Friday

20th Apr 2018

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).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Opinion

Calling time on European-Turkish strategic relations

With an Erdogan-Putin summit on Tuesday, joined by Iran on Wednesday, it is time for Europe to face facts - Turkey's ties with the West are no longer strategic. When Europe goes hither, Turkey deliberately goes thither.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights