The European Council approves conclusions that recognise the key role of cultural heritage in the promotion of peace and democracy

The European Council has approved a series of conclusions that welcome the EU’s conception of cultural heritage in terms of conflicts and crises, enhancing the EU’s focus on peace, security and development.

The conclusions recognise that cultural heritage can have a key role in the promotion of peace, democracy and sustainable development, thus promoting tolerance, cultural and inter-confessional dialogue and mutual understanding. At the same time, cultural heritage can also be instrumentalised as a source or cause of conflicts. The conclusions reached ask for the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage during periods of conflict and crisis.

The Council emphasises the importance of raising awareness of, and providing protection for, cultural heritage as part of a sensitive approach to conflicts throughout their various phases, and as a basis for a sustainable return to harmony and lasting peace. The protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage can contribute to preventing violent extremism, combating disinformation and generating positive and inclusive dialogue, in addition to contributing to societies’ overall resilience.

The Council also underlines the importance of reinforcing partnerships with relevant international organisations, regional organisations, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations as appropriate, and calls for the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage to be incorporated into the Council’s work in all areas of Foreign and Security Policy. 

The EU will now incorporate the protection of cultural heritage into all the relevant dimensions of the EU’s diplomatic toolbox.

As the missions and operations of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) can make an important contribution to meeting security challenges in relation to the preservation and protection of cultural heritage, the EU will now develop a mini-concept dedicated to exploring the possibility of developing civil CSDP missions in this field, if required, by means, for example, of potential skill development programmes or training activities.

The EU will also try to incorporate the protection of cultural heritage into all the other areas of the EU’s foreign policy and into the relevant financial instruments, including the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Initiative (NDICI). 

Member States, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the Commission and other relevant organisms undertake to improve their cooperation in terms of cultural heritage in order to develop and exchange best practices and experiences.

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The European Council’s conclusions concerning migrations

The European Council has examined the situation regarding migrations and the various different migratory routes. While the measures adopted by the European Union and the Member States have reduced the overall total of irregular flows in the last few years, continuing developments related to certain routes are causing serious concern and requiring continues vigilance and urgent measures.

To avoid the loss of human lives and to reduce the pressure on the frontiers of Europe, as an integral part of the European Union’s external action, associative initiatives and cooperative measures will intensify with countries of origin and transit so that they can be beneficial for all parties.

The focus will be pragmatic, flexible, made-to-measure, and, as Team Europe, will make a coordinated use of all the instruments and incentives at the disposal of the EU and the Member States. It will be developed in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and with the International Organisation for Migration (OIM).

It will deal with all the routes used and base itself on an approach that takes into consideration each migratory route seen as a whole, fights the deep causes of migration. It gives support to refugees and displaced persons in the region, develops capacities to manage migration, puts an end to illicit trafficking, reinforces frontier controls, cooperates in terms of searches and rescues, at the same time dealing with legal migration that respects national competences, and guarantees returns and readmissions. For these reasons, the European Council:

  • Urges the Commission and the High Representative to reinforce without delay, in close cooperation with the Member States, specific actions with the priority countries of origin and transit and with their support.
  • Urges the Commission and the High Representative to present, in close cooperation with the Member States, action plans for the priority countries of origin and transit in the autumn of 2021, indicating clear objectives, more measures of support and specific time limits.
  • Invites the Commission to make the best possible use of at least 10% of the financial donation of the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, and also of the financing with other pertinent instruments, for measures in terms of migration, and to inform the Council of its intentions between now and November this year.

The European Council condemns and refuses any attempt by third countries to instrumentalist migrants for political purposes.

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The European Council allocates 18 billion euros for internal affairs over the 2021-2027 period

The European Union is increasing the extent of its funding for measures in the fields of asylum and migration, integrated border management and internal security, to face the growing challenges in these policy areas.

The Council has adopted three sectoral proposals for the funding of policies in terms of internal affairs, within the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework.

