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15th Dec 2019

Finnish EU presidency brief broadly offshores migration

  • Partnerships are crucial to stem irregular migration, notes Finnish EU presidency paper (Photo: bundeskanzlerei.de)

A Finnish EU presidency paper on asylum and migration, seen by EUobserver, is demanding the EU secure partnerships across the world to curtail irregular migration.

The eight-page paper, to be discussed among EU interior ministers on Monday (2 December) in Brussels, is meant to feed into the incoming European Commission's plan to kick start a new pact on migration.

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"We trust that these discussions will really inspire the new commission while working towards the new pact," an EU diplomat told a group of reporters in Brussels on Thursday.

"Our understanding is that is the intention of the new European Commission," she added.

Described by the EU diplomat as "a back to basics" paper, the report builds on a series of internal discussions held over the past six months.

It notes, among other things, that securing relations and agreements with countries of origin and transit in places like Africa and the Middle East remains crucial.

"These partnerships should be aimed at advancing our political priorities in an efficient, sustainable and coherent manner," notes the paper.

It demands they prevent irregular migration, forced displacement, and boost cooperation on return and readmission.

The whole feeds into promises already made by Margaritis Schinas, the incoming European commissioner dealing with migration.

At his hearing in October, he told MEPs he would drive up returns by first completing internal EU rules on return and then "secondly by concluding readmission agreements and arrangements with priority countries of transit and origin."

The Finnish presidency paper also offers a thematic overview on the wider issues, while pressing for so-called "whole-of-government" and "whole-of-route" approaches to migration.

On deadlocked asylum reforms, it merely demands a return to vague notions of underlying principles.

"What seems to be the key is to have efficient procedures covering all circumstances, including the use of accelerated procedures, across member states," it notes.

Among the most contentious issues is the reform of the Dublin regulation, which determines who is responsible for processing asylum applications.

Although the European Parliament formulated its position on Dublin years ago, member states have failed to reach any internal agreement.

Past EU presidencies have been unable to secure any compromise on the matter amid fears a vote, to unblock the deal, would leave member states even more divided and bitter. It is also why the Finnish EU presidency directed its focus on more thematic areas.

The core issue remains. Countries led by Hungary are outright opposed having Dublin divide up and share the number of people applying for international protection among EU states.

Offshore asylum claims - a German idea

But a non-paper from Germany, also seen by EUobserver, says Dublin under its current form has failed and that initial assessments for international protection should instead be offshored in countries outside the European Union.

"Manifestly unfounded or inadmissible applications shall be denied immediately at the external border, and the applicant must not be allowed to enter the EU," notes the paper.

People travelling from countries deemed safe, like Tunisia, may also be denied.

Furthermore, the paper proposes "restricting freedom of movement" of those applying for protection in a move that could mean camps or detention centres.

The German paper is not a policy proposal. But as a "non-paper", it helps set the tone of discussions on migration. It too will be discussed on Monday by the interior ministers.

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