27th Sep 2023

Czech EU presidency wants negotiations on asylum pact

  • Some 9,000 pledges have been made to relocate individual asylum seekers under a French EU presidency solidarity deal (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)
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The Czech EU presidency wants to start negotiations with the European Parliament on the overhaul of the EU's asylum system.

But those talks will only revolve around two low-hanging fruit, following earlier EU state agreements on fingerprint rules (known as Eurodac) and a bill on screening that could lead to detention centres.

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"We will strive for a maximum possible progress also in the case of other legal proposals," Czech interior minister Vít Rakušan, speaking on behalf the EU presidency, told MEPs on Monday (5 September).

The task ahead of the remaining bills in the vast EU asylum and migration pact, presented by the European Commission in late 2020, remains daunting.

An informal meeting of ministers in Prague over the summer put together a legislative roadmap stretching into forthcoming EU presidencies under Sweden (2023), Spain (2023) and then Belgium (2024).

The race is on get the entire pact wrapped up before the end of the current commission's mandate in 2024.

Even minor agreements among EU states are being billed as historic, following years of infighting that has led to the slow erosion of the passport-free Schengen zone.

The previous French EU presidency's solidarity proposal sought to get EU states to voluntarily relocate at least 10,000 asylum seekers but so far has managed only around 9,000 pledges.

The Czech Republic is now following France's lead by using a step-by-step approach on the asylum overhaul rules.

Doubts remain whether more complex files, like the proposal on asylum and migration management regulation, will make any headway.

The regulation is key as it governs asylum and migration, while aiming to promote mutual trust between member states.

Rakušan said the presidency is hoping for an agreement on it as well, although some MEPs remain sceptical.

"We have less than a year and a half to go to the end of this term," said Dutch liberal MEP, Sophie In't Veld.

"And if we want to wrap it up, it's not enough to say that we have to work on Eurodac and screening," she said, noting three other asylum and migration related files have been stuck at the Council for years.

"What we understood is that there's hardly any work being done until now," said Dutch Green MEP Tineke Strik on the asylum and migration management regulation.

Asked if the Czech presidency has scheduled any meetings to launch talks on the regulation, Rakušan said "all elements of the common asylum migration politics will be dealt with."

In September, the Czech presidency also plans to unveil what the regulation "will specifically look like", he said.

The European Parliament's lead MEP on the file, Swedish centre-right Tomas Tobé, had presented his draft version last year.

But left leaning and liberal MEPs also working on the bill eviscerated Tobé's draft after he carved out search-and-rescues, and restricted family reunifications.

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