Thursday

28th May 2020

Juncker says mandatory distribution of asylum seekers not off table

  • In yet another incident that has seen the Mediterranean increasingly referred to as a 'graveyard, a fishing vessel on Wednesday capsized around 100km off the coast of Libya (Photo: Amnesty International Italy)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has indicated he will revisit ideas for a mandatory distribution of asylum seekers among member states, while urging governments not to succumb to "populist" thinking on immigration.

"There are moments in politics when you must not follow the populists, otherwise you become populist yourself. You must say the opposite of what (the populists) say," Juncker told AFP in an interview on Wednesday (5 August).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • "There are moments in politics when you must not follow the populists, otherwise you become populist yourself"

His comments come as member states struggle to find a coherent response to the thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean each week from northern Africa to reach southern European states.

In yet another incident that has seen the Mediterranean increasingly referred to as a 'graveyard, a fishing vessel on Wednesday capsized around 100km off the coast of Libya, with about 200 people feared to have drowned.

The migration numbers have exposed the weaknesses in the EU's asylum policy - which obliges countries where migrants first land to process their asylum applications, putting a major burden on Italy and Greece - as well as showing the limits of European solidarity.

After years of hand-wringing but little policy action on matter, the Juncker Commission, in office since last autumn, promised it would tackle migration. It proposed in May a mandatory system to relocate 40,000 people from Greece and Italy around the EU.

However member states reacted angrily to both the numbers and it being decided in Brussels. A meeting of interior ministers last month saw governments, on a voluntary basis, agree to relocate just over 32,000 people, mainly Syrians and Eritreans.

"Ministers, unlike citizens, have an obligation to act. We made proposals that went far, while still being modest given the scale of the problem," Juncker said, referring to his proposals.

"We proposed a mandatory system to redistribute asylum seekers and people who need international protection, but the member states did not follow us and we are forced to seek an agreement on a voluntary basis," he said.

Juncker warned that if efforts after the summer break to reach the 40,000-target don't prove fruitful then the commission is likely to opt for an obligatory system.

"If we don't get there on a voluntary basis, we will have to reconsider the Commission's proposals. But I want to believe that they will react ambitiously," he said.

The commission has already said it wants to come forward with a more systematic set-up to deal with migration later this year.

"When the president was talking about the mechanism that we have on the table at the moment he was expressing his disappointment that we have gone through the voluntary route, if it works that’s very good," said a commission spokesperson on Wednesday.

"If it doesn’t then we do in any case have to look forward to the proposals that will be coming later in the year on future emergencies and how perhaps a redistribution key of an obligatory nature might be more appropriate," she added.

However the commission is setting itself up for a major political fight.

Member states are extremely reluctant to have a centralised system decide on how many migrants they ought to take, amid fears that voters will flock to support anti-immigrant right-wing parties.

Several member states want to close their borders to migrants.

Hungary recently began construction of a wall on its border with Serbia. Bulgaria has a wall along its border with Turkey. And the UK wants to reinforce barriers at Calais in northern France to prevent people crossing to England via the Eurotunnel.

EU to spend €2.4bn on migrant schemes

The EU executive approved programmes for border management and treatment of asylum application in 19 member states for the 2014-2020 period.

EU data protection rules abused to censor media

This week the EU's data protection rules (known as the GDPR) are two-years old. While the controversial GDPR was intended to offer greater privacy rights, it has also been abused by some authorities to muzzle a free press.

Internal EU report: Far-right terrorist attacks rise

An internal document drafted from the EU presidency highlights a rise in attacks by right-wing terrorists. The paper says the algorithms behind social media giants not only fuels violent radicalisation but also spreads right-wing violent extremist ideology.

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not OK, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. EU Commission's €1.85trn recovery package - key points
  2. Why developing countries may be last to get the vaccine
  3. Budapest to EU: 'Sorry seems to be the hardest word'
  4. EU Commission's green recovery criticised as 'brown'
  5. Mix of loans and grants in Commission €750bn package
  6. EU recovery agreement deal may need 'personal' summit
  7. Little love, as Berlin bids 'auf Wiedersehen' to Trumpism
  8. Future of Europe Conference: Council urged to move now

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us