Tuesday

19th Sep 2017

Military action underpins EU migration plan

  • The EU's border-control mission in Libya had to flee to Malta due to security problems (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

The European Commission on Wednesday (13 May) unveiled its long-awaited five-year plan on migration.

The proposal aims to tackle urgent issues and looks to the “root causes” of why people risk their lives to enter Europe.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Mogherini said the military assaults will 'complement' the EU's search and rescue mission, Triton (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

With some 1,800 known to have died in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea since the start of the year, the EU has come under pressure to act.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters in Brussels that “this is not about opening or closing borders because both are unrealistic.”

But the EU’s approach, announced jointly in Brussels by Avramopoulos, commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, and EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini, appears to be a bit of both.

On the more closed side, separate moves are underway to launch a military assault against migrant traffickers in Libya.

Foreign and defence ministers, in Brussels on Monday will discuss a 19-page blueprint prepared by Mogherini’s staff and leaked to British daily The Guardian.

Search and destroy

It says the operation will “provide surveillance, intelligence gathering and sharing, and assessment of smuggling activity towards and through the southern central Mediterranean area, and to stop, board, search and dispose of, possibly through their destruction, trafficking vessels and assets before use and thereby contribute to EU efforts to disrupt the business model of trafficking networks”.

It speaks of “action along the coast, in harbour or at anchor [against] smugglers’ assets and vessels before their use”.

It notes that “a [military] presence ashore might be envisaged if agreement was reached with relevant authorities”. But it warns that “the terrorist presence in the region … constitutes a security threat. Action taken ashore could be undertaken in a hostile environment.”

The intention is to clinch internal agreement in time for EU leaders to launch the operation at the June summit.

But the operation will also require UN approval, with France and the UK drafting a resolution at the Security Council.

Asylum seekers

On the more open side, the commission wants to create binding quotas for distribution of asylum seekers to share the demand among member states.

Under the current system, the country where the asylum seeker enters the EU is responsible for them.

But the commission wants to trigger an emergency mechanism in the EU Treaty to relocate them in line with member states’ GDP, population size, unemployment levels, and the number of asylum seekers they already host.

It also wants to target people who have a high recognition rate for asylum, like Syrians and Eritreans, and to send more failed applicants back home.

An annex appended to the plan shows a model, should the proposal be accepted, where Germany would take the lion’s share on 18.42 percent, followed by France on 14.17 percent, and Italy on 11.84 percent.

Germany currently has 35 percent of all asylum seekers, compared to only 4 percent in the Netherlands.

“People in need who have already reached our shores will be distributed to other member states who will then take care of reception and asylum processing,” said Timmermans.

An EU official added that people’s personal needs will be taken into account: “We are not going to send someone with a husband in Sweden to Poland. So we’ll look at the family links before doing the relocation scheme.”

Meanwhile, the asylum seeker’s fingerprints would be entered into Eurodac, the EU's biometric common asylum registration system, to prevent them from moving around.

“If they move and are checked they will be transferred back to the [relocation] country,” added the EU source.

20,000 refugees

The commission will also recommend an EU-wide settlement scheme for 20,000 refugees by the end of the month.

The plan will cost some €50 million.

Each member state will take a set number of refugees according to the same quota model as on asylum.

If approved and if all member states participate - including the UK, Ireland, and Denmark, which can opt in or out - then Germany would take in the highest number of refugees at 3,086 or 15.43 percent of the total.

France would take in the second highest number with 2,375 refugees, followed by the United Kingdom on 2,309.

To put the figures into perspective, there are just under 4 million displaced people from Syria alone, mostly in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, while the US takes in 70,000 refugees a year.

UK

The UK’s home secretary Theresa May has already voiced objections to a mandatory system to distribute asylum seekers.

She also said economic migrants intercepted at sea should be pushed back.

Timmermans said returning migrants with no chance of asylum is essential but only once they have been processed first in the EU.

“It is a cornerstone of our plan, so in that sense I think Theresa May can rest assured,” he said.

Avramopoulos added the EU’s border agency Frontex will also be strengthened “so that migrants that have no right to stay on European soil will be repatriated”.

France opposes EU migrant quotas

France and Poland have joined a growing list of EU states opposed to the European Commission's migrant quota proposal.

Agenda

Migration plans and UK top the bill this WEEK

A week shortened by Monday's holiday will still be busy for EU lawmakers, dominated by the Mediterranean migration crisis and UK plans to renegotiate its EU status.

Agenda

Riga and red tape on EU agenda this WEEK

EU leaders will take stock of their eastern neighbourhood at a summit in Riga this week, while the commission unveils an anti-red tape plan.

Feature

Nine lines that changed history - at least on the internet

Google has removed 800,000 search results across the EU following complaints from citizens, without the public knowing what has been removed, why it was removed or who complained. We revisit the case that rewrote history online.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  2. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  3. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  6. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  7. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  8. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  9. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies
  10. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  11. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted
  12. European Federation of Local Energy CompaniesClean Energy for All? On 10.10 Top-Level Speakers Present the Clean Energy Package

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUp to Three Quarters of Children Face Abuse & Exploitation on Mediterranean Migration Routes
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEurope Under Challenge; Recipe for a Competitive EU
  3. European Public Health AllianceCall to International Action to Break Deadlock on Chronic Diseases Crisis
  4. CES - Silicones EuropePropelling the construction revolution with silicones
  5. EU2017EEEU 2018 Budget: A Case of Three Paradoxes
  6. ACCAUS 'Dash for Gas' Could Disrupt Global Gas Markets
  7. Swedish Enterprises“No Time to Lose” Film & Debate on How Business & Politics Can Fight Climate Change
  8. European Free AllianceSave The Date!! 26.09 - Coppieters Awards To... Carme Forcadell
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Grave Concern Over Rise in Antisemitism in Poland
  10. EU2017EECybersecurity and the Estonian Presidency
  11. European Free AllianceFemu a Corsica. A Corsican Nationalist Party With a European Dimension
  12. Salzburg Global SeminarSeminar on Sharing Experiences Across Borders to Combat Extremism