Senior Level Review Meeting of the Söderköping Process
On 16-17 October 2003, UNHCR and the SMB, with the support of the CBCP Secretariat and in partnership with IOM and the EC, convened a Senior Level Review Meeting in Söderköping, Sweden. The meeting aimed to evaluate the progress achieved within the Söderköping process since the last meeting in Kolmården (18-19 September 2002) and to agree on objectives, priorities and actions to be undertaken for further development of the process.
For the first time since the beginning of the process senior level government officials in charge of migration, asylum and border management issues from all ten countries, namely Belarus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine, gathered together. Representatives of an umbrella NGO "Swedish Refugee Advice Centre" and an International Centre for Migration Policy Developments joined as observers. The meeting was co-funded by UNHCR, the SMB and IOM.
Compared to the previous conferences held within the Söderköping process, this meeting had a unique dimension not only due to the fact that it encompassed all ten countries involved in the process, but it also called for anchoring the outcome of activities proposed under the process into political commitments by the participating countries.
The first day of the meeting focused on reviewing progress since last year. The Secretariat briefed participants on the developments within the Söderköping process itself and at national level, which took place since September 2002. An overview of developments in the EU asylum and migration policies and practices was presented by UNHCR. Each country representative gave a brief update and evaluation of the Söderköping process. They were followed by contributions from the SMB, the EC, UNHCR and IOM.
The second day of the meeting dealt with the evolving context. The EC outlined the EU strategy in Eastern and Central Europe and the Baltic States including funding opportunities. IOM, the SMB and UNHCR presented their vision of the Söderköping process and its future development. This was followed by group discussions on common concerns and possible joint actions in the fields of asylum, migration, and border management.
Based on the outcome of the discussions, a number of recommendations were presented to the participants of the meeting for endorsement and follow-up. Among these, the meeting recommended to:
reconfirm the participation of Hungary, Romania and Slovakia as full members of the Söderköping process and look forward to the participation of Estonia once the formalities are cleared;
encourage the countries of the process and partner organisations to explore new methods of co-operation (e.g. establishing ad hoc or topic-specific working groups and contact centres and considering twinning arrangements between the countries) aside from the existing ones (cluster conferences and a senior level review meeting);
take note of the priorities identified by countries in the catalogue of ideas for strengthening co-operation prepared by the Secretariat, which include issues related to voluntary return mechanisms, alternative protection, integration and information systems;
look at the issue of the governing structure of the Söderköping process more closely and consolidate the views in a document to be brought for discussions during the next senior level review meeting.