The Brief – Side-stepping the migration issue

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter

No one can say that the EU and its leaders are not exorcised by migration. Its next seven-year budget is expected to include a plethora of new tools, including a “migration management window”. An investment fund for African countries has been set up to “tackle the root causes of migration”.

Italy, with EU support, has been providing training and logistical support to Libya’s coastguard in a bid to better patrol the Central Mediterranean.

In Germany, disagreement on migration policy has become the most serious threat to Angela Merkel’s 13-year Chancellorship.

Meanwhile, spending on migration control is set to account for €9 billion of the EU’s development budget between 2021 and 2027. Tough on migration, tough on the causes of migration is the mantra in Brussels and most national capitals.

But when it comes to the bloc’s own internal policies on migration, enthusiasm for reforming a system that has been broke for years is lacking. Nearly two years after the European Commission proposed a long-overdue overhaul of the Dublin system, which assigns responsibility for processing asylum claims, there is deadlock and inaction.

Governments are close to agreeing on three of the seven EU asylum reform laws, but the questions of resettlement and individual country quotas remain as divisive as ever.

Along with the equally deadlocked Brexit negotiations with the UK and the long-delayed eurozone reform, migration is set to dominate next week’s EU summit in Brussels. As with Brexit, progress on asylum reform has been so slow that the references to the bloc’s ‘internal migration policy’ in the draft summit conclusions are extremely brief.

“Much progress has also been achieved thanks to the tireless efforts of the Bulgarian and previous presidencies,” say the draft Summit conclusions, seen by EURACTIV.

The fact that numbers of asylum seekers have fallen compared to the 2015 crisis has given European leaders a further opportunity to kick the can. The EU’s asylum office counted 728,470 asylum applications in 2017, a 44% reduction on the 1.3m applications in the previous year.

But those figures are still far higher than the pre-crisis levels; around 460,000 people applied for asylum in EU countries in 2013, and there is no reason why they should fall further. Conflicts in Syria and Yemen – responsible for the bulk of the sharp increase in 2015 – remain intractable.

Rapid population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, which, in most countries, is not matched by new economic opportunities, will ensure that African migration to Europe remains a permanent process.

Until European leaders finally have the courage to broker a compromise on burden sharing and resettlement, more of them will see their careers end as political victims of migration and, shamefully, the Mediterranean Sea will remain a graveyard.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

Times are not easy for Angela Merkel: she just avoided a government collapse over migration policy but got a deadline of two weeks to lick everything into shape.

As German politics increasingly also risks affecting a possible eurozone reform, leaders of France and Germany meet in Berlin for a preparatory summit ahead of the European Council.

French President Macron, like most politicians, enjoys pressing the flesh and posing for selfies when on public outings. Just don’t call him by a nickname.

Italy’s new government has called for a census of Roma communities with an eye to kicking out anyone staying in the country illegally.

Czech PM Babiš flatly rejects EU’s post-Brexit budget proposal as “completely unacceptable”, lashing out at spending priorities imposed by Brussels.

Morocco is the EU’s most stable North African trading partner and reliable ally in Brussels’ efforts to control African migration. But two ECJ rulings have revived political tensions in the region and complicated things for the Commission.

A net-zero emissions target by 2050 will be our red line, says MEP Claude Turmes, and places any country resisting the EU-wide objective “in the same camp as Mr. Trump” when it comes to climate change.

Efficiency Wars is back: Commission, Council and Parliament will try to find an agreement on the governance of the energy union today. Follow our trilogue liveblog for the latest developments!

Look out for…

Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker receives French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe in Brussels.

World Cup Watch

While the Red Devils were on fire yesterday, Germany is still licking its wounds. Japan’s fans meanwhile definitely should win a prize for fighting plastic waste in this World Cup. We also had one of the quickest red cards in World Cup history in the Colombia game today.

Matches tomorrow: POR-MAR|URY-SAU| IRN-ESP

Views are the author’s

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