29th Sep 2023


How to break the political deadlock on migration

  • 'If we now fail to find and agree on a common European approach to migration, member states will continue to act independently, causing further divisions and internal borders within the Union will remain' (Photo: Aegean Boat Report)
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In 2015, the European Union was confronted with an exceptional situation when over one million people applied for international protection, many in the course of only a few months. Six years later, migration remains one of the defining challenges for the future of the European Union.

If we now fail to find and agree on a common European approach to migration, member states will continue to act independently, causing further divisions and internal borders within the Union will remain.

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Member states not willing to compromise have already proven to be one of the reasons for the political deadlock between the member states and an obstacle for reforms. The 2015 crisis made it evident that we need to act collectively and directly to ensure a functioning common European asylum system.

It is high time to deliver on reforms that regain control over the external border and address drivers and causes of irregular migration, provide swift and fair asylum procedures to those requesting it, and the effective return of those not granted stay in the Union.

In this regard, the proposed Regulation on Asylum and Migration Management is a step in the right direction.

The regulation is at the core of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented by the European Commission a year ago to mixed reviews.

For us, the pact, and especially the Regulation on Asylum and Migration Management, has the potential to fulfil its ambitions. This past year, extensive work has been carried out to improve and strengthen the proposal.

It is important that we ensure a well-functioning, sustainable asylum and migration management and elaborate on the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility.

Mandatory relocation?

At the same time, recent events along the external border have shown how quickly circumstances can change. As such, the system also needs to be flexible and operational to deal with current and future situations.

We realise that calling for mandatory relocation will not break the political deadlock or change the status quo. Therefore, we propose a mandatory solidarity mechanism that allows for flexible options. Every member state will have to contribute in one way or another - through either relocation, return sponsorship or capacity-building measures.

Capacity-building measures will not become an easy way out of sharing the responsibility, but will have to be impactful to ease the burden of the affected member state. The impact of the measures will have to be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the different conditions and needs of our member states with EU external borders.

Furthermore, the voluntary solidarity contributions of the member states will be emphasised and the member states will be given a more active role. This ensures a more rapid and predictable application of the solidarity responses to the member state facing migratory pressure.

Any system is nevertheless dependent on the numbers within it. Today, two-thirds of asylum applications are rejected. This causes a burden on the member states' asylum systems, especially as the return of failed asylum seekers is unsatisfactory.

In this regard, more needs to be done to address the drivers of migration, and reduce the irregular migration to the Union. Asylum in Europe cannot be a permanent solution to all injustices in the world.

Cooperation with third countries must encompass all aspects of migration, and the Union must be willing to use all available tools - both incentives and conditionality - to achieve joint objectives on migration management in countries of origin and transit.

With a pragmatic approach and willingness to compromise, it is possible to reach an agreement, which delivers a responsible and common migration policy.

Author bio

Tomas Tobé is a Swedish European People's Party MEP, and rapporteur on the regulation of asylum and migration management.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.


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