Monday

22nd Jan 2018

Asylum crisis and Western Balkans This WEEK

Migration is set to dominate this week following a mini-summit of leaders over the weekend concerning refugee flows in the Western Balkans.

“We are struggling with our agencies and with our member states on all fronts. We have people living in forests”, European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels on Friday (23 October).

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Schinas’ remarks come as thousands of people seeking refuge left Croatia for Slovenia after Hungary sealed off its border.

Sunday's mini-summit in Brussels will involve leaders from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.

EU Council chief Donald Tusk and European Parliament president Martin Schulz will also be in attendance, alongside the affected EU agencies and the United Nations.

Schinas said the plan is to “enhance cooperation, consultation and operational action”.

The EU has already dedicated four summits to migration since the summer but member states are lagging behind on their promises.

Only around 80 asylum seekers from Italy out of a target total of 160,000 have so far been relocated. Greece has yet to dispatch any.

Member states are also falling to fulfil their pledges of humanitarian aid, asylum relocation spots, and experts for the EU’s border agency Frontex and the European asylum support office (EASO).

National governments said they would give a combined total of €500 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) to help care for Syrians in UN-run camps in countries surrounding the war-torn nation.

Over the summer, the WFP was forced to cut assistance to 1.2 million Syrians and had stopped food vouchers for 229,000 refugees in Jordan.

The poor conditions are pushing some to pay smugglers to take them to Greece where they then trek up through the Western Balkans to reach mainland EU.

More than half of the 537,000 sea arrivals to Greek shores this year are Syrian.

A contact at the WFP said that the agency is now reinstating the food vouchers in Jordan but that it is still waiting for the bulk of national pledges to arrive.

In addition to Sunday’s mini-summit, these issues will also be debated on Tuesday at the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg with Tusk and Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Differences between the two leaders on how to tackle the asylum crisis have emerged. The Commission is becoming increasingly impatient with the slow response from member states.

Tax, data, roaming, Sakharov prize and other issues

Next week will also see MEPs preoccupied with issues not related to migration and asylum.

A number of debates will take place on Monday with votes on Tuesday.

On Monday, the plenary will debate a European Commission proposal to make “tax rulings” more transparent.

The debate will follow another in the special committee on tax rulings. The committee has met resistance from companies and member states throughout the probe.

Because of it, the Greens want the mandate extended. The centre-left S&D, for its part, has slapped a ban on meeting representatives with companies that refused to cooperate.

MEPs are also set to debate on Monday a ban on mobile roaming charges with a vote on the new telecoms package on Tuesday. The plan is set remove the charges by June 2017.

A Monday debate is also organised with EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova on the future of the now invalidated EU-US data transfer pact known as Safe Harbour.

On Tuesday, MEPs also plan on voting on a resolution on the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

On Wednesday, the plenary will vote on a draft law on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The environment committee, which leads the parliament’s debate on the issue, has recommended MEPs reject it.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz, for his part, will on Thursday present the winner of the 2015 Sakharov Prize.

The three finalists are Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger, political prisoners in Venezuela and opposition group Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, and Boris Nemstov, an assassinated Russian opposition leader.

Agenda

Juncker's first EU anniversary This WEEK

The asylum and refugee crisis continues to dominate this four-day WEEK as the European Commission marks its one-year anniversary under Jean-Claude Juncker.

Macron eyes France-UK border agreement

French president Macron wants the UK to take in more refugees as he revisits the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, which allows British border controls to take place inside French territory.

Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June

Divisions on relocating asylum seekers remain entrenched following an EU summit. The east-west divide opens up the possibility of relying on a majority vote for a key asylum in June, further exacerbating disputes among opposing capitals.

Macron eyes France-UK border agreement

French president Macron wants the UK to take in more refugees as he revisits the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, which allows British border controls to take place inside French territory.

Magazine

The asylum files: deadlock and dead-ends

The EU is reforming a number of internal asylum laws, but lack of staff, politics, and the sheer complexity of the bills means deadlines - like those announced by EU council chief Tusk - are likely to come and go.

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