This funding will equip the EU with the tools required to meet the developing migratory challenges, both within the EU and in cooperation with third countries. It establishes four specific objectives: asylum policy, migration and legal integration, irregular migration and returns, and solidarity and sharing of responsibilities between Member States. The minimum percentages for the funding are linked to some of the objectives, with a minimum of 15% allocated to each of the objectives relating to asylum and legal migration set by Member States, and 20% allocated for solidarity.

With regard to the solidarity objective, the funding will increase incentives for transfers of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection between Member States. Incentives will also continue for the admission of persons by means of resettlement and humanitarian admissions.

The asylum, migration and integration fund also covers actions in third countries or in relation with the latter, recognising the role of other EU funds designed to deal with external action.

The text agreed reflects recent developments such as the expansion of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the modernisation of the common visa policy, and the development and interoperability of large-scale computer systems (including the European system for the notification and authorisation of journeys and entry/exit).

According to the new mechanism, a minimum of 10% will be allocated to Member States’ programmes for visa policy, while the maximum percentage of financial support for the programmes has increased to 33% of the funding.

The new provisions also improve the simplification, flexibility, profitability and cooperation and coordination between the various national authorities. Assets acquired with a financial contribution from this mechanism will also be used in other areas, including Customs and maritime operations or those intended to attain the objectives of the other two internal affairs funds.

The fund is based on the current version and adapts it to new developments such as the need to intensify the fight against terrorism and radicalisation, serious and organised crime and cybercrime. It will provide support for improving the exchanging of information, for intensifying trans-border cooperation, including joint operations against terrorism and organised crime, and for strengthening the capacity to prevent and combat crime.

The financing for the purchase of equipment has been increased for Member States’ programmes up to a maximum of 35%, while operational support has been increased up to a maximum of 20%. Decentralised agencies will exceptionally receive funding when they contribute to the implementation of EU initiatives that are within their area of competence and which are not covered by the EU’s contribution to its budget obtained through the EU’s annual budget.

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Citizen Security Action Plan for Peru’s capital approved

The Metropolitan Council of Lima has approved ordinance number 2341-2021, which sets out the 2021 Citizen Security Regional Action Plan.

The purpose of the Plan is to carry out actions and activities designed to reduce public insecurity and contribute to peaceful coexistence in the context of the national scenario brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 Citizen Security Regional Action Plan, approved by the Mayor of Lima, Jorge Muñoz, consists of two chapters detailing the current security situation in Lima.

The first chapter analyses the citizen security indicators from a socio-demographic perspective and interprets the multiple social factors and risks that propitiate criminal behaviour.

The second chapter, called the Strategic Framework, details the 95 actions and strategies scheduled throughout the year and suitably supported by the allocated budget.

The Plan’s foremost challenges include reducing homicides, reducing deaths and injuries from traffic accidents, reducing violence against women, promoting public spaces by trying to prevent theft and robbery and preventing crime, among others.

The Plan was drawn up by the state entities that make up Lima’s Regional Committee on Citizen Security. The main entities include the Public Ministry, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ombudsman’s Office, the Lima Police Region, the National Penitentiary Institute and the Volunteer Fire Brigade.

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Legal migration: European plan to attract highly qualified workers

The Council presidency and European Parliament representatives reached a provisional agreement on a draft directive establishing the entry and residence conditions for highly qualified non-EU nationals coming to live and work in the EU (the blue card directive). This EU-wide admission system aims to attract and retain highly qualified workers, particularly in sectors facing skills shortages.

The green and digital transformation of our economies will only succeed with a workforce that has the necessary skills to lead it. Education and lifelong training will play a key part in this, but we must also make sure that we are equipped to compete in the global search for talent. The revised rules for the EU blue card provide an EU-level scheme that allows more flexibility, improved conditions and simplified mobility, placing the EU firmly among the top destinations for highly qualified workers.

The new rules, which will replace the existing ones, further harmonise the conditions of entry and residence for highly qualified workers and increase the attractiveness of the EU blue card, in particular by:

• Establishing more inclusive admission criteria, including by reducing the salary threshold for admission, allowing for lower salary thresholds for recent graduates or professions in need of workers, reducing the minimum length of the work contract to six months, and extending the scope to include highly skilled workers from the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.

