The European Commission’s long-awaited new migration pact for the EU will finally be presented next week, after having been postponed again and again. What has the EU been waiting for?
The long-delayed migration pact was meant to be Ursula von der Leyen’s first major political success, her first Brussels masterpiece.
The goals she intended to address in the new pact seemed clear: Illegal migration should continue to decline, refugees to be distributed in solidarity to as many member countries as possible, deportations should go much faster and ‘asylum tourism’ within Europe is to be prevented through better controls, face recognition measures and standardised asylum benefits.
These goals find support in most countries. But of course, it is not as simple as that.
With an issue like migration trenches are deep, positions are entangled and time is of the essence, and no one can anticipate when the wars and conflicts in the EU’s near neighbourhood will lead to yet another new wave of refugees.
Nevertheless, after the Commission and member states have been negotiating for months, they are just back to square one, where they were in 2015, when the migration crisis hit.
The crux of the matter remains the same: How should migrants be distributed in the EU?
The thorny issue of mandatory relocation, which some EU countries strongly oppose, still continues to cause headaches.
“We will abolish the Dublin regulation and replace it with a new EU migration governance system,” the Commission chief told the European Parliament in her annual State of the Union speech on Wednesday (16 September).
This will have “common structures for asylum and repatriation” and contain “a new strong solidarity mechanism”, she said.
“We have to make a clear distinction between those who have a right to stay and those who have no right to stay,” she added.
“Migration is an issue that has been discussed long enough… a lot has been done since 2015, but a lot is still missing,” von der Leyen said, in reference to years of bitter deadlock over some EU countries’ refusal to accept any asylum seekers.
And once again, von der Leyen insisted that all EU countries need to participate in the distribution of refugees in the future, stressing that “migration is a challenge for all of Europe”.
Needless to say, she did not elaborate – there was no more time and, more importantly, that’s where the main battle will be fought in weeks and months to come.
The EU executive was scheduled to present the migration pact on 30 September, but after last week’s fire that destroyed Moria, the largest refugee camp on Greece’s Lesbos island, the announcement has been brought forward to next week (23 September).
There was stark contrast last week between the images of the burning Moria refugee camp and European Council President Charles Michel’s PR pictures from his flying visit to the site a few days later.
EU leadership has become increasingly out of touch with the realities on the ground because what went up in flames in Moria was not only the camp but also the EU’s values.
But there is another, additional aspect to it, one of external perception.
If the EU tolerates squalid conditions in migrant camps like Moria, and fires water cannons and rubber bullets at migrants, it loses moral high ground to lecture Belarus on cracking down protests, Russia on eliminating pro-democracy opponents at home and abroad or China over mistreating its Uighur Muslim minority.
For Brussels, it is time to put its money where its mouth is.
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave her first State of the European Union address, EURACTIV recaps here on the main points covered by the speech.
But more on the details here, where we analyse the policy issues where she:
- highlighted the need to build a stronger European Health Union, lashing out at the member states for having scrapped the ambitious EU4Health programme embedded in the recovery fund
- said EU needs to be more courageous in its diplomacy, chiding member states for an ineffective foreign policy
- argued against the unravelling of EU values that is already underway in many of the member states
- announced plans to target a 55% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
- laid out her vision for the development of digital policy in the EU
The European Commission’s long-awaited new migration pact will consist of five regulations and a political text, EU sources have told EURACTIV. However, the thorny issue of mandatory relocation, which some EU countries strongly oppose, continues to cause headaches.
Hours before the European Commission announced higher climate objectives for 2030, the European Parliament voted to allow funding for fossil gas projects under the bloc’s flagship Just Transition Fund.
Look out for…
- European Parliament’s plenary session goes into it’s last day
- Informal meeting of education ministers
Views are the author’s