Friday

30th Oct 2020

Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June

  • Juncker dampened down a pre-summit row, declaring 'Donald Tusk is not anti-European, he is a pro-European' (Photo: European Union)

The prospect of EU states going to a vote next June on a deeply-disputed measure to impose mandatory asylum-seeker quotas on member states appears increasingly likely.

"I am not a fan of qualified majority decision-making but it is in the treaty," European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters on Friday (15 December).

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The issue of assigning a set number of how many asylum seekers each member state must take has underpinned sharp disputes among EU states. The Visegrad four, composed of Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, flat out refuse the concept as opposed to Germany and Italy.

Speaking alongside European Council president Donald Tusk, Juncker said some member states at an EU summit dinner in Brussels on Thursday are prepared to use the vote should a consensus become unattainable.

"Will a compromise be possible? It appears very hard but we have to try our very best," said Tusk.

Tusk described relocation as an insignificant response to migration, which has instead taken disproportionate political dimensions.

"This is the most time consuming issue or dimension when it comes to migration debate," he said.

But any move towards a majority vote in June is anathema among an EU leadership that continues to grapple with the concept of solidarity.

A consensus, they argue, is better suited to rolling out EU-wide policy following the debacle over a two-year scheme to relocate asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other member states.

The 2015 scheme, which ended this past September, has soured relations and resulted in legal battles between the European Commission and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - an 'east-west' division of member states Tusk referred to at the opening of the summit on Thursday.

A similar quota scheme is now part of a larger asylum reform proposal to distribute people in need of international protection to EU states on a more permanent long-term basis.

EU leaders are supposed to reach a decision on this reform, also known as the Dublin regulation, by next June.

The broader dispute underlies other realities among thousands stuck in over-crowded Greek islands in the lead up to winter.

"Solidarity on migration is not a theoretical debate," said Oxfam's EU migration policy adviser Raphael Shilhav.

He said those stuck on the Aegean islands are now "paying a daily price that EU leaders are ignoring."

Damage control

Juncker also went into damage control after his migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, labelled Tusk "anti-European" for describing relocation as "highly divisive" and "ineffective".

"Donald Tusk is not anti-European, he is a pro-European," Juncker said, in response to Avramopoulos' comments.

"I know that Avramopoulos as a good commissioner and I think this is a real misunderstanding," he said.

Tusk also weighed in, telling reporters that as European Council president he does not take sides with any group of member states or regions.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have taken the lead among member states, against Germany, in opposing any system that would require them to accept asylum seekers based on quotas.

"But I do insist on my right and duty, because this is in fact my obligation, to come forward with an honest and factual analysis of the situation," he said.

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 states tackle Dublin asylum reform 'line by line'

A Friends of the Presidency group, set up by the Bulgarian EU presidency, has sifted through the European Commission's proposal to reform Dublin, an EU asylum law that has sparked widespread political tensions and divisions.

Confusion over Frontex's Greek pushback investigation

In a quick U-turn, EU border agency Frontex says it has now launched an inquiry into allegations it may have blocked potential asylum seekers from reaching the Greek coast, in so-called 'pushbacks'. What form that inquiry will take is unclear.

Frontex refuses to investigate pushbacks, despite EU demand

The European Commission says Frontex, the EU's border agency, has an obligation to investigate allegations that its vessels participated in illegal pushbacks of migrants off the Greek coast. Asked if it would, Frontex said it rejected the allegations.

News in Brief

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Analysis

'Sponsored returns' may shuffle failed asylum seekers around EU

The European Commission is banking on cooperation and coordination among EU states to help makes its new migration and asylum pact viable. But its plan is already being greeted with suspicion by more hardline anti-migrant countries like Austria and Hungary.

Analysis

Between the lines, Europe's new Moria unfolds

A new five-day screening of migrants at Europe's external borders is meant to expedite people into either 'asylum' or 'return' tracks. The time-limit is wishful thinking and one that could leave people stranded in make-shift camps or even ghettos.

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