Monday

21st Jan 2019

EU visa brake becomes top priority

EU ministers delayed a decision to grant visa-free travel to Georgia in Luxembourg on Friday (10 June) as they wait for a so-called emergency brake to be introduced.

Member states would like to set up a mechanism to suspend visa waivers with third countries more easily and more quickly in case of mass-scale overstays or bogus asylum claims.

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

"Many delegations consider the reinforcement of the suspension mechanism is a prerequisite to agreeing to any further visa liberalisation," Klaas Dijkhoff, the Dutch state secretary for security and justice, said during the meeting, which he chaired.

The legislation to ease suspension of visa-free travel is now awaiting a vote in the European Parliament's civil liberties committee, expected to take place in July.

The issue of granting visa free travel to Georgia will also come up at the foreign affairs ministers' meeting on 20 June, but it is unlikely that a decision to lift visa requirements will be taken.

Ministers from Germany, France and Italy on Friday repeated their opposition to lifting visas for Georgians because of an alleged crime spree by Georgian gangs.

They were reluctant to say why the crime issue was brought up at this late stage, however.

Kosovo, Turkey and Ukraine are also waiting for visa liberalisation.

Ukraine, like Georgia, has fulfilled European Commission technical demands, with initial talks by EU diplomats due on 14 June.

Turkey was promised a fast-track visa process under the EU-Turkey migrant deal. But its refusal to alter anti-terrorism laws, a Commission demand, could hold up its bid.

Nothing is free

Ministers on Friday also discussed the Commission's recent proposal on tackling the refugee crisis by making development aid and trade perks conditional on countries stopping people from going to Europe.

"We need to address the root causes of people leaving, mainly for economic reasons," Dijkhoff said.

He said the EU also needed to speed up returns.

The Commission’s proposed €8 billion fund for Middle Eastern and African countries in the programme is to depend on member states’ contributions. But these could be slow in coming, as many national budgets are under strain.

"Of course, no member state will enthusiastically come running with bags of money”, Dijkoff said.

But he added that it would be a “good investment” if it were to “solve bigger problems for [European] societies”.

Turkey is safe

The ministers pledged to proceed with existing agreements, such as relocating asylum seekers from Greece and Italy and resettling refugees from Turkey.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said 139 people had been relocated from Greece to France on Thursday alone in what he called “an example to follow”.

He said that 2,195 people have been relocated so far from Greece and Italy.

Dijkhoff said “we confirmed again that we think Turkey is safe for returning migrants”.

His comment was a message to Greece to press ahead with returns, despite objections from some Greek courts and from international NGOs.

Border guards

Member states are also in talks with MEPs on the European Border Guard - an initiative to pool EU resources in a single agency to help protect the bloc's external borders.

The Dutch EU presidency aims to conclude the process by the end of June so that the guards can be deployed in summer, a peak time for migrant arrivals.

Interview

Russia 'ready to destabilise half of Eurasia'

Russia does not have a veto on Georgia’s foreign policy and billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili does not rule the country, the Georgian president has said.

Eight EU states take migrants stranded on NGO boats

France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania have agreed to relocate the 49 migrants stuck on two NGO boats moored, for almost three weeks, off Malta's coast.

News in Brief

  1. Germany sent 8,658 asylum-seekers to other EU states
  2. Poll: Macron popularity up four percent
  3. 'Economy is broken' says Oxfam in global inequality report
  4. Vestager under pressure to allow Siemens-Alstom deal
  5. Teargas and clashes in Athens over Macedonia name change
  6. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  7. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  8. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us