Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, represented Ireland at the informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers held in virtual format on the 6th and 7th of July 2020. This was the first meeting of Ministers of the German EU Presidency, which began on 1st July 2020.
Attending the meeting, the Minister said:
I am delighted to attend my first meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers since being appointed as Minister for Justice, as well as the first meeting of Ministers hosted by Germany since they assumed the Presidency of the Council of the EU. The German Presidency is taking on this role at a difficult time and has our full support.
Speaking on the topic of strengthening democracy in times of COVID-19 and responding to hate speech and disinformation, the Minister said:
Hate speech is a topic that is currently to the fore of the public consciousness. It was clear from the nature of the contributions by my EU counterparts that there is a desire to strengthen the fight against hate speech, and disinformation, at an EU level. Ireland welcomes this resolve and my Department are in the process of developing new legislation to deal with hate speech and hate crime. Significant work has already been completed, including a public consultation, with a view to introducing this legislation at the earliest possible opportunity.
Minister McEntee particularly welcomed the discussion on search and rescue at sea which is a key topic, particularly for the frontline Member States. Commenting on the discussion, the Minister said:
Since the start of the migration crisis in 2015, Ireland has shown solidarity in relieving the pressure on frontline States, and we will continue to do so. The EU is based on the foundation of solidarity and any future mechanism introduced to deal with the situation in the Mediterranean Sea should reflect this.
It is important that all Member States share the burden, and the discussions this week demonstrated that a large number of Member States share an ambition to work towards achieving a long term, viable solution to the challenges presented by irregular migration. There is a pressing need to make progress on this important issue and I welcome the Commission’s forthcoming proposals for a Pact on Migration and Asylum.
Other issues on the agenda at the informal meeting included a discussion on how Member States have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a topic on European Police Partnership where Ministers discussed how law enforcement cooperation could be improved between Member States.