Facilitating intra-EU mobility, including by reducing the minimum period of residence in the first member state, simplifying and speeding up the procedure for exercising mobility and allowing for the accumulation of periods of residence under different schemes to acquire long-term resident status.

• Facilitating family reunification and giving the spouse or partner of the blue card holder unrestricted access to the labour market.

• Simplifying procedures for recognised employers.

• Granting a very high level of access to the labour market, in particular by establishing that member states may allow EU blue card holders to engage in self-employed activities or other subsidiary professional activities, as well as offering protection, particularly in the case of unemployment.

• Extending the scope to include non-EU family members of EU citizens and beneficiaries of international protection.

EU member states will be able to maintain national schemes aimed at highly qualified workers in parallel with the EU blue card scheme. However, the new rules will introduce a number of provisions to ensure a level playing field so that EU blue card holders and their families are not at a disadvantage compared to holders of national permits. The provisional political agreement is subject to approval by the Council and the European Parliament before going through the formal adoption procedure.

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European Union to deepen its strategic relationship with the Horn of Africa

The Council has approved a series of conclusions affirming the EU’s commitment to give new impetus to its partnership with the Horn of Africa and establish a new strategy for the region.

The EU’s geostrategic priority in this north-eastern region of Africa has undergone unprecedented developments in recent years and is now at a crossroads.

With this new strategy, the EU intends to further strengthen and deepen its strategic relationship and partnership with the Horn of Africa and its countries, notably with a view to reducing instability and promoting democracy and sustainable growth.

The strategy aims to reinforce a joint approach to democracy and regional peace and security, revitalising multilateralism and the rules-based international order, strengthening commitment to social and human development and boosting post-COVID socio-economic recovery and trade and regional integration.  The strategy also aims to strengthen the partnership with the broader region, notably the Red Sea, the Western Indian Ocean and the Nile. Among the main conclusions are the following:

1. The Horn of Africa is a strategically important region, with which Europe has long-standing political and economic ties.

2. The Council is establishing a new EU strategy, in line with the EU’s overall approach to Africa, to give new impetus to the relationship and sustain the EU’s political, security and economic interests.

3. The region has undergone important developments over the last decade and is increasingly witnessing shifting regional dynamics.

4. Demographic changes, urbanisation, digitisation and the emergence of new markets provide important opportunities. Yet, the region is affected by the dire effects of climate change and more frequent natural disasters. Governance challenges need to be overcome to address persistent poverty, socio-economic inequalities, difficult access to basic services and lack of decent job opportunities, all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Beyond its strong political, economic and trade relations, the EU is a major, long-standing and reliable partner for peace, sustainable development and humanitarian assistance.

6. Ownership and commitment from regional, national and local authorities are necessary for the concrete, sustainable and long-term development of the region.

7. The EU strategy is based on the continued promotion and respect of human rights, gender equality, democracy, the rule of law and humanitarian principles, which will remain at the centre of all EU action.

8. The EU will strengthen its support for peace and security. Despite positive political developments, fragility and insecurity persist with destabilising effects on the whole region. Tensions within and between countries of the region are increasingly worrying and illustrate the need for an effective, multilateral approach to collective security, dialogue and confidence-building. The EU will keep working with the African Union (AU) and with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The EU is ready to work with the leaders of IGAD to assist them in further building IGAD’s capacity and making it a more effective multilateral body, fostering trust among the countries of the region.

9. While the region must take responsibility for its own peace and security, the EU, jointly with international partners, will continue to support, including through its missions and operations, the build-up of regional security capacities, such as African peace support operations and other security arrangements responding to all security threats, including at sea.

10. The EU will continue supporting maritime security, using naval diplomacy as a tool to encourage cooperation and synergies amongst regional actors. In this regard, the mandate of EUNAVFOR – Somalia Operation ATALANTA, a key maritime actor in the region, has been revised and further extended to support EU engagement across the Southern Red Sea and the Western Indian Ocean. While its core task remains to deter, prevent and repress piracy, the operation will also contribute to fighting other maritime crimes and illegal activities.

