Saturday

27th Nov 2021

EU at odds on meaning of migrant 'solidarity'

  • Conditions for refugees and asylum seekers on the Greek islands remain dire

Europe's display of unity in Rome over the weekend came under pressure as EU interior ministers gathered to discuss migration on Monday (27 March).

The talks held in Brussels were billed as an "exchange of views" and "stock taking" exercise.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But the political realities quickly surfaced as the most pressing migration reforms and issues remained unresolved.

Ministers remained at odds over the EU principle of “solidarity" and how it should apply in a key asylum rule known as Dublin, which determines who is responsible for handling applications.

Another contested principle was "relocation", with mounting resistance against the scheme now also emerging from Austria's minister of defence.

Attempts to distribute refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU states under the European Commission’s relocation plan have failed to produce meaningful results.

"No more excuses and I have repeated that again. There should be no more talk about relocation, but delivery. With Spring approaching, there is no time waste," said EU migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, on Monday.

The initial relocation target was 160,000 but EU states have only distributed around 15,000 people.

Avramopoulos wanted at least 3,000 located per month from Greece and around 1,500 from Italy.

France's interior minister, Matthias Fekl, told journalists: “Europe can only advance together on this and all those who want you to believe that a country on its own can respond to long-term global challenges are liars”.

Solidarity - Dublin

Speaking to reporters ahead of Monday’s meeting, Luxembourg's interior minister, Jean Asselborn, said "solidarity" must be turned into action following the Rome declaration on European integration.

But despite weeks of wrangling in bilateral meetings, the EU presidency under Malta is struggling to get governments to agree on what "solidarity" means in the context of the reform of the Dublin law.

"There are the elements of solidarity and responsibility ... we are trying to break down the issues into different components and trying to strike a balance between the two," a senior EU official told reporters last week.

The European Commission's reform proposal has generated sharp criticism by NGOs and the Greek government.

"It [Dublin reform] will destroy Greece, it will destroy Europe in the future and it will create enormous problems for the refugees and migrants themselves," Greece's asylum minister Yiannis Mouzalas told MEPs in the civil liberties committee earlier this month.

The Maltese EU presidency plans to propose a revised version of Dublin sometime next month.

Should no consensus be reached by June, it may have to resort to a vote

But such a vote would likely trigger a political backlash among some anti-migrant EU states such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Slovakia and Hungary court case

The same voting method was used to push through the failing relocation scheme, which is now being contested at the European Court of Justice by Hungary and Slovakia.

Neither case has reached a settlement despite both being lodged at the end of 2015.

"It looks like we are still waiting for a date for the hearing," said a contact at the Luxembourg-based court.

Another contact at the court said both cases were still in the written stage of the proceedings.

An oral stage then follows, at which point an advocate-general will issue an opinion. The whole process usually takes on average between 18 months and two years.

A ruling on either is unlikely before the EU’s self-imposed deadline of September to meet the relocation targets.

Rome summit tries to restart EU momentum

EU 27 leaders in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of Treaty of Rome, in bid to counter rising challenges after Brexit. But new ideas are scarce.

Austria wants out of EU migrant relocations

Austria is required to start relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece after an exemption to the scheme ended on 11 March. But Austria's chancellor has other ideas and wants the exemption prolonged.

News in Brief

  1. Covid variant: EU to block travel from southern Africa
  2. France and UK seek EU help on Channel migrants
  3. New Swedish PM who resigned after 7 hours gets second chance
  4. Belgium to decide on Friday on Covid measures
  5. UK rings alarm on new Covid strain in South Africa
  6. Turkish police use tear gas at women's rights march
  7. Poland calls for more Nato troops
  8. Ex-Navalny aide leaves Russia

Minsk using migrants to 'divert focus from domestic crackdown'

Belarus authorities in late July launched a crackdown against civil society, says exiled Belarus youth leader Vorykhava. She said the regime in Minsk is now using the migrant border crisis to divert international attention away from repression inside the country.

EU Commission: laws allowing Belarus pushbacks need changes

Poland, Latvia and Lithuania have introduced national laws, under states of emergency, allowing authorities to turn back people into Belarus. The European Commission is set to ask for some of those rules to be amended.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Belgium goes into three-week 'lockdown light'
  2. MEPs list crimes of 'Kremlin proxy' mercenaries
  3. EU to open up 'black box' of political ads
  4. Can the ECB solve climate change and inflation on its own?
  5. EU set to limit vaccine certificate to nine months
  6. Surprise coalition in Romania without former Renew's Ciolos
  7. This 'Black Friday' is a turning point in corporate accountability
  8. West struggling to show strength on Ukraine

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us