22nd Mar 2018

EPP calls for Dublin overhaul and hotspots outside the EU

  • 'The EU [must] reinforce its external borders by stepping up border controls both at sea and on land' (Photo: Frontex)

The centre-right European Popular Party (EPP) adopted a resolution on migration policy at its congress on Wednesday (21 October), calling for a "complete reform of the European asylum system", a separation of refugees and economic migrants "before their arrival in the EU", a legal migration policy based on labour market needs and a revision of the family reunification EU directive.

The resolution was drafted by EPP interior ministers from Germany, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Poland, Spain, Cyprus and Ireland, and preview upcoming debates at EU level.

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"We have to quickly go forward," EPP president Joseph Daul told EUobserver, saying that the party intends to put its proposals on the table of the extraordinary meeting of interior ministers that has been called for 9 November, as well as that of the foreign affairs ministers' meeting next week.

The EPP calls for "greater coherence in the EU's internal and external policies and, in particular, its policies in the areas of foreign affairs, security, trade, development, humanitarian aid and migration".

"The EU [must] reinforce its external borders by stepping up border controls both at sea and on land," the resolution reads, calling for an enlarged mandate for Frontex, the EU border agency, to allow to it to lead operations.

'Dublin is undefendable'

EPP ministers have asked the European Commission "to pursue infringement procedures against those Member States which do not comply with their obligation to protect the EU's external borders."

"Non-action will ultimately jeopardise the Schengen acquis," they say.

The resolution also calls for a revision of the Dublin system on examination of asylum claims "where shortcomings have been identified and a complete reform of the European Asylum System in the long term".

"This should include an update of the existing Geneva Convention."

"Dublin has become undefendable," an MEP said. "If the EPP takes this position on reforming it, socialists will take the same position".

However, the EPP admitted, "it is one thing to decide to reform Dublin, it is another to know by what to replace it. It is a delicate issue."

After heated debate between member states, including EPP governments, regarding relocations and refugee quotas, the document does not explicitly mention the mechanism, but calls for "the swift adoption and implementation of the first and second package of the European Agenda on Migration", in which a permanent relocation mechanism is included.

'More willingness from Arab states'

EPP ministers want to "develop safe zones with reception and accommodation centres and resettlement programmes in third states and when possible in countries of origin".

They also propose that "possible refugees and economic migrants should be separated before their arrival in the EU".

This proposition amounts to establishing so-called hotspots outside the EU, such as those being created in Italy and Greece.

They also say that "third countries near crisis regions, such as the Arab Gulf States, [should] show more willingness to accept and accommodate refugees".

While the resolution calls for "the establishment of a European framework of integration" for the migrants, it says that "criteria for common standards, benefits-in-kind and conditions" should be set up" to prevent disorderly secondary movement throughout Europe".

It also considers that the 1986 EU directive on family reunification "represents a pull factor" and should be revised.

"Member states should clearly define labour market needs for legal migrants," the resolution adds. "Legal migration [should be] based on labour market needs in member states", with a full use of seasonal workers permits or directive on workers mobility in the EU.

"When we are in a period of crisis, we go in the right direction," EPP president Jospeh Daul told this website, referring to the common resolution being drafted despite strong divergences.

"The more the crisis is important, the more solidarity we have."

'Up to the member states'

But at a congress debate on migration on Wednesday evening, EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos called on EU member states, including those run by the EPP, to do more.

"We have the agenda, the policy, the means and the will [to act]. We need support of the member states," he said, expressing regret that "it took one year to realise that we need to mobilise all our forces".

He said that Frontex now needs 700 people, who should be provided by member states.

"The European Commission has done its part, now it's up to the member states. The Council of the EU has a responsability," Avramopoulos said.

At the same debate, the Commission's vice-president for the budget, Kristalina Georgieva, said that the EU should "turn the migration crisis pyramid upside down".

"We have to address root causes rather than spend bilions of billions of bilions to address to consequences," she said.

Centre-right leaders close ranks on migration

EPP leaders made a concerted effort to demonstrate unity by sharing a tougher stance on border security at a congress in Madrid designed to support Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy.

Refusing refugees would cost EU funds, MEP says

The Swedish liberal MEP Cecilia Wikstroem seeks to introduce a five-year transition period for countries that are not ready to take in asylum seekers under the reformed Dublin system.

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Polish infighting seems to be taking over the EU summit's agenda, as the European Council chief is up for re-election. In the meantime, foreign ministers are expected to sign off a new military HQ in Brussels.

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