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28th Jan 2023

EU presidency drafts 'solidarity' declaration on migrants

  • Relocations stemming from search and rescues are part of the French EU presidency plan (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)
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A draft declaration by the French EU presidency is proposing a voluntary system for member states to relocate migrants as part of a wider deal on asylum reforms.

The text touches upon some of the most sensitive and contentious issues that have in the past doomed EU asylum and migration reforms.

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Set to be discussed by EU interior ministers on Friday (10 June), the draft declaration lays out a vision for solidarity, a term that has been bantered around with various iterations for years.

This time the draft declaration would commit EU states to implement a "voluntary, simple and predictable solidarity mechanism" to help other countries most affected by migratory pressure.

It would require those willing to relocate migrants rescued at sea and people in need of international protection, with both Cyprus and the Greek islands getting a special mention.

Population size and GDP would determine how many people contributing member states would need to take in.

Those who refuse would instead commit to offer "material solidarity" like border surveillance and detention or money to EU states most affected by migratory pressure.

"A minimum indicative contribution for each participating member state will be foreseen, so that this target is not reduced exceedingly in case a low number of member states take part in relocation, " it says.

The European Commission would then be tasked to coordinate and oversee the system.

The presidency idea is precursor to the commission's proposal in late 2020, which calls for a "compulsory solidarity mechanism."

The commission's original idea would require EU states to either relocate asylum seekers, sponsor the returns of rejected asylum seekers, or possibly offer some other form of aid.

The issue has taken on particular importance for the so-called 'Med 5' or Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain.

All want it and have made its progress contingent on accepting other aspects of the EU's migration overhaul.

This includes reforms on the biometric database Eurodac and the screening regulation, which could lead to detention centres at the borders.

Both proposals are also being discussed by the ministers on Friday with the French EU presidency hoping to get some sort of agreement for the end of its six month mandate.

The draft declaration calls for relocations to start once the Council, representing member states, reach some sort of an agreement on Eurodac and screening.

The two files have been going through the Council machinery as part of a "step by step" approach by the French EU presidency to resolve differences.

But its compromise on the fine print on Eurodac, for instance, has been met with resistance from more hawkish EU states like Austria, Hungary and Poland.

French interior minister Gérald Darmanin, speaking on the behalf of the EU presidency, already appeared hopeful.

"Everybody was in agreement to have an important dose of responsibility and some mandatory solidarity," he told reporters in February, following a meeting with EU interior ministers.

French EU presidency struggling on asylum reforms

The French EU presidency is pressing to make some last-minute headway on the EU's migration and asylum reform but is still meeting resistance from a handful of member states.

Ukraine war complicates Mediterranean 'solidarity' plan

The French EU presidency proposal seeks to relocate 10,000 asylum seekers, arriving from the Mediterranean, over one year. But with refugees from Ukraine stretching national reception systems, it remains unclear how many EU states will commit to relocations.

Czech EU presidency proposes annual asylum relocation figure

The Czech EU presidency is proposing an annual minimum on the number of asylum seekers EU states are willing to relocate. The idea is part of bigger discussion on solidarity sharing, a concept that has long eluded member states.

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