Brussels, Belgium - The first meeting of the Strategic-Level DCAF Schengen Integration Task Force was hosted by the Slovenian Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels, Belgium, from 19 to 21 November 2012. It brought together the political (state secretaries), top police management (chiefs of border police) and top expert levels (heads of EU integration services) of the beneficiary countries (Albania, BiH, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia) and donor countries (Croatia, Slovenia), as well as high representatives of EU institutions and agencies (European Commission, Council, Europol, Frontex). The aim is to ensure an integrated and coordinated national approach, shared between the regional ministries and (border) police authorities, towards the fulfilment of obligations under the EU Accession Chapter 24 ("Justice, Liberty and Security"). The modalities in this area have recently seen important changes and new responsibilities have been given to aspiring Candidate Countries. Schengen integration process is a key element of fulfilling the obligations under Accession Chapter 24, and is also a crucial component of the Programme. The DCAF Task Force at expert level meets twice a year to offer assistance to regional (border) police authorities, utilising useful experience of Croatian and Slovenian EU/Schengen accession processes and offering a platform.
The meeting was chaired by Mr Ivan Bizjak, DCAF Leading Expert, Schengen Integration Task Force. Participants identified role and opportunities for the newly established high-level platform: (1) contributing to those areas of Schengen integration that are not strictly limited to the responsibilities of the border police services; (2) offering mutual support between the beneficiary countries regarding EU Accession Chapter 24; (3) providing strategic input for the ministerial discussions; (4) supporting the successful obtainment of EU funds as well as a rational use of those funds on regional level. Strong support for the Programme’s approach was received from of EU institutions (Commission – DH HOME and DG ELARG, Council General Secretariat), EU JHA agencies (Frontex, Europol), and UNDP Sarajevo.