Monday

23rd Sep 2019

Commission defends Africa migrant plan ahead of summit

The European Commission is against creating a "Guantanamo Bay in Europe" for migrants, its migration commissioner insisted Thursday (21 June) - while pushing vague plans to set up special centres in north African countries to prevent people boarding boats to Italy.

Despite a large drop in the number of Mediterranean Sea crossings compared to last year, the issue of migration and asylum continues to dominate priorities at both the national and EU-level.

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

Ahead of the EU summit next week and an increasingly acrimonious informal mini-summit on Sunday (24 June), dealing specifically with migration, EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday laid out his vision on an issue that risks triggering the collapse of the free-movement Schengen area.

"The European leadership of today at all levels, national or European, will be held accountable in the eyes of the younger generation in the future if we undermine or allow these forces of populism to blow up what has been achieved," he warned, in comments that appear directed at Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban and Italy's interior minister and far-right leader, Matteo Salvini.

The centres were first floated as "regional disembarkation platforms" in a leaked draft of EU summit conclusions earlier this week, amid Austrian and Danish ideas to possibly create holding pens in Albania.

Avramopoulos dismissed any such Balkan centres, describing them as a "Guantanamo Bay" idea in reference to the unlawful jailing of alleged terrorists at the US military facility in Cuba.

"I am against Guantanamo Bay for migrants, this is something that is against our European values, so it is out of the question," he told reporters in Brussels.

He then described how "regional disembarkation schemes" could work, where economic migrants would be separated from genuine asylum seekers and refugees.

"The way I see this is as an agreement of countries around the Mediterranean to ensure people get the protection they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve. But it must also mean that getting on a boat does not mean a free ride to the European Union," he said.

No interest

However, no north African state has expressed any interest in the plan and Tunisia's ambassador to the EU, Tahir Cherif, in an interview with Belgian daily Le Soir, said they would not support it.

Avramopoulos also linked the disembarkation scheme to the voluntary return and resettlement programmes currently being run in Libya and Niger by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

But the UNHCR scheme in Niger is struggling to resettle people, with only 173 having left towards the EU since its launch late last year. Niger had previously threatened to scrap it, given the slow pace of resettlements.

The IOM are also discussing the proposed platforms and solutions with the UNHCR but only in terms of "handling sea arrivals within the European Union." It means any plans to include the IOM and UNHCR in offshore arrangements outside the EU, as described by Avramopoulos, appears questionable.

Mini-summit dissent

Avramopoulos statements also come on the heels over growing frustration over Sunday's mini-summit ahead of next weeks' European Council where all 28 leaders will meet in Brussels.

The mini-summit was hatched by Germany's embattled chancellor Angela Merkel as part of larger bid to stave off a rebellion from the right-wing Christian Social Union (CSU).

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has since convened the Sunday summit on her behalf but not without attracting scorn from some capitals.

Juncker in a tweet had tagged Greece, Italy, Germany, Malta, Austria, France, and Spain in the invitation, but it remains unclear who exactly will attend.

The Visegrad Four (V4), a loose alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, have all refused to attend. The Sunday mini-summit has also irritated European Council president Donald Tusk, who wants these issues sorted at the EU summit, not by a handful of leaders in a meeting organised by the commission

EU summit set to outsource asylum

Draft conclusions of the EU summit seen by this website suggest setting up "regional disembarkation platforms", possibly in countries near Libya, to separate asylum seekers and economic migrants.

Belgian mayor invites Orban to migrant-diverse town

Winner of 'World's Best Mayor', Mechelen's Bart Somers has invited Hungary's PM to visit. "You know, in the whole of Hungary with 10million inhabitants, they have less Muslims than we have in a small city of 90,000," he told EUobserver.

Analysis

EU leaders take on migration to fight political crisis

The main objective of Thursday's summit in Brussels will be to agree on new measures to reduce illegal migration, in order to help Angela Merkel at home and fight populists and extremists across the bloc.

News in Brief

  1. Google will only listen to audio if users give consent
  2. German bank fined for cheating Danish tax system
  3. Supreme Court ruling on Johnson on Tuesday
  4. 10 arrests over possible Catalonia anniversary attacks
  5. 53% of Europeans think LGTBI discrimination is widespread
  6. Doubt cast on new Maltese inquiry into slain reporter
  7. March by Slovak Catholics seeks abortion ban
  8. 600,000 stranded on holiday as Thomas Cook collapses

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  2. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  4. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  8. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  10. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  11. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  12. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  6. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  7. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  10. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us