Monday

19th Aug 2019

Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short

  • EU bickering over migration leaves asylum seekers in the dark. (Photo: Agostino Loffredi/Oxfam)

Italy will hold meetings with the 'Visegrad Four' group of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia as disagreements over migration loom over the EU summit in Brussels.

Italy's prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, plus European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, will discuss the controversial concept of EU 'solidarity' on migration with the four central and eastern European states on Thursday (14 December).

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

The meeting, demanded by Hungary, is also aimed at shoring up member state pledges for the EU Trust Fund for Africa.

Italy, which is spearheading an EU migrant containment policy in Libya, has contributed over €100 million to the fund, compared with just €50,000 each from Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Slovenia.

The Visegrad Four have objected to taking in asylum seekers themselves, and prefer offshoring the problem by preventing people from coming to Europe in the first place, and further securing their own borders.

A press conference was meant to follow the joint meeting on Thursday but has reportedly been cancelled, according to one EU diplomat.

Instead, the issue of requiring member states to distribute a quota of asylum seekers from initial arrival hotspots like Italy and Greece are likely to cast a long shadow over the summit itself.

On Wednesday (13 December), the commission said any effort to drop the mandatory quotas, as suggested by the European Council president Donald Tusk, "would betray years worth of collective work".

EU commissioner migration Dimitris Avramopoulos had in Strasbourg on Tuesday labeled Tusk's plan to drop the quotas as "anti-European," which ranks as a serious insult at the EU institutional level.

One EU government official described the insult as unwarranted.

"His [Tusk] note has really sparked a very lively discussion but it is difficult to understand that the mere fact of presenting a note could or should justify calling him anti-European," said the source.

Another described Avramopoulos' remarks as a "hysterical rant", noting that the commissioner will not take any part in the summit discussions.

"This is a question of manners," said the source.

'No quarrel, no brawl'

But chief EU commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas attempted to downplay Wednesday's spat between Tusk and Avramopoulos, telling reporters that there "is no quarrel, there is no brawl" and not to dramatise the issue.

He also noted that Tusk had failed to mention broader issues on the passport-free Schengen area given the steady rise of internal border checks.

Schengen states introduced border checks 36 times between 2006 to 2015. Over the past two years, that rose to 50 times, in part to prevent migrants from travelling across Europe.

Tusk has since modified the wording, some reportedly by his own hand, on migration in a note addressed to the EU leaders ahead of tomorrow's summit in Brussels - but still maintains that mandatory quotas are both "highly divisive" and "ineffective".

The commission disputes the wording, noting that 32,000 asylum seekers were relocated over a two-year scheme. However, it has also resulted in legal battles against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland for having refused to participate.

The commission wants to continue the mandatory scheme as part of a broader asylum reform, under the Dublin regulation that determines who is responsible for processing claims for international protection.

Forcing a vote on solidarity

But some EU officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say the idea of such a permanent mechanism would only act as a pull factor for people already ready to risk their lives to reach Europe.

Others, largely backed by Germany, maintain that a obligatory distribution scheme is needed to help spread genuine asylum seekers across member states.

A paper floated by the Estonian EU presidency on how to achieve a consensus on the issue had also been welcomed by Germany's interior minister.

The paper will not be discussed given that EU summit leaders on Thursday will not take any decision on the matter until the end of June 2018.

But that also poses other questions, which remain answered.

The EU is hoping for a consensus to avoid a repeat of the debacle behind a majority vote that originally launched the two-year asylum relocation scheme in 2015.

The scheme was forced through by a qualified majority vote (QMV), which made relocation legally binding among all participating EU states.

"QMV is still an option legally, it is sensitive issue, there is a strong political will but we should find a solution on the basis of consensus," said another EU official.

Commission takes Orban's Hungary to court

The EU executive steps up several probes over Hungary's illiberal tendencies, while it is also suing Poland and the Czech Republic over migrant quotas.

Tusk: EU migrant quotas have 'no future'

EU Council chief said obligatory migrant quotas unlikely to be renewed, but warned of "consequences" for EU states that break solidarity.

EU asylum debate reopens old wounds

EU leaders discussed asylum reforms in an effort to reach a consensus by next June, but divisions remain wide as concept of 'solidarity' becomes ever more elusive.

EU guilty of Libya migrant 'tragedy', ICC lawsuit says

EU states' efforts to "deter" migrants from Libya have helped kill more than 14,000 people and exposed 40,000 others to "crimes against humanity", according to a lawsuit filed in The Hague on Monday.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests
  2. Is Salvini closing just harbours or also the rule of law?
  3. No-deal Brexit would seriously harm UK, leaked paper says
  4. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  5. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  6. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  7. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  8. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us