Monday

13th Jul 2020

Key EU countries seek support for new migration plan

  • Malta: EU countries are trying to find a mechanism to deal with migrant arrivals at sea (Photo: Berit Watkin)

Four EU countries on Monday (23 September) agreed on a temporary scheme to relocate asylum seekers rescued in the central Mediterranean.

The interior ministers of Germany, France, Italy, Malta - and Finland, which holds the EU rotating presidency - agreed on a plan in Valletta that will now be presented to their EU counterparts on 8 October.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

They seek broader support for the proposal that aims to end ad-hoc distribution of migrants stranded at sea.

"Following the discussion, we will be able to see which countries are ready to support this paper, or if need to be make some suggestions, or further amendments," Maltese interior minister Michael Farrugia told reporters.

The talks came after the new Italian government tried to take a different tack, in the wake of former interior minister Matteo Salvini decision to close his country's ports to NGO vessels that rescued migrants in the Mediterranean.

Rescue vessels are regularly stranded at sea, with Mediterranean countries reluctant to allow migrants in without an agreement with other EU countries that they would take in some of the asylum seekers.

However, the ministers on Monday unveiled little of their agreement's substance, wanting to present it first to other EU countries.

A Hungarian government spokesman has already dismissed the plan, calling the agreement the "latest attempt to impose the quotas".

'Ship-by-ship'

Finland's Maria Ohisalo said it is "crucial that we move away from ship-by-ship based arrangements", towards a more predictable solution.

She added that the proposal is a "good pilot case, limited in time and focused on disembarkations after search and rescue operations", which ensures "swift relocation of asylum seekers on a voluntary basis to other member states".

Mandatory relocation of asylum seekers caused a major rift among EU countries at the height of the migrant influx in 2015 when central European countries refused to take in people.

Negotiations to reform the EU's asylum system had been at a deadlock since, as countries could not agree on a redistribution mechanism.

Ohisalo said Finland sought a "sufficiently large" number member states to make the scheme work, adding that it could be the basis for a more permanent solution.

Horst Seehofer, Germany's interior minister, added that the number of those distributed will be discussed on 8 October, but added that the number of migrants up for relocation will also depend on the participating member states.

Outgoing migration EU commission Dimitris Avramopoulos said the proposal makes good progress towards a "predictable and structural set of temporary arrangements".

There had been efforts before to find a temporary mechanism, in the absence of a working EU asylum policy, that could deal with the arrival of rescue vessels. But those talks produced few palpable solutions so far.

During the summer, France said it had agreed with eight EU countries to share the resettlement of migrants rescued at sea. Italy was then not one of them.

A successful EU migrant agreement, even on a temporary basis, would be a blow to Salvini's confrontational anti-EU rhetoric.

Incoming EU commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has promised a "fresh start" on migration.

When unveiling her commission earlier this month, she acknowledged that the so-called Dublin regulation, that determines who handles asylum applications, needs reform.

She did not specify if the her commission plans to drop the current commission's plans for reforming the regulation.

France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

French president Emmanuel Macron is pressing for an automated distribution of rescued migrants at sea - but also stands accused of tightening asylum rules in his own country as a response to the far-right.

'Migration' is now 'protecting European way of life'

The upcoming European Commission has shuffled migration policy into a euphemistic new "Protecting our European Way of Life" European commissioner portfolio, headed by former spokesman Margartis Schinas. Some MEPs are not happy.

EU-Turkey migrant deal under pressure

Germany's chancellor says she is contact with Turkey over an EU deal to stop refugees from landing on Greek islands. But the arrival of over 500 in one day, amid grim conditions, piles on pressure.

Opinion

EU split on migration widens

Failure to reform the EU's asylum system and to manage the crisis will likely push increasingly numbers of voters towards far-right and populist parties.

News in Brief

  1. Citizens' perception of judicial independence drops
  2. Irish finance minister voted in as eurogroup president
  3. Italy's League party opens office near old communist HQ
  4. 'Significant divergences' remain in Brexit talks
  5. Germany identifies 32,000 right-wing extremists
  6. WHO to hold probe of global Covid-19 response
  7. China accuses Australia of 'gross interference' on Hong Kong
  8. EU to let Croatia, Bulgaria take first step to join euro

Opinion

On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Michel lays out compromise budget plan for summit
  2. Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact
  3. EU 'failed to protect bees and pollinators', report finds
  4. MEPs give green light to road transport sector reform
  5. If EU wants rule of law in China, it must help 'dissident' lawyers
  6. Five ideas to reshape 'Conference on Future of Europe'
  7. EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece
  8. Hydrogen strategy criticised for relying on fossil fuel gas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us