ECJ rules against obligatory humanitarian visas

The EU member states are not obliged to issue visas to refugees at their foreign missions so that they can travel to these countries and apply for asylum there, the European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday. Instead decisions regarding the issue of visas must be governed by national laws, it decided. Many governments are relieved at this ruling by the EU's highest court, but Europe's press is at odds.

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Handelsblatt (DE) /

Court avoids boosting Le Pen's campaign

EJC Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi argued in favour of humanitarian visas in an opinion submitted in February. The ECJ's decision not to follow his suggestion is far-sighted, Handelsblatt believes:

“If the judges had followed [Mengozzi's] argumentation this would not only have brought down Europe's already unstable asylum policy system, it would have been an affront to the nation states on which the EU is based. The individual governments and parliaments never gave their approval for such an extension to visa policy, which reaches beyond the current basic rights. Had the EU's highest court ignored this objection brought by the member states it would have confirmed the arguments of EU critics. They see the institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg primarily as instruments for bossing around democratically legitimised national politicians. Marine Le Pen and her counterparts in other countries could hardly have wished for a better boost for their campaigns.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Don't endanger Europe's public welfare

De Morgen is also pleased with the ruling, stressing that handing out visas is not the right way to help refugees:

“Without doubt European states can show more humanity and willingness to address the very real suffering of refugees in conflict zones. But they can do this without jeopardising their public welfare systems. Hopefully the situation will at some stage calm down enough for Europe's political leaders to jointly assume this responsibility. There is certainly no surplus of empathy in today's European politics. Nonetheless, using visa laws to give refugees greater access in addition to asylum is not the right way to go about achieving this.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Ruling passes on responsibility to others

Legal expert Vladimiro Zagrebelsky, by contrast, lashes out at the ECJ's decision in La Stampa:

“States granting asylum and humane protective rights only to those refugees who reach those places where the state has jurisdiction is a moral contradiction. Because it means that states are not obliged to take in those who don't reach their national territory, where the state becomes legally responsible for them. Consequently the individual states do everything in their power to prevent the arrival of refugees on their soil, resorting to international initiatives and agreements that are the result of a combination of necessity and hypocrisy. This is the case when states say that they will transfer refugees to places where they will receive humane treatment (such as Lybia?) in a bid to shift the responsibility for them to others.”