EU asylum law: ministers reach a compromise

After years of dispute, EU interior ministers have agreed on a significant tightening of the bloc's asylum policy. A sufficient majority of member states voted in favour of establishing reception centres with fast-track procedures on the EU's external borders for those coming from countries considered safe. In addition, EU states that are unwilling to take in refugees are to pay compensation. Is this progress?

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Expressen (SE) /

Hopefully the deterrent will work

The asylum agreement comes late but it is a good step, finds Expressen:

“One thing is certain: other EU countries must help the main arrival countries to make these new, closed asylum centres functional. To ensure that the conditions there are bearable but not attractive and that the processing of applications is as quick as promised. And deportations as well. Whether the proposals are tough enough to deter all the economic migrants hoping for a better future in Europe will only be clear when the compromise becomes reality. But the agreement, even if it comes several years too late, is a step towards order in EU asylum policy.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Mind the moral limits

The EU is close to concluding an agreement with Tunisia aimed at reducing illegal immigration. But such deals can be dangerous, De Volkskrant warns:

“The biggest objection from critics both inside and outside Tunisia is that European politicians are thus legitimising an autocratic leader. This concern is understandable. ... In their eagerness to show resolve on the migration issue, will European leaders simply accept the way [Tunisian President] Saied is stifling democracy? The EU must dispel this impression before the plans are finalised. To gain more control of its external borders it is forced to do business with undemocratic leaders. But European politicians must always keep a close eye on their own moral limits.”

Respekt (CZ) /

What sounds simple may be difficult in practice

Respekt is only cautiously optimistic:

“Safe third countries are supposed to sort asylum seekers on their own territory according to whether or not they are entitled to international protection. And EU states have the option of sending rejected applicants back to these transit countries if their home country doesn't cooperate. That sounds pretty simple. But many countries have been trying to do this for years in vain. Why should it work now? And when it comes to the crunch and certain opponents of quotas - the Czechs, for example - have to send the Greeks hundreds of millions of euros for the foreigners in their camps, will they really pay up?”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Dispute not settled with this deal

La Libre Belgique also predicts problems with implementing the compromise:

“Some countries, especially Poland and Hungary, will not play ball and will even resent having to pay 20,000 euros for each rejected migrant. And what will happen to the other states in the event of national political upheavals? The southern countries are not very convinced by this 'flexible' solidarity. ... Having a common migration policy is not enough, it must also be applied in a way that respects European values. This will be the true measure of the EU's success in dealing with migration.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

The wrong focus

Border control alone will not solve all the problems according to De Volkskrant:

“As long as labour migrants - on whom a large part of European agriculture depends - are not allowed to enter legally, they will try smugglers. After all, they know that there is plenty of (illegal) work in an ageing Europe. Secure countries like Morocco or Tunisia are only willing to take back rejected asylum seekers when it benefits their own economic interest. ... The EU must shift its unilateral focus away from defending 'Fortress Europe' and look realistically at the situation in the countries of origin. And then it can consider how it wants to deal with its labour shortage and migration.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Ursula's double game

After agreeing on the reform of asylum regulations EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the heads of government of the Netherlands and Italy visited Tunisia for talks with President Kais Saied on Sunday. La Repubblica observes:

“This will only be a short meeting, von der Leyen said, playing down its importance. ... In this way she was trying to mitigate the displeasure of many EU governments, above all from northern Europe. Because the methods of the Tunisian leader Saied are not very popular on the old continent. This has also reached the ears of the Commission, accompanied by the talk about 'Ursula's double game'. ... The election campaign has also begun for von der Leyen, who wants to run for the leadership of the Commission again. ... The Commission President doesn't want to upset anyone in this phase.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A genunine breakthrough

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung commends the way the EU countries have now pulled together:

“It borders on a miracle. ... This is also a success for the Swedish EU Council presidency, which had fought energetically and judiciously for the agreement. ... The breakthrough is also remarkable because immigration and migration affect the core area of national sovereignty. That a communitisation could succeed here in some areas seemed improbable not long ago. Above all, because societal attitudes to immigration and asylum vary greatly from country to country. There are veritable rifts not only between East and West.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Not a single concession for Rome

The agreement is a setback for Italy, La Repubblica declares:

“Despite the metaphorical fist slammed on the table, the Meloni government has emerged empty-handed from the latest negotiations. ... Our country has not secured a single concession. ... Indeed, the concept of 'obligatory solidarity' has nothing to do with the active participation of allies in the redistribution of migrants. On the contrary, the concept of voluntariness remains linked to the possibility of paying 20,000 euros for each rejected migrant on the basis of the annual determination of the quota of non-EU citizens to be resettled. Rome gets a more flexible arrangement regarding 'third countries'. ... However, this is a procedure which is very complicated in its implementation.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

People expect problems to be solved

It was high time for this migration pact, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“Because a better asylum agreement from the humanitarian point of view will no longer be possible in the EU. On the contrary, a right-wing wave is to be expected in the European elections of 2024. ... A popular argument is that we must take a stand on asylum issues and oppose the right-wing zeitgeist all the more resolutely. That is an honourable idea on the one hand. On the other hand, it is also dangerous to tell the people of Europe that what they perceive as a problem is not really a problem at all, and that they have chosen the wrong governments. ... They expect solutions from those in power, at least temporary ones.”

De Tijd (BE) /

It could work

The compromise can at least promote action based on solidarity, De Tijd stresses:

“It's a hawker mentality that deserves no beauty prize, but it has the merit of working. If Hungary refuses to take in refugees despite the European agreements, the European Commission can hardly open an asylum centre in Budapest. But when it comes to money, that can simply be deducted from the amount of European support Hungary receives. This is enforceable solidarity, which is unfortunately necessary. In a migration policy which has no good side, every pragmatic step is welcome.”