Eastern Europe could pay to avoid taking in refugees

A member of the NGO "SOS Mediterranean" from the Aquarius ship helping a woman getting onboard. [EPA-EFE]

The idea of making countries pay if they are not willing to take in refugees – already debated and taboo – now seems to be the only way to solve the tricky issue of migrants’ allocation.

The migrants’ allocation system based on quotas, which has been blocked for three years and tried in the EU Court of Justice, does not work.

French EU affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau said so on Thursday (28 June) during the EU Council summit and added that other solutions need to be found.

“We will never force anyone. But we have to show some solidarity, especially with Italy.”
The underlying idea is an easy one, as expressed by the Elysée Palace: “We can discuss the means to implement solidarity, but not its principle.”

Most EU countries played along with the rules and took in migrants since the implementation of the system, even if some are doing better than others.

However, the four Visegrad countries took almost none. “A country cannot belong to the EU and consider that the migration issue is none of its concern”, Nathalie Loiseau added.

Paying rather than hosting is indeed a defeat for the EU, especially for the Juncker Commission which came up with the proposal. But Germany, who also backs the proposal, could help easing things with the Visegrad group – which has been blocking it for three years.

The main idea would be to authorise Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia to contribute financing the arrival of migrants in hosting countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain. Those countries could build closed facilities for migrants, “a bit like hotspots”.

MS Aquarius reveals a strained Dublin system

The refusal of Italy and Malta to take in the rescue ship Aquarius packed with migrants this week has shone a light on the flaws of European solidarity and underlined the urgent need to reform the Dublin asylum system. EURACTIV.fr reports.

The proposal also agrees with Eastern European countries’ hard position, that the Polish EU Council president Donald Tusk materialised in his speech. He supported the closed facilities project – migrants’ facilities that would be located in the Balkans, outside of the EU.

France, among others, is shocked by this idea, but the country considers setting up closed facilities in Southern Mediterranean, so that migrants would avoid a dangerous crossing. But camps in Africa are shocking symbols for NGOs, who have been denouncing corruption and Libya’s immoral practices towards migrants – especially slavery – for months.

Increasing number of bilateral agreements

This hardened European policy towards illegal migrants should also find substance with the increasing number of bilateral agreements between EU member states.

The right wing of the German coalition encourages the country to sign bilateral agreements with Italy – but not only – in order to send back migrants in the country of arrival. This is the principle of the Dublin regulation.

France already has that type of agreement with Italy, and it allows the country to send back those who try to cross the Alps or managed to cross the border.

“Italy does not plan to change that. The agreement is a way to prevent too many movements of migrants,” says the French government. They add that France might sign such agreements with Germany.

Article 36 of the Dublin regulation says that member states can change the rules through bilateral agreements.

Article 36 of the Dublin regulation

Administrative arrangements

1. Member States may, on a bilateral basis, establish administrative arrangements between themselves concerning the practical details of the implementation of this Regulation, in order to facilitate its application and increase its effectiveness.

2. Member States may also maintain the administrative arrangements concluded under Regulation (EC) No 343/2003. To the extent that such arrangements are not compatible with this Regulation, the Member States concerned shall amend the arrangements in such a way as to eliminate any incompatibilities observed.

3. Before concluding or amending any arrangement referred to in paragraph 1(b), the Member States concerned shall consult the Commission as to the compatibility of the arrangement with this Regulation.

4. If the Commission considers the arrangements referred to in paragraph 1(b) to be incompatible with this Regulation, it shall, within a reasonable period, notify the Member States concerned. The Member States shall take all appropriate steps to amend the arrangement concerned within a reasonable time in such a way as to eliminate any incompatibilities observed.

5. Member States shall notify the Commission of all arrangements referred to in paragraph 1, and of any denunciation thereof, or amendment thereto.

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