No Member State can cope on its own with the threat of organised crime and the challenge of immigration, said the Commissioner-designate for home affairs, Cecilia Malmström of Sweden, at her hearing with members of the EP Civil Liberties Committee. She stressed her determination to strike an agreement favourable to the EU on SWIFT bank data transfers and said she would propose draft legislation on migrants who are minors and a review of the Frontex agency.
Simon Busuttil (EPP, MT) criticised "the disproportionate burden on the EU's southern countries" and the tragedy of the hundreds of people who drown each year in the Mediterranean. "Europe has a duty to assist and protect asylum seekers and refugees", said Ms Malmström, saying she was determined to "beef up the Frontex agency as well as solidarity between Member States" but also to "work closely with the transit countries".
"Should we not ask the twenty-seven to share the costs of migratory pressures in the Mediterranean?", asked Mario Borghezio (EFD, IT). Ms Malmström believed that "each country should shoulder its responsibilities" but that it was "impossible to force Member States" to show solidarity.
Legislation on unaccompanied migrant minors
To questions by Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (EPP, SE) about migrant children, family reunification and vulnerable people, Ms Malmström said there was a need for a system "based on responsibility, predictability, solidarity and respect for human rights". She would be submitting a draft EU law on unaccompanied minors.
"Throughout my career, I have worked for fundamental rights"
Claude Moraes (S&D, UK) was concerned about conflicts that might be caused by the split of justice, freedom and security policy into two portfolios and the consequences for the balance between security and fundamental rights. "I will work unceasingly with Viviane Reding (...) There may be conflicts", answered the Commissioner-designate. She added "Throughout my career, I have worked for fundamental rights: I want to leave my mark on this area".
Legal immigration: new proposals on the way
Replying to Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (ADLE, NL), who asked about ways of reducing the appeal of illegal immigration and increasing that of legal immigration, Cecilia Malmström argued that there was as need "to ensure the same reception conditions for people in all the Member States" and to "offer legal ways of coming to Europe". She also announced that a draft law would soon be introduced on transfers of staff within big companies, another on the rights of seasonal workers and one on the mobility of trainees.
Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL) was disappointed at how little had been achieved since 2005 on legal immigration and at the unwilling attitude of Member States. "I am not superwoman but I will do my best" answered Ms Malmström. "We need immigration, and migrant workers need to know that when they are in Europe they have rights", she said. She also planned to work for an immigration policy that would benefit the countries of origin.
Fight against terrorism: review of the existing tools
"The fight against terrorism will be one of my priorities", said Ms Malmström, in answer to Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK), who raised the question in the light of recent events. "The EU has already taken action but we should review all the existing tools and mechanisms. There may be duplication or there may be something missing (...) We must try to respect the integrity of individuals, the principle of proportionality and fundamental rights".
Frontex: what ethic should it have and what resources should it be given?
Rui Tavares (GUE/NGL, PT) was concerned about the agreement on illegal immigration signed between Italy and Libya, and he called for Frontex (the agency for cooperation on the external frontiers of the EU) "to revert to a more humanist tradition", by trying to save migrants on the high seas. Hélène Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR) believed "the human dimension does not play a role with Frontex".
The Commissioner-designate replied that it was essential to "speak with Libya" even though that was "not easy". She underlined the principles of "non-refoulement" and individual rights, saying "I will ensure that Frontex respects these principles".
She also confirmed her intention to submit plans to reform Frontex so that it can buy its own equipment and not be dependent on the Member States, who often fail to live up to their commitments.
"You want mass immigration into Europe while millions of people have no work", Louis Bontes (NA, NL) told the candidate Commissioner. "All the countries of Europe will in future need immigration to keep their economies afloat: statistics prove it", she replied, adding "these decisions will be taken by governments but there will need to be European legislation".
Directive on data protection: revision on the way
"The directive on data protection will be revised in early 2011, taking account of proportionality, data protection and costs", announced Ms Malmström.
"SWIFT is useful"
In reply to a question by Birgit Sippel (S&D, DE) on the proportionality of the agreement with the USA on the exchange of bank data via the SWIFT network, Ms Malmström said: "SWIFT is useful (...) I have examples of individuals who have been arrested in Britain and Germany: attacks have thus been prevented". The subject would be on the agenda of tomorrow's meeting in Toledo with US secretary of state Janet Napolitano.
New law on human trafficking
Answering a question by Anna Hedh (S&D, SE), who pointed out that 80% of human trafficking was linked to sexual exploitation, Ms Malmström said a draft law would be submitted soon.
Fight against drugs
In reply to Salvatore Iacolino (EPP, IT), who asked what action the EU would take in the fight against drugs and drug addiction, the Commissioner-designate said "the EU and the Member States must do more, but some areas should be dealt with at national level".
The mafia is "not just an Italian problem"
To Rita Borsellino (S&D, IT), who asked about fighting organised crime and the mafia, Ms Malmström said she would work with Viviane Reding, Commissioner-designate for justice, on the issue of confiscating mafia assets. She added "this is not just an Italian problem but a European one, because organised crime knows no borders".