Monday

19th Aug 2019

EU free movement put into question at Vienna summit

EU politicians are threatening to dismantle the bloc’s free-movement rights amid calls to revamp asylum rules, due to the surge in the number of people seeking refuge in Europe.

On Thursday (27 August), the bodies of up to 50 people, who had suffocated, were found in the back of a refrigerated food truck on the outskirts of Vienna.

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

News of the tragedy came the same day EU and Western Balkan leaders and ministers met in the Austrian capital for a summit on migration issues.

“We cannot continue like this with a minute of silence every time we see people dying”, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said, referring to previous EU gestures of respect for migrant deaths.

Earlier the same day, Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s foreign minister, warned media the EU’s asylum regime, the so-called Dublin regulation, which requires point-of-entry countries to process claims, risks collaspe.

“I believe that we will need a quick solution for the entire system because otherwise countries will go at it alone and no longer adhere to spirit of the European Union,” he said.

He added the EU should consider letting people apply for asylum from their home countries.

“We should think about the possibility of making an asylum request in the country of origin in order to ensure better redistribution to European Union countries”.

Earlier on Wednesday, Kurz said that a European Union “without borders inside is in danger” if its external borders aren’t secure.

Italy’s foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni made similar comments in Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

“The way things are going, there is a risk of Schengen [the EU’s border-free zone] being called into question and having to go back to the old frontiers,” he said.

Beginning of the end of current rules

Maintaining open internal borders is sacrosanct to the European Commission.

But the Brussels executive is now becoming more vocal on the possibility of reforming the so-called 'Dublin' rules, which, if applied correctly, would require EU states to return the vast majority of asylum seekers to their EU point-of-entry - Hungary and Italy.

Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud on Thursday said “structural changes” will have to be introduced into the system.

Returns to Greece are banned following a 2011 European Court of Human Rights ruling on “degrading” conditions in its migrant holding centres.

The “structural changes” involve relocation and redistribution of asylum seekers in times of crisis.

The commission has already proposed a new mechanism to cover Italy and Greece for the next two years. But it’s planning to propose a more permanent solution by the end of the year.

“This would imply a change to the Dublin rules,” said Bertaud.

Other changes

Other changes to the rules may also be possible once the commission terminates an evaluation of the entire system sometime next year.

But most member states have shown little appetite for the commission’s Italy and Greece relocation ideas.

EU leaders at summit in July rejected mandatory quotas, opting instead for a voluntary system, which then fell short of what the commission wanted.

The commission had called for 40,000 asylum seekers to be relocated.

EU states have pledged 32,256 places. Austria and Hungary have pledged zero.The UK opted out. Denmark was never involved to begin with.

Urgency

Meanwhile, the need for asylum reform and for immediate action was underlined by Germany on Thursday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Vienna the “Dublin system isn’t working”.

German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the same in an op-ed published in French daily Le Figaro on Thursday.

“What you are witnessing now is the end of the Dublin system”, Kris Pollet, a policy advisor at the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles, told EUobserver.

Migration hijacks EU-Balkan summit

With Hungary threatening to send in troops along its border with Serbia, the summit on the Western Balkans in Vienna is likely to be dominated by migration.

Agenda

Migration tops EU agenda THIS WEEK

The European Commission and member states will assess the consequences and possible solutions to the refugee crisis.

Feature

EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock

No EU country willing to open its ports for the Spanish rescue ship Open Arms, with France and others turning to the European Commission for help.

EU targets Hungary for denying food to migrants

At least 25 people stuck in Hungary's transit zones along the Serb border have been denied food, with one case lasting eight days. On Thursday, the European Commission threatened the risks of sanctions against Hungary over the issue.

EU court: Denmark's family-reunification law 'unjustified'

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has delivered a blow to Denmark's strict family-reunification laws. The ruling will likely cause headaches for its new left-leaning government given its stance on immigration, and opens up 8,000 pending cases.

EU dismisses UN call to stop migrant returns to Libya

As the death toll of the Tajoura detention centre airstrike reached 53, including six children, the UN called for a halt to returning people to Libya. The EU - which is helping fund the Libyan coastguard - said no.

News in Brief

  1. Trump turned down: Greenland not for sale
  2. UK Libdems would back Clarke or Harman as new PM
  3. Six countries agree to take 'Open Arms' ship migrants
  4. Gibraltar judge: Iranian ship should be released
  5. Increasing fears of a global recession
  6. Far-right hate crimes on the rise in Germany
  7. EU steel tariffs have 'worked well' so far
  8. Italian court: Migrant rescue ship can enter Italian waters

EU guilty of Libya migrant 'tragedy', ICC lawsuit says

EU states' efforts to "deter" migrants from Libya have helped kill more than 14,000 people and exposed 40,000 others to "crimes against humanity", according to a lawsuit filed in The Hague on Monday.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  2. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  3. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  4. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  5. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide
  6. US offers Johnson helping hand on Brexit
  7. Italy: New government without Salvini in the making
  8. Brexit row delays financial products transparency review

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us