Migration: is the EU on the right track?

Last week, 10,000 refugees arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa within three days. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had visited the island shortly before and presented a ten-point plan for tackling migration at the European level including a better system for distributing new arrivals as well as more effective surveillance of the EU's external borders. Europe's commentators discuss which measures could work.

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Portal Plus (SI) /

Clear answers to concrete questions needed

Portal Plus calls on policymakers to give straightforward answers to key questions about migration:

“How many migrants can our society, with its current structure, take in or process in transit without endangering the country's social and economic stability and security? What type of immigrants do we actually need as a result of deficits in certain sectors and social systems? Providing answers to these questions will lead to operational measures in the areas of asylum, integration policy and border protection that can generate trust among citizens and ensure quality of life and development.”

Visão (PT) /

Speak with one voice

Visão hopes that next year's European elections will send a signal for more humanism on the migration issue:

“No one wants a Europe whose doors are wide open. ... But it is neither serious nor humane to use this argument to justify Europe's complete inability to address the problem with one voice and in an effective way. ... As long as Europe is nothing more than a market of bureaucrats in padded offices, it will never be a union. That is why the European elections are the most important in the next few years. ... They will clarify whether we will survive as a bloc, not only economically or strategically, but above all as a beacon of humanism and freedom.”

El País (ES) /

Put founding principles into practice

This is a fundamental issue for the EU, El País notes:

“At this moment since 2015, the EU is in danger of coming apart at the seams due to the prolonged absence of an effective, common migration policy. ... The rights to mobility and asylum require rational and realistic management that also prevents the far right from exploiting the phenomenon while ignoring reality: on the one hand Europe must not be complicit in a human tragedy, on the other hand Europe's demographic development shows that we need the migrants. ... It's not just about managing the influx, but also about how the EU sees itself: is it really ready to put its founding principles of freedom and rights into practice or was it all just about declaring them?”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Not a threat, just pragmatism

Lidové noviny finds Germany's desire for tighter controls on its borders with the Czech Republic and Poland entirely understandable:

“There is often a feeling that Germany holds sway over us. However, this does not apply to the border regime, even if Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wants to tighten it with the temporary introduction of border controls. This does not pose a threat to Poland or the Czech Republic. Germany carries out similar controls on its borders with Austria and Switzerland. ... The goal is to monitor the movements of 'illegals' so that as few as possible enter Germany via Czech territory.”

Times of Malta (MT) /

Regulated pathways needed

A world without migration is a pipedream, says the Times of Malta:

“Discourse about migration continues to revolve around border controls and security, rather than a true understanding of how to offer accessible, regulated migration pathways for those in search of safety. ... Unless Maltese and European authorities shift away from a security-focused perspective on migration toward a more innovative system of equitable pathways, migration will always be perceived as a problem to be stopped rather than a natural course of humanity. ... A new approach and a just policy are urgently required; otherwise, our system will continue to be no better than that of smugglers, traffickers and criminal organisations.”

El País (ES) /

Really listen and look

El País accuses Brussels of arrogant ignorance:

“If Europe only listened to what the newly arrived migrants have to say, it would know that the dreaded traffickers are not the cause, but only the means. No one has deceived the migrants. They know very well what risks await them. ... That's why the EU-funded information campaigns in Africa don't work. ... And yet this is one of von der Leyen's ten proposed solutions. If the refugees come, it's because they see no other alternative. ... It's not that there is no solution, it's just not where we're looking for it. ... In its arrogance the EU insists on repeating formulas that have little to do with reality.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Strengthen border controls

Berlingske expresses dissatisfaction with the current situation:

“If we are ever to succeed in stemming the flow of refugees crossing the Mediterranean in rubber dinghies that sink, it will take much more than a humanitarian reception of asylum seekers in Europe. Far too many are not granted refugee status anyway, and it is then difficult for us to deport them. That is why we must both secure legal immigration channels and pursue a consistent policy towards illegals. We cannot be satisfied with European solutions. EU agreements with countries like Turkey and Tunisia can make a difference, but there is also a need for countries on the EU's external borders to strengthen border controls.”

Die Welt (DE) /

There is no magic formula

Even if an agreement on a common EU asylum system is reached, it's by no means certain that it will do a better job of managing migration, Die Welt warns:

“Many experts assume that the Mediterranean states will continue to have no incentive to properly register and process the applications of all of the migrants who arrive on their shores. Many migrants are likely to migrate further north and seek asylum again in France, Germany or the Benelux countries. A new crisis is a foregone conclusion. But is that a reason to bury the European plans? No. It still makes sense to focus on protecting the external border. But as SPD boss Lars Klingbeil warned, we should not pretend that there is a 'magic formula'.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

The last chance for liberal Europe

The far right could soon call the shots in migration policy, warns the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“If the advance of far-right parties is to be prevented in the upcoming elections in Poland and the Netherlands, and in the EU Parliament next year, liberal Europe must tackle the problems now. ... The migration problem cannot be 'solved', as the simplifiers on the right and left would have us believe. Migration is a task that must be tackled with perseverance and sound judgement. This has been lacking for a long time. ... This is a last chance for those who want to regulate migration. If it's missed, the champions of fortress Europe threaten to take over.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Politicians looking for scape goats

The focus on the migration discourse is distracting from the real causes of many problems - and that's exactly what some people want, observes Új Szó:

“The populists who want to exclude asylum seekers and ignore the climate disaster now have record support across the EU. It's understandable that voters are disappointed with the established politicians. ... But that they now trust extreme populists is a social failure. ... The fact that there is no money for social programmes, infrastructure, education and healthcare in Slovakia is not due to the asylum seekers but to the politicians and their oligarchic sponsors who are now turning the people against them.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Self-delusion sold as pragmatism

The EU's strategy is completely misguided, writes La Libre Belgique:

“By stubbornly insisting on solving its migration worries primarily through agreements with third countries, the EU is lying to itself. ... The current 'crisis' is mainly the result of the European strategy of building a 'Fortress Europe' in partnership with states along the migration routes. ... We will be told that this is pragmatism. That in order to 'protect' our borders we must be willing to compromise our values and pay money to regimes that don't respect human rights or democracy. ... By deluding itself about these partnerships, the EU is deliberately forgetting that it must first and foremost set itself up with an internal migration and asylum policy.”

