New EU asylum pact: the right response to Moria?

Just over two weeks after the fire that destroyed the Moria refugee camp, the EU Commission presented a new Pact on Migration and Asylum on Wednesday. Among other changes it foresees that member states would no longer be obliged to take in a certain number of refugees but could instead opt to take on tasks such as repatriation of those whose applications are rejected. Few commentators believe the proposed package is a viable solution.

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Delo (SI) /

Another disappointment

Delo is dismayed:

“In the current situation, which requires solidarity, political wisdom and above all humanity, the European Commission on Wednesday presented its new migration plan. ... Even bearing in mind that for all those who, like us, have long been following the refugee tragedy, positive expectations are a sign of an insufficient understanding of the situation, the plan now presented by the Commission is shocking. Brussels - because there can be no talk of such a thing as a common European foreign policy (and not just that) - has decided to leave the responsibility for dealing with refugees and migrants to an even greater extent in the hands of the member states. So in fact this is nothing more than the legalisation of the current 'policy'.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

An act of linguistic perversion

With "return sponsorships" the EU has created a good candidate for the bad word of the year, the Frankfurter Rundschau believes:

“Until now sponsorships have been something positive - for children, for example. But they can also be for trees or animals - for every living thing that needs to be looked after, watered or otherwise cared for. In an act of unbridled linguistic perversion, the EU Commission has twisted this beautiful meaning into its opposite by combining it with the word 'return'. EU countries such as Hungary or Poland that refuse to take in refugees are supposed to help get rid of the ineligible - within the framework of the aforementioned 'return sponsorships'. ... Incidentally, this refusal to help people while at the same time objectifying them is seen in Brussels as 'solidarity' - thus mutilating a second beautiful word.”

Tageblatt (LU) /

Make legal migration possible

Only a common EU immigration policy can alleviate migration pressure, Tageblatt insists:

“This is the only way many thousands of people can at least be given the prospect of coming to Europe one day without having to pay the price of persecution, rape or other brutal treatment. If people in Africa, for example, are given the prospect of entering the EU legally, illegal immigration routes become less attractive. If the number of rubber dinghies in the Mediterranean is to be reduced, not only must the causes for migration be tackled at the local level, but perspectives for legal immigration to the EU must also be created.”

Die Presse (AT) /

The Commission is partly responsible, but right

The attempt to force the redistribution of the new arrivals in 2015 is now backfiring on the European Commission, comments Die Presse:

“The quotas were pushed through in the middle of the Polish election campaign against the declared will of the liberal government in Warsaw. As a result the national populists won an absolute majority in parliament. Such an approach vis-à-vis the Netherlands, France or Germany would be unthinkable. No wonder the Commission is no longer seen as an impartial authority but as a political henchman of the old guard in some parts of the EU. The only fatal thing about the situation is that Brussels is right. Managing migration and defusing the explosive situation at the EU's external borders can only be achieved with a holistic and inclusive approach. Those who abandon Greece and Italy risk a schism.”

Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

No lightening of Greece's burden

The Commission has given in to pressure from xenophobic governments, Efimerida ton Syntakton concludes:

“The Commission's long-awaited proposals will allow EU member states to decide whether to take in refugees or assume responsibility for returning those whose asylum applications have been rejected to their countries of origin. The second option is suitable for countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, which are known to be reluctant to receive refugees and constantly feed their home audience with xenophobic rhetoric. What we are essentially talking about is abandoning the long-standing narrative of solidarity despite the major catastrophe in Moria. This also means that the countries of first arrival will continue to bear the brunt of the burden of the refugee crisis.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

First step towards a workable compromise

An imperfect plan is still better than no plan, Sydsvenskan points out:

“Okay, there's no reason to celebrate. But in the best case this could be the start of an acceptable compromise. ... As the Commission stresses in a press release, the charred Moria refugee camp in Greece is a reminder that things cannot go on as before. Another reminder of this is the constant threats from Ankara that it will let millions of Syrian refugees travel to the EU from camps in Turkey. To get out of this untenable situation the EU countries need to agree on a common migration policy. 'It won't be easy,' says [EU Commissioner] Ylva Johansson. Nevertheless it seems just a little bit easier now.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

A smart move

Brussels correspondent Andrea Bonanni expresses his delight in La Repubblica:

“Ursula von der Leyen's proposal stipulates that Europe will take responsibility for the rapid repatriation of irregular migrants. With a move not lacking in Teutonic moralism, it primarily puts the onus on those countries that reject the redistribution of asylum seekers. The advocates of 'Fortress Europe' are to be given the task of sending back the shipwrecked migrants who landed in Greece or Italy but have no claim to political asylum. If they fail, they will have to take them in themselves. That would be no small help for the Italian government.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Debate is still to come

The Commission's plan is finally getting the refugee situation moving, but nothing has been decided yet, Jutarnji list notes:

“This is merely a proposal, but it will certainly be a source of debate in the EU Council. ... The first reactions from the EU Parliament show support for the Commission. However, some believe the plan lacks ambition because it doesn't impose any obligation on the member states to take in a specific number of refugees. States such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta, which are directly affected, are interested in a permanent solution, while the states of Central Europe, such as Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Austria traditionally shirk responsibility. But it is precisely on these states that the fate of the Commission's proposal will depend.”

Denník N (SK) /

The threat of migration hysteria

The EU will face stiff resistance from Slovakia over the proposal, Denník N predicts:

“There's no doubt that this issue which is almost dead politically has the potential to revive the refugee hysteria in several European countries, including here. The speed with which a state secretary responsible for the matter said that no red lines should be crossed testifies to this. Even after the departure of Prime Ministers Fico and Pellegrini, Slovakia is one of the countries with the most hostile attitude towards refugees. ... There is no doubt that the mere idea of Brussels 'dictating' that we pay for the return of refugees to their homeland will turn a large proportion of Slovaks against the EU.”