in the EU, exchanged views on the fight against terrorism and violent crime, and discussed the effects of Russia's war in Ukraine on internal security and the situation of persons granted temporary protection. There was also a discussion on the external dimension of migration, and council conclusions were approved to strengthen civil protection, including preparedness for regional chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear hazards.