On June 19th, 2019, the EU-U.S. Ministerial Meeting on Justice and Home Affairs was hosted in Bucharest, Romania, by the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. During this meeting both sides were able to discuss their long-standing cooperation in the area of justice and home affairs. Furthermore, the EU and the U.S. have reaffirmed their partnership in regards to addressing common security threats.

The EU Prioritizes Security

Throughout the meeting, several issues were addressed by both parties. The United States and the European Union briefed each other on their recent development in the areas of migration and border management policies. The EU provided information about the reinforced mandate of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCGA) and the implementation of the European Travel Information and Authorization System, ETIAS. These tools will contribute to strengthening the EU’s border management and overall security.

The European Union has been arduously working toward implementing better security programs and a more powerful defense for the region. Back in June 2016, the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy presented a powerful link between external and EU-internal security under an unstable geopolitical setting. Security affects all of the EU member states.

Among one of the several actions taken by the EU is the development of the ETIAS system. This automated system will be managed by the European agency eu-Lisa, which operates large scale IT security systems (VIS, SIS, Eurodac). In 2021, the ETIAS visa waiver will be made available to citizens of over 60 countries, including the U.S. The ETIAS visa requirements for American citizens establish that each applicant must provide a valid passport and email address. However, the application process will be quick and easy to complete. The goal of ETIAS is to identify travelers that may pose a threat to the region. The EU wants to know who is crossing its borders.

Given the relevance of the implementation of ETIAS, the European Union and the United States have agreed on working further toward a reciprocal visa free travel under their respective legal frameworks.

EU and U.S. joint efforts in fighting terrorism and information sharing

Fighting terrorism is a top priority for both the European Union and the United States. According to a press release by the European Commision they are “committed to enhance their joint efforts, including by expanding the sharing of information gathered in zones of combat”. The exchange would be used to carry out investigations and prosecutions. Participants of the meeting have welcomed the results that have already been achieved in this area.

There are other essentials areas in terms of EU-U.S. information sharing. Several attendees remarked on the importance of the EU-U.S. Passenger Name Record Agreement. They have committed to evaluating the implementation of such action together. Among other topics that were discussed, threats to aviation security were raised as well as fighting against the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, and biological, radiological, chemical and nuclear threats.

EU and U.S. shared concerns

During the meeting, the EU and the U.S. discussed the necessity for security in cyberspace. All the members that were part of the meeting have committed to working together to keep a safe, open, and secure cyberspace. Furthermore, there was an exchange on how to handle cyber threats in the best possible way.

There is shared concern in regards to the deployment of 5G network infrastructure and this matter should be a priority. According to the participants, it might “pose security risks and impact the ability of law enforcement agencies to take effective action against crime”

Both the EU and the U.S. revised the challenges faced by electoral systems in democratic states. Exchange best practices would contribute to overcoming these challenges.

Who was present at the EU-U.S. Ministerial Meeting on Justice and Home Affairs?

Representing the United States, William Barr, U.S. Attorney General, and David Pekoske, Acting Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security attended the meeting. For its part, the EU was represented by Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship; Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality; Julian King, Commissioner for the Security Union. Joining them was Ana Birchall, Romanian Vice Prime Minister and ad interim and Daniela Dan, Minister of Interior. On behalf of the current and incoming Presidencies of the Council of the European Union was Maria Ohisalo, Finnish Minister of the Interior; Anna-Maja Henriksson, Minister of Justice.

The meeting counted with the presence of the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, the Executive Director of Europol Catherine De Bolle, the Executive Director of Frontex Fabrice Leggeri and the Vice-President of Eurojust Klaus Meyer-Cabri.