A final deal on Europe’s new migration pact could be reached right after the French presidential elections due next year, EU Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas told EURACTIV Greece in an exclusive interview.
“We are very close to the German election, soon after, we will have a process of months to form a government that will essentially coincide with the election campaign for the French presidential election,” Schinas said.
“I understand that the coming months will be very difficult for a final agreement, but I believe, and I am optimistic, that immediately after the French elections we will enter into a very rapid process of convergence and final agreement,” he said, stressing, however, that “the time, the political momentum for this agreement is now.”
Schinas also criticised those who fight against the migration pact saying it is in the interest of centre-right and centre-left forces to back the deal.
“The clearest opponents of the Commission’s proposal for a new agreement on migration are not only the Europhobic far-right but also the Europhobic left. The two ends of the political spectrum in the EU want to use migration to say that Europe cannot solve people’s problems”.
Schinas said that, on the one side, the Europhobic right does not want a migration pact as they only want borders. On the other, the Europhobic left aims for free borders.
“We put on the table a proposal that answers all the problems of migration […] which has the right mix of border control and protection but also humanity and asylum”, he said.
It is no coincidence that in France, we are receiving attacks against the act from Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The situation is similar in the European south, where there are voices of populism on the right and left which devalue the need for a European agreement. There are such voices mainly in Italy but also in Greece, Italy and Spain.
Pushbacks and Turkey’s stance
Asked about migration flows from Afghanistan and the role of Turkey, he said Ankara seemed willing to manage its external borders in a way that would minimise or reduce flows to Europe as well as break the model of smugglers.
“We have to see if this commitment will become a reality, but at this stage, indeed, Turkey is sending the right messages in the management of any flows,” he stressed.
Asked to comment on criticism that the Commission remains silent over incidents of alleged illegal pushbacks in Greece and Croatia, he said:
“Any complaints about such phenomena have first been discussed in the Frontex board and in EU Parliament’s special committee. In both cases, the conclusions do not have the degree of assertiveness you describe”.
EURACTIV reported last week that the European Commission has asked Greece to set up an “independent” mechanism to monitor and avoid pushbacks of migrants at its border as a condition to release an additional €15.83 million in migration funding requested by Athens.
Schinas said the new migration pact already provides for a permanent mechanism to monitor respect for fundamental rights at the EU’s external borders.
“We are in constructive contacts with the Greek and Croatian governments to see how some of these regulations can be implemented already from now”.
Regarding Denmark’s recent law on the processing of asylum applications outside Europe, he said he believed that Europe could not “outsource its problems to others”.
“We must find ways to solve the problems alone and this Danish proposal has remained at this stage as an idea. I do not think it has progressed,” Schinas said.
(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.gr, EURACTIV.com)