The European summit’s final statement said the bloc “may use all policies and tools, including diplomatic, developmental, commercial, and visas” in order to force countries to take back rejected asylum-seekers.
Irregular immigration has returned to the priorities of the European Union, after the year 2022 witnessed a sharp rise in the number of migrants to the bloc countries, as 330,000 illegal crossings were recorded, according to Frontex Agency and official statistics from member states.
This number is the largest since the 2015 crisis.
Building walls and fences?
During the extraordinary summit that took place yesterday, Thursday, in Brussels, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said that the EU countries need to curb illegal immigration. The Nehammer government has for some time supported an effort, still unsuccessful, to allocate European funds to build a fence on the Bulgarian-Turkish border and stem the flow of migrants.
Nehammer repeated his call for the money needed to build the fence, but it received limited support from other European leaders, while Europe’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said that migrants leave their countries because they have no future, peace and stability.
For his part, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, criticized the Austrian demand and said that today it is about building a fence on the Bulgarian-Turkish border, but that will not be enough.
“This means that there will be other demands to build other fences and other walls again… Can we then conclude that we want to turn Europe into a fortress?” Bethel continued.
“Toughen up with countries that don’t cooperate”
On the other hand, European officials said there was consensus among member states on tough provisions that threaten to suspend aid, duty-free trade and visas for countries that refuse to take back rejected asylum seekers.
The summit’s final statement said the bloc “may use all European policies and tools, including diplomacy, development, trade, visas, as well as legal immigration” in order to force countries to take back rejected asylum seekers.
The right to link foreign aid to cooperation on migration has existed for more than two decades under the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, but has never been used.
The Cotonou Agreement obliges its signatory countries to take back so-called “economic migrants” who have failed to obtain asylum.