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The fight against organised crime: the European Council sets out 10 priorities for the next 4 years

The Council has adopted a series of conclusions setting the 2022-2025 EU priorities for the fight against serious and organised crime through the European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats (EMPACT). Within the EMPACT framework, EU member states, law enforcement agencies and other actors will work closely together to address these key criminal threats, using tools such as law enforcement training and joint operational actions to dismantle criminal networks, their structures and business models.

On the basis of the 2021 EU serious and organised crime threat assessment, presented by Europol, member states have identified 10 crime priorities:

1. High-risk criminal networks: To identify and disrupt high-risk criminal networks active in the EU, with special emphasis on those using corruption, violence, firearms and money laundering through parallel underground financial systems.

2. Cyber-attacks: To target criminal offenders orchestrating cyber-attacks, particularly those offering specialised criminal services online.

3. Trafficking in human beings: To disrupt criminal networks engaged in trafficking in human beings, with special focus on those who exploit minors, those who use or threaten violence against victims and their families and those who recruit and advertise victims online.

4. Child sexual exploitation: To combat child abuse online and offline, including the production and dissemination of child abuse material as well as online child sexual exploitation.

5. Migrant smuggling: To fight against criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling, in particular those providing facilitation services along the main migratory routes.

6. Drug trafficking: To identify and target the criminal networks involved in drug trafficking, including trafficking and distribution of cannabis, cocaine, heroin, synthetic drugs and new psychoactive substances.

7. Fraud, economic and financial crimes: To target criminals orchestrating fraud, economic and financial crimes, online fraud schemes, excise fraud, intellectual property crime, counterfeiting of goods and currencies, criminal finances and money laundering.

8. Organised property crime: To disrupt criminal networks involved in organised property crime, with particular focus on organised burglaries, theft, motor vehicle crime and the illegal trade in cultural goods.

9. Environmental crime: To combat criminal networks involved in all forms of environmental crime and in particular those with a capability to infiltrate legal business structures or set up their own companies to facilitate their crimes.

10. Firearms trafficking: To target criminals involved in the illicit trafficking, distribution and use of firearms.

In addition to these priorities, the production and provision of fraudulent and false documents will be addressed as a common horizontal strategic goal, since it is a key enabler for many crimes.

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EU to move forward on common security and defence

The Council today approved conclusions affirming its determination to move forward on implementing the EU’s security and defence agenda, enabling the EU to take more responsibility for its own security.

In line with its Strategic Agenda 2019-2024, the Council calls for the EU to pursue a more strategic course of action and to increase its capacity to act autonomously. The EU should promote its interests and values and be able to tackle global security threats and challenges.

Against this background, an ambitious Strategic Compass will enhance and guide the implementation of the level of ambition on security and defence. The Council, therefore, calls on the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to present a first draft of the Strategic Compass for discussion at the Council meeting in November 2021.

The Council calls for further work to enhance the EU’s capacity to undertake CSDP missions and operations across the whole spectrum of different crisis management tasks. The Council also encourages further reflection on a timely and efficient decision-making process, possibly using Article 44 of the TEU. More work should be done on ways to incentivise member states to improve force generation and provide sufficient means and personnel for CSDP missions and operations.

The conclusions underline the importance of strengthening EU defence initiatives, like the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), and other initiatives such as the Action Plan on synergies between civil, defence and space industries, while ensuring coherence in the use of the various tools.

The need to further strengthen the EU’s resilience and ability to counter hybrid threats is also strongly emphasised.

A strong EU in terms of security and defence will bring tangible benefits to transatlantic and global cooperation. The Council reaffirms the centrality of international partnerships with multilateral organisations such as the UN and NATO, in line with the statement of the members of the European Council of 26 February 2021.

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Cyber-attacks: Council prolongs framework for sanctions for another year

The Council has decided to prolong the framework for restrictive measures against cyber-attacks threatening the EU or its Member States for another year, until 18 May 2022.

