Juncker Commission gives up on Dublin asylum reform

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a European Council meeting in Brussels, 14 December 2017. [EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ]

Faced with the opposition of member states from the Visegrad group, the Juncker Commission made it plain on Tuesday (4 December) that it has given up on one of its declared goals: completing the reform of the Common European Asylum System.

The current “Dublin rules” on asylum place a huge burden on the main migrant entry points like Greece or Italy as they say that refugees must claim asylum in the first country they arrive in, and should be returned there if they move on somewhere else.

In the first four years of his term, the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos has persisted with proposals such as mandatory relocation or resettlement, which were rejected by the countries of the Visegrad group (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia).

Austria, a country with a far-right party in the governing coalition, which currently holds the EU presidency, has no appetite to share the refugee burthen either.

‘Pragmatic’ approach

This time around, Avramopoulos told the Brussels press that the time had come to be “pragmatic”, and called on the European Parliament to adopt five out of seven agreements on the EU asylum reform where there is agreement, before the European elections.

The five non-controversial proposals are the Qualification Regulation, the Reception Conditions Directive, the European Asylum Agency Regulation, the Eurodac Regulation, and the Union Resettlement Framework Regulation.

More divisive are the Asylum Procedure Regulation, and the Dublin Regulation itself. On those two, Avramopoulos said member states would be expected to pledge support “on a voluntary basis”.

He added that for times of particular pressure, a safety net must be built into the system, ensuring that in the absence of sufficient voluntary pledges, real support could be guaranteed to the member state concerned.

In the meantime, temporary arrangements can be put in place as a bridge, until the new Dublin regulation becomes applicable, Avramopoulos said.

Greens blast the announcement

As soon as Avramopoulos finished speaking, the Green/EFA group in the European Parliament published a statement slamming the Commission for what they call “the unravelling of the European asylum package”.

Jean Lambert, Greens/EFA spokesperson on the Common European Asylum Policy, said in the statement:

“To pick apart the asylum package means burying a common European asylum policy. Without a fair sharing of responsibility of asylum seekers across EU member states, any reform of the Common European Asylum Policy will remain patchwork. The EU Commission is not doing any justice to the notion of European solidarity by caving into the whims of Viktor Orbán and other right-wing governments.”

He continued:

“The fair distribution of those seeking protection demanded by the European Parliament must remain on the negotiating table. If no solution is possible with all member states, countries willing to commit themselves to solidarity and promote a humane asylum policy must find ways to work together on the redistribution of refugees.”

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