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18th Jan 2019

Slovak presidency proposes 'effective solidarity' on migration

  • Refugees in Athens. Up to 6,000 people were arriving daily near the end of 2015 (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

The Slovak EU presidency has circulated a paper among EU states that calls for "effective solidarity" on migration issues.

The document, seen by this website, was discussed at an informal dinner on Thursday evening among migration ministers ahead of a formal home affairs meeting on Friday (18 November).

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The one and a half page paper lays the conceptual groundwork of what the Slovak presidency is now calling "effective solidarity", allowing EU states to pick and choose how they want to help manage asylum seekers inflows and their claims.

It spells out three scenarios, based on a vague intensity of inflows, as to the level of engagement of EU states.

Three scenarios for future problems

The first scenario is for "normal circumstances" where the number of arrivals is described as moderate.

In this category, the Slovak presidency says the allocation of responsibility for asylum seekers falls under current asylum rules and the future of the reformed Dublin regulation.

The European Commission in May proposed to reform Dublin by making the distribution of asylum seekers automatic. EU states would pay a controversial €250,000 "solidarity contribution" for each applicant they reject under the scheme.

The second scenario triggers the "effective solidarity" concept and occurs when EU states are stressed due to a high number of asylum arrivals.

Again, no figures are given to determine what constitutes a high number of asylum arrivals.

But the Slovak paper says "all member states should take part in a form or another in this collective effort".

This could entail anything from offering greater financial contributions to special migratory funds or to EU agencies to a better sharing of facilities to accommodate asylum seekers or to help more with return operations.

"Among those elements, we are trying to find some balance," said an EU official.

The paper notes that under this scenario, a "structure system" would be needed in terms of contributions from the EU budget, to the level of participation in different "solidarity components".

The third category is the worst case scenario for "severe circumstances" when the high number of arrivals triggers a near total collapse of EU rules, not unlike what was experienced in 2015 after some 800,000 arrived in a matter of months.

Decisions on what to do would be guided by the European Council.

The reaction of EU ministers to the Slovak presidency paper will feed into a head of state summit in December.

The "effective solidarity" concept stems from the so-called Bratislava declaration in September when EU leaders met to diagnose the future of the Union.

From mandatory to 'flexible' to 'effective' solidarity

Slovak prime minister Robert Fico, at the time, declared the idea of migration quotas as "politically finished".

Slovakia, along with Hungary, legally challenged the EU's decision to distribute some 120,000 asylum seekers across the bloc.

The Visegrad countries - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - instead proposed an alternative that called for "flexible solidarity".

The idea is an effort to reconcile EU state apprehensions given the political divides over how to best deal with asylum seekers.

Robert Kalinak, Slovakia's interior minister, in October described "flexible solidarity" as a "set of options on how to reach our goal."

The goal, he said, is to secure Europe, manage migration flows and "make sure the countries of destinations improve."

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