Romania treads water on migration and asylum reforms

File photo. Romania's President Klaus Iohannis arrives at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, 13 December 2018. [Stephanie Lecocq/EPA/EFE]

This article is part of our special report Migration and security: Snapshots across a divided Europe.

In 2015, Romania voted against relocation quotas for refugees within the EU, though it later supported the UN’s Global Compact on Refugees. Recently, it was asked by the UNHCR to use its six-month EU presidency to mobilise member states to be more active in managing the flows of refugees. EURACTIV Romania reports.

“The Global Compact on Refugees and, respectively, on Regular Migration will generate a common approach on migration and displaced persons at the global level,” President Klaus Iohannis said in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly last September. Romania signed the memorandum of supporting the Global pact in the form agreed through negotiations.

Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, the regional representative of UNHCR for European affairs, asked Romania to encourage the member states to make more preparations to administrate the flows of refugees, to consolidate the relevant institutions and the asylum procedures.

“Romania is determined to strengthen the European Union-United Nations partnership. And when I speak about engagement, I don’t just mean politicians and diplomats. We have to reach out to our younger people, representatives of the civil society, journalists, businesspeople. We need them all for the cause of multilateralism and global leadership,” Iohannis said in his speech.

But this engagement has yet to produce concrete results, with almost two months of Romania’s EU presidency already gone.

MEPs are increasingly frustrated with the lack of solutions for both the migration agenda and the reform of the asylum system, and blame the member states for stalling negotiations. At an informal meeting of justice and home affairs ministers in Bucharest earlier this month, the Romanian presidency did not seem too eager to hurry things up.

“We do not need now antagonistic solutions that fuel populism, extremism and disrupt political cohesion within the EU. But of course, we need to be constructive in order to find a common solution based on consensus,” said Carmen Dan, Romania’s minister of internal affairs.

The presidency said it will continue its efforts to identify consensual solutions in the field of migration.

As part of efforts to reduce illegal migration flows into the EU, the external dimension of migration and cooperation with third countries is a priority, according to the Romanian Presidency.

But, as Romanian Victor Bostinaru, a Socialist group MEP, noted: “The war in Syria isn’t over.”

“The war will end only when we find a way towards a genuine political transition, with full accountability and credible transitional justice; and when we can ensure that the six million refugees and the four million internally displaced Syrians will have a home to return to and will be protected by their state. Only then, can reconstruction start,” Bostinaru said during a debate on the situation in Syria.

When adopted in May 2015, the European Migration Agenda proposed countering the refugee crisis with solutions to all aspects of migration, and a key element was the reform of the common asylum rules. But a consensus has not been reached.

Noticing the stalemate in the Council over the reform of the Dublin Regulation, MEPs have turned their attention to the borders. After the success of the deal with Turkey, which receives EU money to ensure that migrants do not leave its territory for the EU, the European Parliament voted to allocate more EU funds for migration and asylum policies and for border reinforcement.

The Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee endorsed the renewed Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), and gave it €9.2 billion out of the 2021-2027 budget (51% more than in the previous financial framework). It also backed the creation of a new Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF) and agreed to allocate €7.1 billion to it.

However, it seems that the new asylum rules will not be adopted during the Romanian presidency, and it is difficult to estimate what will be the view of the next European Parliament on the matter.

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