What evolution of asylum policies in European countries since 2015?
"If the question of the distribution of migrants throughout the EU is codified, we will no longer see the kind of thing that is currently happening in Greece"Sylvie Guillaume, MEP Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D)
Sylvie Guillaume has been a full member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) since her first European election ten years ago. She has been heavily involved in asylum-related issues, including rapporteur on the Asylum Procedures Directive and has closely followed the reform of the Common European Asylum System.
As a member of the LIBE Committee at the European Parliament, you have seen how reception policies in Europe have changed since 2015. What lessons do you think can be learned from the way refugee arrivals have been managed during this period?
There have been many attempts to manage the successive influxes of migrants – whether with the compulsory relocation plan, which it is fair to say was something of a failure, or with the kinds of ad hoc solutions there are nowadays and which have not been a lot more successful. It is frustrating that we still do not have a solidarity-based, compulsory distribution mechanism after so many years of negotiations on this subject – even though this is the heart of the matter. If the question of the distribution of migrants throughout the EU is codified, we will no longer see the kind of thing that is currently happening in Greece – arrivals will be managed and people will be fairly distributed across European territory.
You have been working on the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) for many years – what do you expect of the von der Leyen Commission in this area, and what are your thoughts on the announcement of a new “European Pact”?
First of all, it really saddens me that the Council refused to work on the Commission’s 2015-2016 proposals. Even though we managed to reach an agreement in the Parliament on legislation as complex as [the] Dublin [Regulation] or [the] Procedures [Directive], the Council itself still has not adopted its general approach to this legislation. So, although I am sure this new pact will relaunch a set of reforms which were begun at the time, we have wasted so much time! I also worry that the Commission is becoming even more security-oriented by working on detention centres, along with the consolidation of the externalisation of policies. Will the Commission be able to encourage Member States to take responsibility and to work on the proposed legislation this time? Will migrants’ rights and respect for fundamental rights remain the priority? We will have to wait and see what happens, but I am hardly optimistic.
Through this Pact, the Commission is hoping to set up new mechanisms for intra-European solidarity. Given that the Malta preliminary agreement did not lead to an institutionalised mechanism for people rescued at sea to be shared out among European countries, how can we now strengthen cooperation between them?
We will need powerful incentives from the Commission. For years it has shown too much of a tendency to let Member States think that the European Union was à la carte, and that some States could get away with not fulfilling their commitments. I believe this is an area in which the question of making access to European funds conditional ought to be discussed.
In December 2018, the European Parliament proposed the creation of a European humanitarian visa in order to increase the ways of getting to Europe legally and “address the intolerable death toll in the Mediterranean”. What is happening with this initiative now and what more can the EU do to put an end to these fatal shipwrecks?
Unfortunately, the Commission failed to respond to this request from the Parliament, even though it had two months to do so. Although my information is that legal migration should be one of the cornerstones of the new pact, I worry that it may only cover highly qualified workers or students. That is all well and good, but it is not enough. Yes, of course we need solutions for asylum seekers – remember that 90 % of refugees arrived illegally – but also for so-called economic migrants. Only legal, regulated migration pathways can help us save lives and forecast the numbers of arrivals, organise them and make sure that newcomers can integrate as smoothly as possible.
The reform of the Dublin III Regulation is at a standstill within the CEAS due to disagreements between Member States. Faced with the increase in various forms of nationalism in Europe, what role will the Parliament be able to play in this reform, given that MPs have already made proposals which have not been followed up on?
This new term of office is an opportunity for the Parliament to make the Commission and the Council understand that they cannot bypass what is the only universally-elected body in the Union and thus represents all European citizens. I think there is a stronger political will to make progress on these subjects in the Parliament and I hope that it will be expressed fearlessly; and I think it is worthwhile keeping an eye on the Parliament’s current tenacity on another subject, the multiannual financial framework.