Monday

22nd Apr 2019

EU asylum reform on life support

  • Member state efforts to create a common European asylum system is in dire straights (Photo: Fotomovimiento)

In April, a senior European Commission official told MEPs that the reform of the EU's so-called Dublin asylum law will not really work unless other outstanding legislative files are also taken care of.

Her warning appears to have fell flat, as EU interior ministers met in Brussels on Tuesday (5 June).

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

EU states have yet to reach a negotiating mandate on the asylum procedures regulation, one of seven EU legislative files which, as a whole, are to revamp the common European asylum system.

Paraskevi Michou, director-general for migration, had described the asylum procedures as "very critical when you want to use Dublin."

"When you want to have efficient procedures, you cannot be without this regulation," she said at the time.

With its 62 articles, the regulation is one of the most complex reform proposals in the package of seven EU asylum files.

The asylum procedure bill wants to harmonise laws on obtaining and withdrawing international protection, guardianship of minors, and asylum appeals, as well as the elusive 'safe country' concepts.

"It is basically from the point of where a person steps off the boat and says I want asylum to the point of where he or she gets it. Everything is regulated there. It is a monstrous file, which just takes time," said one EU diplomat.

The European Parliament reached its own position in April, some two years after the reforms were first proposed by the commission.

Dublin reform has gripped the political centre stage of the broader asylum debate as it exposes the divergent positions of governments and public mood on migration.

Such divides have rattled the European Union with policy makers tip-toeing around issues of solidarity and responsibility, given, in part, the resurgence of populist leadership in Hungary, Italy, and further afield.

The reforms were built on the, perhaps, naive premise that EU states will respect international obligations like the Geneva Conventions as prescribed in the EU treaties when it comes to asylum.

That prospect appears increasingly shaky after Italy placed Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right and anti-immigrant League party, as its interior minister.

Stephan Mayer, a state secretary in Germany's interior ministry, told reporters on Tuesday in Luxembourg that it was not only Italy that was against the current proposals on European asylum.

He said Germany was open to discussions but rejected the compromise proposals put forward by the Bulgarian EU presidency.

"We are not willing to accept it," he said.

Dublin and asylum procedures

Political hangups aside, Dublin reform needs the asylum procedures regulation.

The commission's Dublin proposal had included, among other things, a pre-Dublin check.

It meant EU states would not have to apply Dublin if the person demanding asylum came from a safe country. There are three variations of the concept, including "first country of asylum", "safe third country", and "safe country of origin".

A first country of asylum means a person's application can be rejected if they have already been granted protection elsewhere. It is also referred to as a safe third country.

Those concepts are now annexed as part of the asylum procedures regulation.

The European Commission wants to include six Western Balkan countries, plus Turkey on a common EU list of safe countries of origin.

But the Bulgarian EU presidency, in its proposal on Dublin, proposed to keep pre-Dublin checks optional given the administrative burden that it entailed if there was a sudden increase in the number of refugee arrivals.

EU states are also no closer to reaching an agreement on the core of Dublin, which determines that the member state where a migrant first arrived is responsible for processing their asylum claim and which is supposed to halt 'asylum shopping' by sending applicants back to the first country of entry if they had moved on.

The remote chance that EU capitals manage to clinch a political accord on Dublin at a summit at the end of the month would still put them on a collision course with the European Parliament, which backs mandatory relocation quotas in the teeth of Hungarian and Polish resistance.

"If we are to extend [the talks] by some weeks, it is not the end of the world," said Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU migration commissioner, on Tuesday in Luxembourg.

The European Parliament's patience on the file is already running thin, however.

Earlier this year, Swedish liberal MEP Cecilia Wikstroem, who steered Dublin through the European Parliament, said she had managed to secure a two-third majority support from her peers across the five main political groups, representing more than 220 political parties from across the European Union.

"How is it possible for 28 ministers not to reach one position?" she said.

EU ministers try to crack asylum deadlock

Redistribution of migrants remains the worst sticking point as EU ministers discuss the latest attempt to rewrite Europe's 'Dublin' asylum law.

Magazine

The asylum files: deadlock and dead-ends

The EU is reforming a number of internal asylum laws, but lack of staff, politics, and the sheer complexity of the bills means deadlines - like those announced by EU council chief Tusk - are likely to come and go.

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.

Visual Data

Europeans also seek EU asylum

Every year, almost 100,000 Europeans seek asylum in EU countries. The number of applications continues to grow, but the issue remains on the margins of political debate.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us