11th Dec 2023

Fresh dispute may delay EU-wide migration reforms

  • Some 11,000 people arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa in the span of six days. The crisis regulation bill is meant to address such events.
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Negotiations on EU-wide asylum and migration reforms have hit a snag, following a long-simmering dispute between the European Parliament and the EU Council, representing member states.

On Wednesday (20 September), the parliament announced it partly suspended talks in order to pile pressure on the council and the Spanish EU presidency.

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The parliament is upset because the council has yet to reach an internal agreement on a bill, known as the crisis regulation, that determines how to deal with a sudden large influx of people — similar to the recent arrival of 11,000 migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

"As long as the council does not agree its negotiating position we are unable to start a dialogue between the institutions in view of reaching a compromise agreement," said Elena Yoncheva, a socialist MEP from Bulgaria, in a statement.

The dispute means discussions on two other bills have been suspended. This includes Eurodac, which deals with biometric data collection, as well as a regulation on pre-entry screening.

"It is not a decision that we have taken lightly, but it is a necessary one," said Yoncheva, following a meeting with the Spanish EU presidency earlier in the day.

The bills are part of a much bigger package of legislative reforms in the so-called EU pact on asylum and migration, currently being discussed behind closed doors between the European Parliament and the council.

The aim is to get them adopted by next April in a deadline and a timetable agreed last year between the European Parliament and EU rotating presidencies.

"The council is now 2.5 months past the deadline foreseen by the roadmap, to which both institutions have agreed," said Dutch Renew Europe liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

The Spanish EU presidency did not respond to questions on the implications of the suspensions.

But the move is likely an embarrassment for the European Commission.

Last week, EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen in her state of the union address said that "an agreement on the pact has never been so close".

And her migration envoys Margaritis Schinas and Ylva Johansson have repeatedly cited the pact as a solution to the problems faced by member states when it comes to migration.

The latest rift also has others worried that the EU won't get the pact finalised before the European elections next year.

"I hope that the decision taken today to break off negotiations at the political level doesn't mean that we also break off technical negotiations so that we can achieve a solution by the end of this parliamentary term," said Jorge Buxadé Villalba, a Spanish far-right MEP leading the talks on Eurodac.

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