Sunday

1st Aug 2021

Clock ticking on EU migrant quota deadline

  • EU meeting in Estonia did not meet Italy's demands (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU states are running out of time to comply with migrant relocation quotas on Italy and Greece, the European Commission has said.

“I’m not very happy with how some member states have so far responded to our call for more relocations,” the EU migration commissioner, Dmitris Avramopoulos, said in Tallinn on Thursday (6 July).

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

  • Anvelt: Migration talks marked start of Estonia's EU presidency (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

He noted that 160,000 asylum seekers were to be taken from Italy and Greece by September, but that the latest numbers were still “very low”.

“You have not a lot of time in front of you, but do it as soon as possible,” he said, addressing non-compliant EU states.

“This is a common European policy that we adopted in Luxembourg two years ago. It is mandatory,” he said.

He added that lack of solidarity on issues such as migration could “put in question the very existence of the European Union”.

Avramopoulos spoke at an informal EU meeting in Estonia that discussed Italy’s appeal for help following a surge in arrivals from Libya.

Other EU states declined to open their ports to migrants, instead saying that non-refugees should be deported more quickly and that NGO rescue boats should follow a new code.

Avramopoulos said he had “called on member states to do more on relocations” at Thursday’s meeting.

His previous appeals having gone unheeded, the commissioner added: “Let’s see whether it will be said many times in the future.”

EU states have so far relocated some 20,000 people from Italy and Greece.

The Commission has launched legal action against the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland for boycotting the scheme.

As of 3 July, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, and Slovakia had not relocated a single person from Italy.

Germany and France were miles away from their full legal commitments, with Germany 20,477 relocations short and France 15,935 behind.

Spain (8,254 short), the Netherlands (3,891), Romania (3,546), Sweden (3,100), Belgium (3,031), and Portugal (1,561) were also heading for major violations.

Avramopoulos defended the EU’s decision to step up expulsions of economic migrants and to create rules for NGO rescues.

“Tens of thousands of people are economic migrants … they have to be returned to the country they came from,” he said on Thursday.

He said the Commission was waiting for Italy to draft a code of conduct for NGO rescues prior to its EU imprimatur.

The Estonian interior minister, Anders Anvelt, who chaired Thursday’s meeting on behalf of his country’s EU presidency, said the NGO code was needed for coordination.

“If you had a forest fire and you had NGOs and then national rescue workers and there was no coordination between them, I don’t think there would be a good result,” he said.

Human Rights at Sea, a UK-based charity, said on Thursday it had seen a leaked copy of the draft Italian code.

There was “a distinct lack of ... explicit reference to the need to save life at sea” in the draft, the charity said.

It said that NGOs who refused to sign could be denied access to Italian ports.

It also cited Italian coastguard figures for April which said that NGOs rescued 5,015 people from sea that month.

Commercial ships rescued 3,523 people and Italian authorities rescued 3,225, while two EU operations, Frontex and Sophia, rescued 937 between them.

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.

EU backs Italy on NGO rescues

The European Commission has said that the EU and Italy merely want to “better organise” migrant rescues in the Central Mediterranean.

Opinion

EU needs lasting solution to refugee crisis

If we continue with the failed approach of the last two years then this could become a systemic crisis that threatens the EU itself, writes Gianni Pittella.

'We are not slaves': Brussels' migrant hunger-strike

Almost 500 undocumented migrants in Brussels have been demanding a legal pathway for residency in Belgium. Most have been on hunger strike since 23 May, with some now refusing water. MEPs are demanding the Belgian government offer them a solution.

News in Brief

  1. Officials worried at infection-surge on Greek holiday islands
  2. EU calls on online platforms to tackle vaccine hesitancy
  3. Russia accused of falling short on Sputnik V deliveries
  4. France: UK quarantine rules 'discriminatory'
  5. Italy's government reaches deal on judicial reform
  6. EU adopts guidelines to 'climate-proof' infrastructure projects
  7. US backs WHO plan for further Covid-origin investigation
  8. EU to buy 220,000 supplies of potential Covid treatment

'We are not slaves': Brussels' migrant hunger-strike

Almost 500 undocumented migrants in Brussels have been demanding a legal pathway for residency in Belgium. Most have been on hunger strike since 23 May, with some now refusing water. MEPs are demanding the Belgian government offer them a solution.

Exclusive

EU firms up plans for Libya military mission

The EU is firming up plans for a military mission to Libya in order to compete with foreign powers there, according to a leaked paper seen by EUobserver.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Malta responsible for journalist's death, inquiry finds
  2. Can Greece work with Biden to solve the West Balkans impasse?
  3. EU and UK frustrated at US travel ban extension
  4. Polish judges rally behind EU court ruling
  5. Why 'Fit for 55' isn't fit for purpose
  6. EU hits vaccination target, as Delta variant now dominates
  7. European arms 'displaced over a million people', research finds
  8. Brexit: what is the 'Lugano Convention' and does it matter?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us