During a session with the Committee for Civil Rights, Justice and Home Affairs within the European Parliament, the Maltese Ministers Owen Bonnici and Carmelo Abela presented the Maltese Presidecy priorities in the area of Justice and Home Affairs.

This was the first Session for the Maltese Presidency, during which the Ministers, on behalf of the 28 member states, were invited to provide an overview of the key issues, and replied to several questions which were asked by the Members of the European Parliament on Justice and Home Affairs.

Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici started his presentation by stating that security is one of the main six priorities of the Maltese Presidency, and that the fight against terrorism remains a major challenge and a matter of utmost importance. In this regard, the Maltese Presidency will push forward for the adoption of the Directive on Combating Terrorism, following the recent agreement between the co-legislators. Moreover, Bonnici explained that the next step will be to start negotiations on a number of related proposals, including the Criminalisation of Money Laundering offences and their relevant sanctions, and the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders.

He stressed that Malta is fully committed to go ahead with these priorities.

With regards to the proposal on the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), the Minister stated that Malta is ready to guide the discussions in order for progress to be registered.

Minister Bonnici also referred to the fact that, following the Slovak Presidency’s footsteps, Malta will continue to monitor progress on the Visa Liberalisation Process for Kosovo, Turkey and Ukraine.

He also stated that the proposed regulation established an office intended to protect the European Union’s financial interests, EPPO, which will be high on the Maltese Presidency’s Agenda. This will ascertain that the funds deriving from the Union’s budget are well-spent, to the benefit of European citizens.

In his concluding remarks, Minister Bonnici asserted that despite being a challenging agenda, the Maltese Presidency will register as much progress as possible, to the ultimate benefit of European citizens, European businesses, and to society at large.

Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Carmelo Abela highlighted that Malta, through this Presidency, is looking forward to make a valid contribution to the work of the European Union.

He referred to the challenge of migration and the threat of terrorism. He also emphasised the need for all Member States and institutions to work together, in order to make concrete steps in the right direction.

He spoke on the seven proposals that are currently on the table, aimed at leading to a reform of the Common European Asylum System, on which Malta’s Presidency will try to secure as much progress as possible.

“We have seen that the flow of asylum seekers poses huge challenges to the European Union as a whole; perhaps even more than economic challenges. We therefore need to learn from the experiences of the past few years and ensure that we have the necessary tools to forge a system that not only works when things are smooth, but one that can also withstand pressure” stated Abela.

Speaking on the importance of looking at the migration system in a comprehensive matter, he stated the constant need to enhance cooperation with countries of origin and transit. This needs to contain an element of assistance, but also of return and readmission.

In Abela’s words, a comprehensive approach to migration also entails external border management aspects. Here he mentioned that a balance has to be maintained between security and smooth border crossings.

On the newly- issued proposals on the Schengen Information System, he said that these will be also given priority in order to improve the use of this system in the fight against terrorism.

He concluded by remarking that the discussion on the fight against serious and organised crime will also be taken forward.

“We will only be able to make progress on this heavy agenda if we have the support of the Member States”, ended the Malta Minister for Home Affairs.

Source: Government of Malta