På min engelska blogg skriver jag idag om att det är två år sedan jag började som EU-kommissionär, och vad som har varit viktigast så här långt:
February 10th, 2010, was my first day as EU Commissioner. Two full years into my mandate, I can easily say that this has been two tough years. The economic crisis, with high levels of unemployment, has overshadowed all other policy areas. The Arab Spring has brought new hopes of democratic neighbours but also raised new challenges for them and for us. They have clearly indicated the desire to cooperate with us on issues like migration, asylum, police, security and visa facilitation. This is also in our interest and therefore we are now preparing mobility partnerships with countries in the North African region, starting with Tunisia.
The events in southern Mediterranean have put pressure on the Schengen system, and in September last year I presented a proposal on how Schengen can be strengthened, safeguarding this fantastic achievement, but making sure that we improve our evaluation systems and minimize the risk of abuses. Negotiations are ongoing.
Since February 2010 we have advanced quite a lot in the work on the asylum package, although many difficulties remain. The deadline set by the European council, is 2012. We urgently need a system that is common in Europe, allowing asylum seekers to get the same treatment wherever they launch their application. Today, ten countries receive 90% of the asylum applications in the EU. With all countries having an administration and infrastructure in place, it will allow for a more even responsibility and solidarity between EU members.
We have adopted the long term residence directive, as well as the qualification direction and are very close to an agreement on the European Resettlement Program. The Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Malta is up and running, mainly assisting Greece where all member states, the commission and many others are involved to help the country to set up a reception system as well as build up a functioning border control. All member states participated in the Frontex/led RABIT-operation at the Greek/Turkish border.
In the field of legal migration we have agreement on the single permit and are well advanced in the directives on seasonal workers and Intra Corporate Transferees. This will protect legal migrants but also reduce bureaucracy in the member states. With my college Lazlo Andor we are planning further initiatives on labour skills needed for the future, including the need for further labour migration. In times where growth is desperately needed, we must make sure that we can get the best skills.
We have lifted the visa obligation for Albania and Bosnia and also started the dialogue with Kosovo, enabling easier people to people contact. Visa facilitation negotiations are ongoing with Russia, Moldova, Ukraine and soon hopefully with Turkey and Georgia.
In the security area I am most proud of the anti-trafficking directive that gives us better tools to fight this horrible modern slavery. With the employment of our anti-trafficking coordinator at the Commission’s Directorate-General for Home Affairs, I think we are better equipped than ever. Also, the directive on combating sexual violence and abuse of children is very dear to my heart and will help us to better protect the most vulnerable; our children.
In September last year I inaugurated RAN, the network that will help us prevent and identify violent radicalisation and extremism. The network is connecting local actors from all over Europe – academics, social workers, teachers, victims, and others to exchange information and best practices to prevent young people from falling into violent extremism. We have concluded negotiations on Passenger Name Records (PNR) with Australia and the U.S. and also put forward a proposal on a European PNR.
Corruption is a disease that eats confidence and trust and also erodes the legal economy. Last year I launched an anticorruption package, aiming for a report next year with tailor-made recommendations to all member states. To protect the licit economy is important, as well as restoring trust.
So a lot has been done since February 2010, but many things still remain. I am looking forward to all the possibilities and challenges of the rest of my mandate.