On 22 November 2021, the annual Prague Process Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) took place in an online format. Formally hosted by the Czech Republic in its capacity of Prague Process Chair, the SOM gathered officials from the Prague Process countries, the European Commission, the EU Council, EASO, Frontex, IOM and ICMPD. Participating states were invited to comment on the first drafts of the Ministerial Declaration and Action Plan, as well as to reflect on current migration challenges at national, regional and international levels.
This SOM represented the first of three preparatory meetings towards the fourth Prague Process Ministerial Conference in October 2022 under the Czech Presidency of the EU Council. It followed the intergovernmental consultations on the six thematic priorities organised in May-June 2021. The draft Action Plan and Ministerial Declaration reflect the ideas collected during the intergovernmental consultations in each thematic area, proposing some new actions.
A first tour-de-table allowed the attending states to comment on the draft Action Plan and Ministerial Declaration and raise additional questions. Overall, the states widely supported the new actions as comprehensive and ambitious. Several requested additional information about the proposed Migrant Resources Centres, expert networks and the financing of new actions. As clarified by the Czech Chair, the next SOM in 2022 shall address these issues in more detail. Prior to the second SOM in spring 2022, all states will receive the updated draft documents with the inputs gathered during this meeting.
The second tour-de-table focused on current migration challenges looking in particular at the impact of COVID-19 and the volatile situation in Afghanistan on migration in the region. COVID-19 affected all states disrupting services, cross-border mobility and labour markets. It equally enhanced digitalisation and created the space for unprecedented legislative amendments regularising the stay of migrants with expired visas, permits and passports.
The situation in Afghanistan received diverging state assessments. Some states remain unaffected and expect no major flows from Afghanistan. Others expressed growing concerns and the need to stay prepared for a potential influx, intensifying the work on border management, fight against illegal migration and related cross-border crimes. Since Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis, humanitarian operations in the country and its neighbourhood should continue in order to improve livelihoods and address the root causes of migration. Beyond Afghanistan, some EU states expressed concerns over the developments at the EU border with Belarus.
The Prague Process Secretariat summarised the results and achievements of the past year, including the outputs of the Migration Observatory and Training Academy, and presented the draft Work Plan for the first months of 2022. The launch of the Prague Process e-Learning Platform represented an important milestone in 2021. The upcoming year will equally feature a rich program with numerous activities, new e-courses, analytical publications and webinars.
The Czech Republic thanked all participants for their active involvement and the inputs provided and expressed its hope to meet everyone in person next year.