Monday

17th Jun 2019

EU's top priority to 'get migrant numbers down'

  • Timmermans (l), Juncker (c), and Rutte met to mark the launch of the Dutch EU presidency (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The Dutch EU presidency and the European Commission have said their top priority in the next six months is to reduce the number of asylum seekers.

Mark Rutte, the Dutch leader, whose country is to chair EU proceedings until July, said in Amsterdam on Thursday (7 January): “To stem the flow of migrants, to bring down these numbers consideraby, is of crucial importance. We cannot continue with the present numbers.”

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the Dutch EU commissioner, Frans Timmermans, echoed his remarks.

Juncker noted that one of Rutte’s big jobs will be to push through the creation of a new European border force and coast guard.

The commission’s controversial plan envisages posting EU border officers to the bloc’s external boundaries even if the host states don’t want them.

Juncker said the border force is needed to help save the Schengen passport-free travel zone.

He voiced “understanding” with Sweden, the latest Schengen state to reimpose border checks in order to curtail migrant access.

But he added: “I can’t accept that now we’re abandoning the Schengen system and all that it means.”

“We can’t go on with this process, where, day after day, another member state is reintroducing border controls.”

Turkey

Timmermans, the author of an EU-Turkey deal designed to stem the flow of people, mainly Syrians, from refugee camps in Turkey, noted that “over the last couple of weeks the figures have remained relatively high, so there’s still a lot of work to do.”

He said the “only benchmark” of whether the deal works is “the figures going down … substantially down.”

“We’re a long way from being satisified.”

He added the EU must also get better at spotting “at an early stage who has the right to international protection, and those who don’t have the right to remain in Europe should be returned to their country of origin.”

The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, estimates that 1 million people came to Europe to seek protection last year, most of them from Syria or Afghanistan.

The crisis has seen Austria, Denmark, Germany, Slovenia, and Sweden reimpose border checks. France also reintroduced checks after the November Paris attacks.

'We need to deliver'

The crisis has also prompted talk of creating a "mini-Schengen" of mostly northern EU states and of a "coalition of the willing" of countries willing to share the refugee burden.

Rutte said on Thursday he is less interested in speculation on the future of the EU than in practical outcomes, however.

He said discussion on "a Europe of many speeds or one speed or whatever" is less important than getting to grips with border security and refugee burden sharing.

"We need to deliver," he said.

Sweden keen to slow Europe's 'refugee highway'

German, Swedish, and Danish ministers have vowed to maintain the EU's passport-free Schengen zone amid broader moves to stem the flow of migrants and asylum seekers.

EU failing to deliver on migration plans

Three out of 11 hotspots in place. Two hundred and seventy people out of 160,000 relocated: Last year's EU promises to limit and better manage migration flows yet to materialise.

Opinion

EU refugee crisis: History repeating

Refugees and hostile public reactions are nothing new in Europe. People like Nobel Prize laureate Fridtjof Nansen, who helped over 1 million people find shelter after WWI, should be a model.

Agenda

Poland steals EU spotlight This WEEK

EP to hold debate on Polish government's constitutional and media "coup". Dutch PM Rutte to outline views on migrant crisis, MEPs to also put together VW inquest team.

News in Brief

  1. Slovakia's first female president takes office
  2. Irish immigration officers flew back business class
  3. Catalan MEP denied taking seat in European Parliament
  4. EU plans to restructure eurozone bonds
  5. EU ups US imports in beef deal
  6. Unicef: UK among 'least family-friendly' in Europe
  7. Czech PM: No joint 'V4' candidate in commission race
  8. Johnson tops first round to replace May, three eliminated

Interview

Meet the lawyer taking the EU migration policy to the ICC

Juan Branco is a lawyer and co-author of a legal document submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing EU officials and member states of crimes against humanity for their migration policies. "Some people should have to go to prison."

Opinion

Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue

Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin currently live outside Spain. They were prosecuted for the serious crimes, and they have fled justice. It is not possible to judge in absentia in Spain, where the justice system protects the rights of defendants.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of
  2. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  3. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK
  4. EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit
  5. MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower
  6. Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue
  7. Meet the lawyer taking the EU migration policy to the ICC
  8. Europe's oil supplies 'at risk' after tanker attacks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us