Written by 2:45 pm Crossing Borders, Politics

Green-lit migration pact will play a significant role in the European elections

The European Parliament has approved the migration pact, albeit with some tense moments of hesitation. The pro-European parties hope that in this way they will be able to respond to the far right during the campaign for the European elections.

The pact is a compromise between ‘arrival countries’ such as Italy and Greece, ‘destination countries’ such as Belgium and Germany and especially Eastern European countries that prefer not to accept migrants at all. Now the pact only needs final approval from the governments of the EU countries, which have previously already pledged their support.

The reform, which consists of a series of texts, includes stricter controls on the arrival of migrants in the EU, closed centers at borders to ensure that people who are not entitled to asylum are returned more quickly, and a mandatory solidarity mechanism between Member States to help countries under migration pressure.

“This migration pact will give member states the means to better control migration.” This is how Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo responded to the European Parliament’s difficult approval of the migration pact. As temporary President of the Council of the EU, Belgium received praise from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: “You got it over the line.”

The relief after the vote in the European Parliament was as great as the nervousness beforehand. It was clear that the vote on the package, which took eight years to negotiate, would come to an end. Moreover, everything was linked to everything else: if one of the ten regulations failed, the entire pact ended up in the trash.

The three major factions of Christian Democrats (EPP), Social Democrats (S&D) and Liberals (Renew) were in favor in principle, but had to deal with internal dissent. For the far left faction the pact went too far, but not far enough for the far right. The Greens also decided to vote against as a block: “This pact is a disaster for asylum rights.”

Until the end, colleagues who planned to vote against were harassed with phone calls and conversations. “If this fails, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and the AfD will be celebrating and the political damage will be enormous,” EPP faction leader Manfred Weber warned in advance.

Implementation becomes difficult

What are the main points of the agreement? Screening and identification of asylum seekers will be mandatory at the EU’s external borders, so that they can no longer simply travel through. There will be a system of mandatory, but flexible solidarity with countries that are under migration pressure. A solidarity pool is being formed for those countries for the relocation of at least 30,000 asylum seekers per year. Countries that do not want to cooperate with the relocations can pay a ‘lump sum’ of 20,000 euros per asylum seeker. Asylum seekers from countries whose average recognition rate in the EU is lower than 20 percent end up in a fast-track border procedure and must remain in a reception center pending the outcome.

Now only the Member States have to give their final approval, no difficulties are expected there. Attention then shifts to implementation: reception centers must be built, concrete agreements must be made about screening at the external borders, and the solidarity pool must be set up.

But Donald Tusk, the pro-European Polish Prime Minister, has already announced that his country does not want to cooperate in the relocation mechanism. He thus puts Poland on the same page as Viktor Orban’s Hungary.

Last modified: May 13, 2024
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