The challenge of integrating beneficiaries of international protection in the European Union
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European Commission unveils proposals to reform European migration policy
In addition to creating a compulsory solidarity mechanism between member countries, the measures presented by the commission on 23 September include tighter controls at the EU’s external borders and faster returns to third countries.
With its new “European Pact on Migration and Asylum”, the commission hopes to finally reach a compromise on this issue among the 27 members states, as all attempts at reform have failed since 2015.
To this end, the commission suggests creating a system of “screening” on arrival in the Union, based on thorough identity, medical and security checks of people who have entered the EU illegally or who have been arrested in a Member State without first going through this procedure. People will then be “directed to the appropriate procedure“, i.e. depending on their situation: an immediate return to their country of origin, an asylum procedure at the border (in particular for people unlikely to obtain international protection according to average protection rates in the EU) or a normal procedure in a Member State.
The new Plan also envisages putting an end to the Dublin Regulation which has become, in the words of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the representative of the “old system” which “no longer works“. In fact, Member States almost systematically chose the criterion of the country of first entry, thus placing the responsibility for reception on the countries located at the external borders of the EU. But the reform seems quite timid: while under the new plan an asylum seeker may be transferred to another country where he or she has siblings or where he or she has previously worked, studied or obtained a visa, the rule that makes countries of first arrival responsible for examining applications will be maintained.
Nevertheless, in order to help countries “on the front line” such as Italy, Greece or Spain, other Member States will be able to voluntarily receive asylum seekers on their territory via a relocation mechanism, organise the transfer to their country of origin of people whose application for international protection has been rejected or who have not applied for asylum (“sponsored return”) or provide “operational assistance”. In the event of a crisis situation, migratory pressure or the reception of people rescued at sea, a specific and compulsory solidarity mechanism will be implemented this time, on the initiative of the Commission or at the request of a Member State. In this framework, the number of people to be received or removed will be fixed in relation to the GDP and population of each EU country. These measures reflect the Commission’s priority to make returns more effective, also by strengthening Member States’ cooperation with third countries, whether of origin or transit.
Before coming into force, the Pact will be negotiated between the Council of the EU and the European Parliament and must then be approved by all the national parliaments of the Member States. Negotiations look set to be difficult: although Germany and France have announced their support for the proposals, the reactions of the Spanish, Greek and Czech governments have been more mixed. The first countries of first entry, including Italy and Greece, have also expressed scepticism about the reform project. The strongest opposition came from the Hungarian government: at the meeting held on 24 September in Brussels between Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic and the president of the Commission, Viktor Orbàn said that “the general approach has not changed because they [the Commission] want to continue to manage migration and not stop migrants“. The so-called “Višegrad group” and Austria, already hostile to the relocation mechanism in the EU, are sticking to their positions.
These disagreements expressed the day after the publication of the Pact could be a brake on this reform project during the forthcoming discussions in the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. Moreover, the majority of the European parliamentary groups have pointed out the inadequacy of the new Pact and expressed divergent views on its proposals.