Kurier (AT) /

More rigour and consistency needed

The solutions are there, they just need to be implemented, writes the Kurier:

“Thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean every year, a chaotic and unfair asylum system and grist to the mill of European right-wing populists. ... Europe must now finally implement what its interior ministers agreed on in June: much faster asylum procedures, more repatriations that are carried out immediately and the establishment of large detention centres at the external borders, where migrants must, at worst, remain in barracks for several weeks until it is clear whether they are allowed to stay or have to go back. Basically, this would be show far more rigour and consistency than Europe has displayed so far with its half-hearted migration policy.”

El País (ES) /

The wrong recipes

El País finds Europe's course inhumane:

“The climate together with the enormous corruption promoted by China and Russia are preventing the African continent from moving forward, which is indispensable if Europe wants to overcome the conflict on its southern borders one day. Moreover, it is precisely the wrong recipes that are currently winning elections in Europe, all aimed at convincing the gullible and the indifferent in a European Union that is coming ever closer to being led by a reactionary front of local nationalisms. Australia is isolating migrants on islands and Saudi Arabia is shooting Ethiopians on its borders. We haven't quite got there yet, but that is what where we are heading.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Rome is violating human rights

In an attempt to curb irregular migration across the Mediterranean, Italy's government has tasked the military with setting up special deportation camps. Avvenire is outraged:

“After floating the idea that asylum seekers from Africa constitute a national emergency and dismantling the reception system, the government clearly needs to get the situation under control. It is attempting to do so by reviving measures that have already been tried without success and by introducing others whose implementation leads to serious human rights violations. ... The total number of landings [in 2023] is close to 130,000 - far more than in previous years, proving that refugees have chosen the sea route not because of NGO sea rescue missions or previous governments, but for much deeper and more tragic reasons.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

As predictable as plate tectonics

In his leading article, Le Figaro's editor-in-chief Patrick Saint-Paul calls for a new EU migration package:

“Was the Lampedusa crisis unexpected? Quite the opposite: wars, poverty, coupled with climate change and explosive population growth in the most vulnerable countries have made migration flows as predictable a phenomenon as plate tectonics. But Europe is planless. ... The time has come for Europeans to get together and finally adopt a new migration package. Beyond the necessary cooperation with countries of origin and transit, the protection of the EU's external borders is crucial. This is the only way to guarantee the freedom of movement within the bloc that Europeans hold so dear.”

La Stampa (IT) /

EU Council's prior consent needed for such deals

The strategy of concluding more agreements like the one with Tunisia will come up against major hurdles, La Stampa warns, citing a legal opinion of the EU Council:

“The agreement with Tunisia was signed 'in disregard of the procedures'. ... Von der Leyen - accompanied by Giorgia Meloni and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte - signed the agreement without the prior authorisation of the Council, and therefore of the other governments. The document contains a warning: agreements with other countries can no longer be signed without the prior consent of the other EU states. This is a problem for Meloni and von der Leyen, who would like to repeat the Tunisia model with other North African partners, starting with Egypt.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Strife over migrants could be the EU's downfall

Things are not looking good for the EU, says The Daily Telegraph:

“If the EU cannot reach agreement on the fundamental issue of how to deal with migrants, then what is the point of it at all? Migration has the potential to rip apart the EU. When previously migrant-friendly countries like Germany and Sweden start to wash their hands of migrants who arrive on Europe's southern shores, it is rapidly going to end up as a case of every country for itself. This will inevitably bring quite a reaction from those countries highly exposed to migrant flows. ... Don't bet your last euro on the EU surviving the migrant crisis.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Not a problem but a host of opportunities

El Periódico de Catalunya calls for a radical change of course:

“The wild rhetoric of the far right offers no magic formula. ... Giorgia Meloni promised to put an end to the arrivals, but reality is getting the better of her. ... Tensions are also rising in Germany, with more and more people entering the country across the Czech and Polish borders. ... Europe's problem is that no one can enter legally, even though we need the immigrants. It's unbelievable that the EU doesn't have a policy of issuing immigration permits at the place of origin and legal work contracts at the destination. Treating the arrivals as if they were barbarians won't help to stop the influx. Perhaps treating them like human beings will. Then we won't have a problem but a host of opportunities.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Salvini wants to overtake Meloni on the right

The issue is highly risky for Meloni as head of the right-wing governing coalition, analyses De Standaard:

“Once she became prime minister, she adopted a more moderate tone and quickly realised that there is no miracle solution. Last year, there was a spectacular increase in the influx of boat people under her government. This makes her policy vulnerable and her most dangerous rival is in her own government camp. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini sees any means used to stop boats as permissible, including the deployment of the Italian navy. ... Salvini's harsh statements must be seen as the starting signal for his campaign for next year's European elections. Then he plans to overtake Meloni by swerving even further to the right.”