30th Jan 2023

Czech EU presidency wants asylum pledges to be secret

  • The Czech EU presidency will present their ideas at the joint home affairs council on 14 October (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)
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The Czech EU presidency wants to keep so-called solidarity pledges by member states secret when it comes to EU asylum rules.

That desire for secrecy is detailed as part of proposals in an internal EU paper dated 29 September and will be presented and discussed later this month among EU interior ministers.

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The secrecy also highlights the political pitfalls over asylum, following years of infighting among EU states on how to best divide and share out arrivals of those seeking protection.

Past efforts to overhaul EU-wide asylum and migration laws led to a collapse given resistance among anti-migrant countries such as Hungary.

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban only earlier this week reiterated those positions, in a joint-press conference with Austria and Serbia.

At the core of the dispute is relocation, where a person arriving by boat to Italy, for instance, would be sent elsewhere in the EU.

The European Commission's latest proposal, issued in September 2020, has attempted to find a middle ground between relocation and other forms of solidarity.

Now the Czech EU presidency has come forward with its own ideas, which would then be folded into the EU commission's raft of proposals.

"The aim of the presidency with this concept is to advance on the solidarity aspects of the reform," notes the 19-page document.

The paper is peppered with EU jargon, including phrases like "mandatory, but flexible solidarity mechanism".

Essentially, it means EU states are given wide discretion on how to help one another , in case a lot of people arrive seeking international protection.

But it also means that they are obliged to come up with some form of help in times of need.

However, how those forms of help are spelled out will not be made public, notes the paper.

Annual solidarity pool

The Czech concept is composed of an annual migration management report, a permanent EU migration support toolbox, an annual solidarity pool, and an EU migration forum.

First, the report would be drafted annually by the European Commission.

Its aim is to provide an early warning tool, offer a forecast of potential irregular arrivals, and assess what kinds of solidarity will likely be needed for any particular member state.

"The report could also include recommendations for concrete annual solidarity measures (and their numerical scale) required for the upcoming year," notes the paper.

Such recommendations would need to be kept secret, it says.

Second, the paper also suggests the creation of a toolbox for EU states.

This would contain a range of responses for an EU state under migratory pressure.

Some of those responses would exempt EU states from established EU asylum law. The EU jargon describes this as 'flexible responsibility.'

Third, the annual solidarity pool would then "serve as the main stand-ready solidarity response tool," says the paper.

It means EU states would pledge contributions on an annual basis. Those pledges are mandatory.

And finally, a 'high-level EU migration forum' would be organised as part of the justice and home affairs council (JHA) meeting at the end of the year.

"At this forum, member states would be obliged to pledge a contribution to the pool, taking into account the recommendations by the Commission included in the report," says the paper.

Those contributions, would also be kept secret, noting that the "outcome of this exercise (the content of the annual Pool) shall be adopted by the JHA Council and would not be made public."

The latest effort comes after the European Parliament and the forthcoming rotating EU presidencies pledged to finalise the asylum overhaul before the European elections in 2024.

But they also follow past efforts by the French EU presidency to drum up support to get EU states to relocate arrivals from places of first-arrival, such as Greece, Italy and Cyprus.

They managed to get some 9,000 pledges, in what was billed as historic.

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