Wednesday

26th Sep 2018

EU engulfed in migrant 'quota' battle

  • An Amnesty International demonstration in support of asylum seekers in Brussels. EU member states are resisting the Commission's plan to distribute refugees across Europe. (Photo: Amnesty International)

The European Commission’s plan to relocate asylum seekers in Europe is in danger of being killed off by reluctant member states.

Less than a week after it was announced, on 13 May, 10 countries have signaled opposition.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Hungary's PM Viktor Orban has said the plan is "madness" and France’s Manuel Valls called it "a moral and ethical mistake".

Other countries, including Spain and Poland, say they oppose the way the commission wants to distribute asylum seekers - according to population size, wealth, and the number of migrants already hosted.

Spain’s foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, declared on Monday (18 May) that his country is "ready to fulfill all the support efforts asked of us, but this should be proportionate, fair and realistic”. He added that "the criteria used by the commission are not."

Poland’s Ewa Kopacz said last week she is "in favour of voluntary decisions on this issue".

With anti-immigration parties on the rise in many EU countries, the reactions are as much a symptom of their growing influence on public debate as an attempt by governments to limit this influence.

After the commission's migration plans were unveiled last week, headlines across Europe, as well as national politicians, spoke of "migrant quotas", suggesting the EU plans to impose set numbers of foreigners on member states.

"It's out of the question to have immigrant quotas because we have rules [against this],” French president Francois Hollande said on Tuesday.

The word quota, however, is nowhere in the commission’s proposal.

The EU executive only referred to asylum seekers and refugees, which are distinct categories of migrants that imply a need for international protection.

There is also confusion over what would trigger a "relocation system" and what the commission means when it says measures would be "temporary".

The timing of the presentation on migrant relocation - on 13 May, just before the EU institutions closed for a four-day break - left plenty of space for interpretation by national governments.

In addition, the relocation plan was mixed up with another plan, presented the same day, on resettling 20,000 refugees from outside Europe.

"We have a communication problem, and maybe you can help us," an EU spokesperson told reporters on Tuesday.

But for his part, commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was the first to use the word "quota”, in late April at the European parliament, when said he would "appeal for the establishment of a quota system".

The commission will present legal proposals next week after consulting member states. It is expected that its initial plan will be watered down.

In an op-ed published in the La Croix newspaper on Tuesday evening, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve set out a possible compromise.

He wrote that "France is in favour of a mechanism of solidarity repartition at a European level”, but under "strict conditions".

"First, entry countries must rigorously assume their Schengen obligations. They must in particular distinguish between migrants in need of protection and illegal ‘economic’ migrants who have to be sent back to their country of origin," Cazeneuve wrote.

Germany, the country that would accept the most asylum seekers under the commission plan, has not taken a position.

"There are many questions that deserve examination," chancellor Angela Merkel said at a press conference with Hollande on Tuesday.

"I am sure that on that we will have a Franco-German position soon."

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.

Investigation

Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?

Five years and €10bn after its EU bailout, Cyprus is a weak link in Europe's banking system - amid renewed fears on Russia money-laundering.

News in Brief

  1. UN chief: World suffering from 'trust deficit disorder'
  2. Stalemate in Sweden as parliament ousts prime minister
  3. Migrant rescue ship heading to French port
  4. EU angry at British tabloids on Brexit
  5. UK to allow EU flights in no-deal Brexit
  6. Greek reporters arrested after story on 'mishandled' EU funds
  7. Austrian minister urges police to out foreign sex offenders
  8. ECB's Draghi set to clarify role in secretive G30 group

Opinion

Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism

One year to the day since the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the commissioner for home affairs spells out what action the EU is taking now to protect against further attacks.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. EU court delivers transparency blow on MEP expenses
  2. Russian with Malta passport in money-laundering probe
  3. Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?
  4. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  5. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  6. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  7. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  8. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us