Estonia on Wednesday (29 November) presented a compromise proposal on the relocation of refugees, which it said would be “fair” to all EU member states, deeply divided over how to deal with asylum seekers arriving in Europe.
“We hope it can lay the foundation for future discussions,” said a spokesman for Estonia, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
He went on to describe the proposals as “fair” without giving details.
The proposal, which was shared with the 28 national ambassadors to the EU at a meeting in Brussels, aims to reform a stalled programme to relocate asylum seekers around the bloc.
In the works for over a year, the redesign of the controversial “Dublin rule” has stalled due to the refusal of countries like Poland and Hungary to take any asylum seekers at all under the shared programme.
According to a diplomatic source, Estonia envisions an “early warning system” by which the European Commission could warn of a disproportionate increase in asylum applications in some countries.
The EU executive would then recommend financial solidarity measures between countries but member states would be invited to take in some of the asylum-seekers from European countries under excessive pressure. The member states would respond on a voluntary basis at this stage.
A second step would be initiated in case of a “crisis” in a country, as measured by a migratory pressure indicator, taking into account the economic capacity and population of EU countries.
The Estonian proposal makes clear that any actual transfer of asylum seekers from one EU country to another would remain conditional on an agreement between the two countries, according to the diplomatic source.
The plan however strongly alters the proposed reforms as imagined by the Commission, which wants to ensure that quotas can be imposed in cases of exceptional influx of asylum seekers.
The European Parliament for its part has called for a “permanent and automatic mechanism” for relocation to replace the Dublin rule.
Under the Dublin scheme, would-be refugees were required to file for asylum in the first bloc member-state they enter.
The programme expired in September after two years, having seen less than a fifth of a planned 160,000 Syrians and other asylum-seekers relocated around the bloc from Italy and Greece by the use of compulsory quotas.