Correspondent in Brussels
Meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday, EU interior ministers reached an agreement early in the evening on the migration and asylum pact, this set of texts presented in September 2019 by the Commission. While migratory pressure has greatly increased, Europeans want to adopt a real policy in this area before the European elections in 2024. From Rome, where he was traveling on Thursday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz had invited ministers to go forward. “All those who want to tackle the challenges of migration can only do so together, in the European Union.”
Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson hailed "an important step" and Swedish Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard said that "a historic step" had been taken. Above all, this agreement confirms the return of qualified majority voting on these subjects where unanimity had become the rule since the “trauma” of the 2015-2016 migration crisis. On Thursday, 21 member states approved the compromise, four abstained - Bulgaria, Malta, Lithuania and Slovakia - and two voted against - Poland and Hungary. The green light paves the way for negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament.
The asylum and migration pact was designed as a diptych. On the one hand, the solidarity of the Member States vis-à-vis the countries on the front line, on the other the responsibility of these latter countries, which have long tended not to register asylum seekers arriving on their soil . To relieve them, at least 30,000 asylum seekers will be relocated to other EU countries each year. The distribution will be defined every year. According to a diplomat, around 4,000 would be welcomed by France, more by Germany. Member states that refuse to take their "quota" of asylum seekers - in this case, Poland and Hungary - will be required to pay financial compensation of 20,000 euros per person refused. It is “a fine” which will “not be accepted by citizens”, warned Polish Interior Minister Bartosz Grodecki. In return for this solidarity, the countries of first arrival will have to show more responsibility. "There will be an automatic return of people to these countries of first arrival," said an EU diplomat. The period of responsibility will also increase from one to two years, except for asylum seekers arriving by sea.
Defended in particular by Paris, border procedures will be imposed on Member States for migrants from safe countries - and who therefore cannot claim asylum. They will allow, in absolute terms, a rapid examination of files while keeping an eye on these asylum seekers thanks to the 30,000 beds in total that will be reserved for them in the Union. According to the Commission, these 30,000 beds would eventually make it possible to process up to 120,000 asylum applications per year. On the other hand, the ministers did not manage to agree on the countries to which the rejected asylum seekers should be returned. Austria, the Netherlands, Italy and Greece pleaded Thursday for returns to so-called safe third countries. It does not matter whether these rejected asylum seekers have local contacts or ties or not. France and Germany, in particular, believe on the contrary that a tether is necessary, as provided for by international law. It will be up to the Member States to define the third countries that they consider safe and to assess the relevance of the links between the rejected asylum seeker and the country of return envisaged. The ministers will come back to the subject in... a year.