EU Pact on Migration: brand new and already controversial

Europe, Migration and Asylum, Newsletter

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On 23 September, the European Commission published its EU Pact on Migration and Asylum. Presented as a “new fresh start”, it actually exacerbates past mistakes and raises serious concerns in terms of human rights violations (a full analysis is available on EuroMed Rights website). The main objective of the Pact is to “rebuild mutual trust between Member States” by prioritising EU internal cohesion at the expense of migrants’ and refugees’ rights. And yet, several Member States already seem quite opposed to it.

Germany and France welcomed and endorsed the Pact. While Germany sees it as “a good basis to start from”, France stresses the need to reinforce controls at the external borders, fight smuggling, prevent secondary movements, reinforce rules about applications’ responsibility, apply more solidarity among Member States and make cooperation with third countries more “demanding”.

Greece, Italy and Spain had a more lukewarm reaction. They remain mostly opposed to the idea that the first country of entry is in charge of migrants and refugees. For Greece, “the EU’s proposed pact still needs a lot of work” especially regarding fair redistribution of asylum seekers among EU Member States. Italy judged that “it (was) a first step after years” but called to overcome the current system. Madrid regretted the lack of a truly solidary mechanism for the redistribution of asylum seekers. Spain, which boasts strong diplomatic relations on migration management with non-EU countries (such as Morocco and Algeria), considered that the solidarity system would be utterly useless in terms of support for cooperation with third countries.

While many thought the Pact would reflect the views of the Visegrad Four, Poland, Hungary, Czech-Republic and Slovakia rejected it. Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán called for the EU’s external borders to “remain perfectly sealed along all sections”.

At this stage, Member States only seem to agree on the importance of increasing returns at all costs. The absence of post-return monitoring systems or the lack of procedures to assess the situation of migrants and refugees once returned does not seem to be an issue for them.

As an agreement will not be reached by December 2020, the negotiations on the legislative proposals will continue under the EU Portuguese Presidency from January 2021.