Monday

19th Feb 2018

Bulgaria set to delay EU talks on refugee quotas

  • 'We agreed to first look at the text article by article,' said Valentin Radev, Bulgaria's interior minister (Photo: European Union)

The EU presidency under Bulgaria appears likely to wait until the very end of negotiations before broaching the controversial refugee quota issue in a key EU asylum reform bill.

The six-month presidency is mandated to find a political consensus by the end of June on the 'Dublin' regulation, which determines who is responsible for processing asylum claims.

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.

A consensus appears to be emerging following German demands to first sort out the easier points under the reform before tackling the most difficult one.

Valentin Radev, Bulgaria's interior minister, on Thursday (27 January) appeared willing to offload the issue until the very end following suggestions first floated by his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere.

"My brief answer is yes. We have almost agreed to this," Radev told reporters when asked if he would take on board de Maiziere's proposal.

He said the two had agreed to first look at the bill "article by article".

The European Parliament has already reached its position on the bill and is waiting for member states to do the same before talks can start between the institutions.

De Maiziere, a close ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel, maintains that a quota system needs to remain part of the Dublin reform, but earlier noted that it will not be easy to find a solution and suggested to first tackle less tricky issues.

Germany has also been struggling to form a coalition government under Merkel's weakened chancellery over fears it could spark a new election.

On Friday, she is meeting to thrash out a coalition programme with Bavarian CSU party leader Horst Seehofer and SPD leader Martin Schulz.

Despite efforts by previous EU presidencies, member states have been unable to find agreement on imposing mandatory asylum-seeker quotas.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, known as the Visegrad four, are leading the opposition pack against any future plans to parcel out asylum seekers on a mandatory basis.

The divides came into sharp relief at a EU summit last December when the Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, described the proposed quota system as "highly divisive" and "ineffective".

A visibly angered Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration, at the time called Tusk "anti-European" given his remarks on the proposal.

On Thursday, he appeared more measured in his comments, noting that no effort "should be spared in order for the European Council to reach an overall position on the reform of the asylum system during the Bulgarian presidency."

Austria, whose government is composed of far-right anti-immigrant ministers, will be next line to take the EU helm.

Greek figures showed that 1,061 people arrived on Greek islands from Turkey so far in January and that Turkey intercepted and turned back 1,283 other would-be asylum claimants.

The numbers compared to 7,000 a month at the height of the migration crisis in 2015 and were especially low - just 264 people - in the past two weeks due to bad weather.

Arrivals were up in Italy, where 2,749 people came from Libya, compared to 2,393 in January last year.

The 15 percent jump came amid increasing lawlessness in Libya, which had slashed figures by more than a third in 2017 compared to 2016 with the help of the Italian navy.

Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June

Divisions on relocating asylum seekers remain entrenched following an EU summit. The east-west divide opens up the possibility of relying on a majority vote for a key asylum in June, further exacerbating disputes among opposing capitals.

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.

Libya return demand triggers reintegration headaches

The UN migration agency (IOM) had planned to help return and reintegrate 5,000 people from Libya to their home countries, but ended up aiding 20,000 in 2017. The extra demand has piled on the pressure.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  2. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  4. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  5. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  6. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  8. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  9. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  10. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  11. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  12. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”

Latest News

  1. Poland shows no sign of concessions to Commission
  2. Spain's De Guindos to be ECB vice-president
  3. Conservative 'buccaneering Brexit' narrative unrealistic
  4. MPs demand Council become more transparent
  5. Eurogroup starts process to pick new ECB chiefs
  6. 'Fact of life': some EU funding in new tech will get lost
  7. EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures
  8. ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK