An agreement between the 27 member states of the European Union will open the way for negotiations with the European Parliament with the aim of adopting the reform before spring 2024.
European interior ministers meet in Luxembourg on Thursday to try to move forward the thorny issue of reforming immigration policy, which requires solidarity in receiving refugees between member states and expediting the examination of some asylum applications at the borders.
The European Commission expressed optimism about the possibility of a breakthrough, but a number of diplomats believe that the possibility of achieving this does not exceed fifty percent, because the issue of immigration causes a great division.
An agreement between the 27 member states of the European Union will open the way for negotiations with the European Parliament, with the aim of adopting the reform before the spring of 2024.
A settlement proposal submitted by Sweden, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the Union for six months, provides for mandatory and “flexible” European solidarity at the same time.
Member states will be required to receive a certain number of asylum seekers who arrive in an EU country subject to migration pressure or so-called “resettlement” or, if they do not wish to do so, to make a financial contribution to that country.
It is an attempt to strike a balance between the Mediterranean countries that arrive for migrants seeking spontaneous relocation to other countries in the bloc, and countries such as Hungary or Poland that refuse to impose asylum seekers on them.
Diplomatic sources said the discussions are about financial compensation of around 20,000 euros for each asylum seeker who has not been transferred.
“It is not possible to ask some countries for resettlement while other countries will not have to do anything, that will not be possible,” European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told a press conference on Tuesday.
The other text submitted to ministers requires member states to implement an accelerated procedure for reviewing asylum claims for certain migrants who are not clearly eligible for such protection because they come from a country deemed “safe”. This aims to facilitate their repatriation.
“There is no need to treat people from Albania, Pakistan or Turkey like people from Afghanistan, Syria or Sudan,” said Ylva Johansson.
Diplomatic sources said that countries, including Hungary and Poland, expressed during the talks their opposition to the reform proposals.
Decisions are taken by a qualified majority, that is, the adoption of an agreement that requires the support of 15 out of the 27 countries representing at least 65 percent of the European Union’s population.
The issue of immigration has returned to the top of the agenda of the 27 countries, with the increase in the number of arrivals to the European Union after a pause related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Member states tend to take an increasingly hardline approach, while the far right has finally achieved success in elections in a number of European Union countries.
In September 2020, the European Commission presented its proposal for a compact on migration and asylum, including a package of measures, in an attempt to relaunch the reform that has stalled since the 2015-2016 migration crisis and the failure of the quota system for the distribution of asylum seekers.
French European MP Fabien Keeler of the European Renewal bloc (centrists and liberals), the rapporteur on regulation of asylum procedures at borders, called on member states to make progress.
And she warned that “we cannot allow the Council to fail to reach compromises on the rules,” stressing that “if it does not respect the agreed stages, the entire Migration and Asylum Pact will be threatened.”
The non-governmental organization Oxfam condemned what it considered a desire by the European Union to “build walls” around itself.
“European Union countries want to shirk their responsibility to receive refugees,” said Stephanie Pope, describing the proposal for border measures as “a copy of the failed model seen on the Greek islands.”
She added, “This will lead to the imprisonment of refugees, including children, in prison-like centers on the borders of Europe and obstruct their right to asylum.”