Before taking over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Latvia presented its programme and priorities. In the document, strong emphasis is placed on the need to ensure well-managed migration, asylum and border policy.
Latvia underlines that “the Presidency’s work will be guided by the principle of solidarity and taking up a fair share of responsibility”. This statement is quite interesting, considering that Latvia is one of the countries receiving the smallest number asylum seekers applications (see EASO, second quarterly report 2014, reporting that Latvia is followed only by Slovakia, Lithuania and Estonia). It is also important to remind that until now, relocation has taken place only to assist Malta to cope with the pressures of hosting a relatively large number of recognised beneficiaries of international protection within the European Union, and only a small number of persons was actually relocate (details in the EASO Fact Finding report on intra-EU relocation activities from Malta).
Latvia expressed also commitment to continue the negotiations on the Directive for Students and Researchers, on the amendments to the Dublin Regulation related to unaccompanied minors and the dialogue within the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility, in particular in view of cooperation with Eastern Partnership Countries.
The deadline for transposing and implementing the new provisions of the Common European Asylum System will actually expire little after the end of the Latvian Presidency, on 21 July. UNHCR published specific recommendations, in which it calls Latvia to encourage Member States to meet this deadline with adequate measures. This will be indeed a challenge for several national systems, already involved in a number of infringements procedures.
UNHCR urges also the need to strengthen rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, considering also the recent development of smuggling strategies and strengthening of criminal networks (read the European Commission Fact Sheet on Smuggling, published on 13 January 2015). Increasing legal alternatives for refugees by expanding resettlement and facilitating family reunification should also be a priority for the presidency, says UNHCR, in order to protect the most vulnerable categories of migrants.