The Prague Process Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM), constituting the final SOM within the implementation of the Prague Process Targeted Initiative (PP TI), took place in Vilnius on 24-25 November 2016, gathering 46 participants from 25 states, the European Commission Directorate General for Home Affairs (DG Home), as well as ICMPD and UNHCR. This SOM marked the opening to the future cooperation as requested by the Bratislava Ministerial Declaration, endorsed by the 3rd Prague Process Ministerial Conference, which Slovakia hosted on 19-20 September 2016, and aimed at proposing a future vision and concrete work plan for this period while also endorsing all results achieved so far.

The leading states of the various pilot projects and the Secretariat presented the concrete results achieved within the PP TI. The Secretariat reiterated on the 150 activities carried out in the 53 months of implementation and the 24 tangible outcomes produced, mainly involving the handbooks produced and migration profiles (light) published in the Knowledge base.

Important questions regarding the short- and longer-term future of the Prague Process were raised in a discussion paper, inviting states to consider their active involvement and potentially also financial support. The future cooperation should build upon the good practices and results already developed, while also striving for further improvement, and focus on the areas of irregular migration, return, readmission and reintegration, as well as in the area of asylum and international protection, all of which were established as the thematic priorities.

The supported by the Prague Process states no-cost extension of the present PP TI project envisaged for the first six months of 2017 shall make use of the savings available in the project budget. The period should serve the organisation of one study visit to Vienna and one training workshop to be held in Prague. States also agreed that Senior Officials’ Meetings and the preparatory Core Group meetings shall be organised on an annual basis.

The submission of the ‘PP TI 2’ project should take place earliest possible. The proposed Training and Analytical Centre (TAC) constitutes the key innovation for the next project phase. The Czech Republic shortly introduced the TAC concept, referring to the light management structure envisaged, the equal treatment of trainees and trainers of all nationalities, the development of an expert network and online platform for facilitated exchange. Tailor-made workshops should ensure meeting the actual needs of participating states. The training curricula are to be based on the handbooks and other materials developed so far. Concrete policy recommendations should be generated through expert missions and study visits. Meanwhile, the envisaged Migration Observatory shall provide for reliable, harmonized, up-to-date data and thereby contribute to evidence-based policies in a timely manner.

With the implementation of an eventual PP TI 2 project not expected before 2018, the question was raised how to overcome the transition period when no funding on behalf of the EC will be available. States were invited to express whether and in what form they could support this transition in order not to lose the momentum.

DG Home acknowledged the excellent achievements of the Prague Process and confirmed its position of the past, stating that the EC remains committed to the Bratislava Ministerial Declaration.  The migration challenges faced since 2015 led to changes in the EU’s environment and require new solutions for the future, including an improved cooperation with partner countries. The EC supports a pragmatic approach in order to allow for the best possible use of the resources available.

ICMPD pointed out that the migration situation remains volatile at global level but also across the Prague Process region, considering the ongoing demographic, social, security-related and environmental developments. The migration flows within the region have become much more fluid and complex, with the military conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan of course exerting a huge impact. As the national policies among the Prague Process states continue to diverge significantly and new migration routes may appear, the need for constant exchange remains, also in view of being prepared for surprises such as the one experienced in 2015. This need was also confirmed by the Ministerial Declaration of 2016. Moreover, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have fully mainstreamed migration into the international development agenda and the important role of migration dialogues in reaching the SDGs has been acknowledged by the EU.