EU migration dispute heats up again before June summit

France would particularly like to make progress on the issue of border guards rather than discussing migration.

European Union states are wrestling over how to reform their broken migration and asylum system, pushing for a deal at a leaders’ summit in June over the highly-politicised issue that has defied resolution for nearly three years.

The dispute has divided the bloc between southerners on the Mediterranean shore where most refugees and migrants land from the Middle East and Africa against ex-communist states that refuse to host part of the arrivals.

Wealthy destination countries such as Germany are also pushing for a deal under which no one could bail out completely from hosting those coming.

The latest proposal would let capitals avoid taking in a quarter of their “fair share” of asylum-seekers who make it to Europe. Instead they could bring in a handpicked person from across the sea or offer €30,000 to an EU host for each individual they refuse.

The EU's refugee crisis: Effective handling or botched up policy?

Dealing with the refugee crisis has proved to be an insurmountable task for Europe, due to the apparent lack of a coherent immigration policy and political indecisiveness. Europe’s cohesion comes out shaken as a result, EURACTIV.gr reports.

But Poland and Hungary staunchly oppose any obligatory immigration quotas and a diplomat involved in the talks for one of the two said the idea was “absolutely not” acceptable.

A joint paper by five Mediterranean states including Italy also rejected it – but for the exact opposite reason. It said such option would not have enough “immediate positive impact” in easing the burden on the main countries of entry.

The dissonance shows that another half year that has passed since the EU leaders last failed to break the deadlock saw little real progress on the most contested parts of the reform.

National envoys will discuss it in Brussels in mid-May, hand on to interior ministers meeting early next month and then to the leader’s summit on June 28-29.

Névache and Briançon – left to deal with migrants on their own

Following the closure of other roads, migrants embark on a clandestine Italian-French crossing in the Alps by the Col de l’Echelle. Local residents, haunted by fears of discovering dead bodies once the snow melts, are now getting organised to welcome them. EURACTIV.fr reports.

The bitter discussion started in the summer of 2015 as southern arrivals in the EU spiked, overwhelming EU governments and feeding support for anti-immigration parties. The wound has since festered, undermining trust between EU states.

A senior EU diplomat said on Monday the “very delicate and difficult negotiations” could still bear fruit.

Another diplomat from an EU country where refugees and migrants often want to go said the latest draft was a good basis for compromise since “everybody is almost equally unhappy with it”, but added Warsaw and Budapest were “still only against.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Monday the main task of his new government was to preserve Hungary’s security and Christian culture, rhetoric he has used in denying access to people from the mainly-Muslim Middle East and North Africa.

EU rebels Poland, Hungary show united front

Poland and Hungary are winning the battle against the EU over immigration, the two countries’ premiers said Wednesday, with Hungary’s Viktor Orban predicting “a year of great confrontations” with Brussels.

Not ready for another crisis

Those pushing for a deal are also looking at outvoting the two staunch critics if they could have on board their eastern peers Slovakia and the Czech Republic, seen as less ideological on the matter, said a different diplomat from a rich EU state.

The political limbo in Italy is also a problem since a strong government in Rome is needed to sign off on any deal.

“You win or lose elections on that,” said another diplomat, referring to former Italian Prime Minister Mateo Renzi who was voted out partly because voters felt Rome was not controlling migration enough, and Orbán who claimed victory in Hungary on a tough anti-immigration platform.

Renzi threatens EU budget veto over migrants

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi yesterday (25 October) threatened to veto the EU’s budget over a lack of solidarity from the rest of Europe as the bloc struggles to manage the refugee crisis.

Many in the EU warn the bloc is not ready for another mass influx of people. While overall arrival numbers have since dropped sharply, they point to data from Germany where many still arrive without proper registration on entering the EU, most notably through the overburdened Greek islands.

Germany, France and several other states introduced emergency border checks in what is normally Europe’s zone of free travel to control the situation better. They are now in place until October and many see them extended beyond that.

Highlighting how the matter is crucial to the bloc, the executive European Commission earmarked €35 billion for protecting the EU’s external borders and managing migration in 2021-27, a nearly-threefold increase from the previous joint budget. But a deal still seems elusive.

“I don’t see consensus emerging,” said one of the diplomats.

Brussels must bite the bullet on a common EU migration policy

The EU Commission is soon to re-enter the conflict over immigration. Whether it will do so timidly or in a blaze of political courage remains to be seen when it unveils ideas for a ‘European Labour Authority,” writes Giles Merritt.

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