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Minister: Illegal migration surge is harming Schengen credibility

Lauri Läänemets at the EU interior ministers' meeting in Luxembourg.
Lauri Läänemets at the EU interior ministers' meeting in Luxembourg. Source: Ministry of the Interior

Minister Läänemets yesterday was speaking after an EU Council of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) meeting in Luxembourg, where the main topics of discussion were Eu's internal security, migration, and the Schengen area of free movement.

Läänemets said: "Phenomena such as secondary migration within the EU, plus the trafficking of migrants, exert a crippling effect on the reliability and functioning of the entire Schengen area of ​​free movement."

"I emphasized at the interior ministers' meeting the need to pay even greater attention to activities in countries of origin and migration transit, when dealing with challenges in the area of migration." 

"This can be accomplished by boosting member states' migration and border management capacities," Läänemets continued.

The recent developments in rising illegal migration has meant the fight against organized crime and human trafficking must be redoubled, and this was uppermost in the minds of those attending the JHA meeting, Läänemets wen ton.

When amending the relevant legislation, the situation on the EU's eastern frontier, which includes Estonia's border with Russia, needs to be borne in mind, the minister added.

This can help combat deliberate exploitation of migrants by unfriendly third countries, he went on.

Minister Läänemets also joined his Finnish counterpart, Mari Rantanen , in a joint statement on the Balticconnector gas pipeline damage, and that to communication cables running under the Baltic, which link between Estonia and Finland and Estonia and Sweden.

While the circumstances of these cases are still being clarified, Läänemets said, these episodes have confirmed the vulnerability of the critical submarine infrastructure and the pressing need to work on strengthening its continuity both at domestic and EU level

Ministers Läänemets and Rantanen also held a bilateral meeting, to talk about common security challenges – not least that relating to Russia, which both countries border and which has been brought into sharper relief in Finland following its accession to NATO earlier this year.

"However, with close cooperation, we can more effectively mitigate the multifaceted risks that existing in the neighborhood of the aggressor country brings with it The priority areas of cooperation are, naturally, migration policy, critical infrastructure security, internal security and civil population protection," Läänemets said.

All in all, this makes internatl security in this regoin as much of a challenge as, for instance, migration pressure on the EU's southern borders is, Läänemets said.

The EU interior ministers next meet in Brussels on December 4.

Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are all Schengen area members. The zone roughly, but not wholly, corresponds to the continental EU, and does away with passport and other types of border control at mutual borders.

However, this practice has come under pressure; border checks were reinstated on Estonia's border with Latvia, for instance, during the Covid pandemic. The regime in Belarus precipitated a migrant crisis on its Western borders with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania from summer 2021, in some cases forcing exploited people over those borders.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Interior Ministry

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