This framework allows the EU to impose targeted restrictive measures on persons or entities involved in cyber-attacks that cause a significant impact and constitute an external threat to the EU or its Member States.

Restrictive measures can also be imposed in response to cyber-attacks against third states or international organisations where such measures are considered necessary to achieve the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

Sanctions currently apply to eight individuals and four entities and include an asset freeze and a travel ban. Additionally, EU persons and entities are forbidden from making funds available to those listed.

This latest prolongation is part of the EU’s scale-up of its resilience and its ability to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to cyber threats and malicious cyber activities in order to safeguard European security and interests.

In June 2017, the EU stepped up its response by establishing a Framework for a joint EU diplomatic response to malicious cyber activities (the “cyber diplomacy toolbox”).

The framework allows the EU and its Member States to use all CFSP measures, including restrictive measures if necessary, to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to malicious cyber activities targeting the integrity and security of the EU and its Member states. The EU remains committed to a global, open, stable, peaceful and secure cyberspace and, therefore, reiterates the need to strengthen international cooperation in order to foster rules-based order in this area.

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A new agenda for the Mediterranean

The European Council has approved a series of conclusions that underline the determination of the European Union to renew and consolidate its strategic cooperation with the countries of the Southern Shore of the Mediterranean. The aim is to face together common challenges, to take advantage of shared opportunities and to release the region’s economic potential for the benefit of its population.

To stimulate a long-term and sustainable socio-economic recovery and the creation of employment on the southern shores of the Mediterranean is a joint priority and forms the innovative cornerstone of this new Mediterranean agenda. By working together, the EU and its partners on the Southern Shore can turn climatic and environmental challenges and digital transformation into great opportunities for sustainable development, contributing to a green transition that is both fair and inclusive. The EU will use all the instruments at its disposal, including the NDICI-Global Europe initiative and the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+), and will collaborate with financial institutions to achieve this objective, paying special attention to the human dimension and to creating opportunities for young people.

Good governance, the promotion and protection of human rights and basic freedoms, democratic institutions and the rule of law are also considered as essential for long-term stability, security and the sustainable development of the region. The EU will intensify its commitment to these issues and will renew its efforts in terms both of the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and of cooperation concerning questions of security, migration and the degree of preparation and capacity of response of countries’ national health systems.

The EU intends to strengthen political dialogue throughout the Mediterranean by establishing annual meetings of the foreign affairs ministers of the EU Member States and those of the partner countries of the Southern Shore, with a view to monitoring progress in the implementation of the new Mediterranean agenda.

The main conclusions reached included the following:

1. A Southern Shore that is democratic, more stable, more ecologically aware and more prosperous is a shared strategic priority and essential interest both for the EU and for its Southern Shore partners. Global and regional challenges have increased and have highlighted our interdependence. It is only through strong action in a spirit of collaboration and co-ownership that we will be able to meet the objectives first set 25 years ago in Barcelona in order to bring peace, stability and prosperity for the people of the Mediterranean region.

2. Remembering the conclusions of the European Council’s December 2020 meeting and the European Council members’ declaration of 26 February 2021, the Council reaffirms its determination to renew and consolidate even further the EU’s strategic cooperation with its Southern Shore partners in order to face our common challenges, to take advantage of our shared opportunities and to release the full potential of our shared region. It undertakes to do so in conjunction with its partner countries, on the basis of the joint deliberations with our Southern Shore neighbours launched at the EU-Southern Neighbourhood ministerial meeting held in Barcelona on 26 November 2020.

3. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact both on the EU and on its Southern Shore neighbours, with negative implications in terms of both health and citizens’ means of subsistence. The Mediterranean region is also recognised as one of the main hotspots with regard to climate change, being already seriously affected by accelerating desertification, the shortage of water and the rise in temperatures. These crises have shown the growing interdependence of the Mediterranean region and have highlighted the need to reinforce our shared resilience and open up new routes towards increased cooperation. Together with the new opportunities represented by the ecological and digital transitions, this opens up new opportunities to develop a positive agenda for our partnership.

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