EU asylum reform: what can it achieve?

After years of wrangling, the EU Parliament has approved a pact which tightens the regulations of the EU's common asylum system. All ten legislative proposals were adopted by a narrow majority. Under the new regulations asylum procedures will be processed on the EU's outer borders, deportation procedures accelerated and the burden on countries that take in higher numbers of migrants eased through a solidarity mechanism.

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El País (ES) /

A tactical move, not a solution

El País is severely disappointed:

“The pact is a defeat for those who believe that the EU both needs migrants and has a responsibility to take them in. The price of the EU abandoning its own arguments and limiting itself to watering down the arguments of the far right will be paid by the desperate people fleeing misery and war with more suffering. The new common policy neither solves the fundamental problems that cause migration nor will it help to prevent the Mediterranean from becoming a mass grave: 3,000 people died trying to cross it last year. A tactical move should not be confused with a solution.”

Avgi (GR) /

Greece has won nothing with this deal

This pact marks the end of the Europe of solidarity, Avgi frets:

“A pact voted for by the MEPs of Nea Demokratia and celebrated by the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis - even though it allows member states to opt for financial 'solidarity' instead of genuine, mandatory solidarity in the form of a fair redistribution of asylum seekers. This inevitably shifts the pressure to first reception countries such as Greece, which risk turning into European Guantánamos. ... It is telling that the sum of 20,000 euros that member states had so far been obliged to pay as compensation for each refugee not taken in has been replaced by a non-specified sum to be determined after negotiations.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Better than nothing

Der Standard sees the reform as a classic compromise:

“Completing asylum procedures quickly, getting immigrants into jobs and integrating them has long been a key EU objective. The new pact could lead to a stricter common asylum and migration policy. ... Doubts are justified. The EU Parliament is a good reflection of the real Europe. The polarisation is increasing rather than decreasing, and not just in asylum policy. The slim majorities in favour of a not unreasonable realpolitik that goes beyond illusions and hatred are not a good sign. The pressure to migrate will soon increase rather than decrease due to two wars close to home. The principle of hope remains. A sealed asylum and migration pact is certainly better than nothing.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Root causes not addressed

The Irish Times is sceptical as to whether the stricter asylum laws will have the desired effect:

“It is clear that the impetus for this week's developments is the surge in support for nativist and anti-immigrant parties across the EU in the run-up to June's elections. Whether the new measures will stem that tide, as the parties of the traditional centre hope, or whether, as some suggest, they merely play into the far-right's hands, remains to be seen. What is certain is that, driven by violent conflict, poverty and climate change, the flow of those making the dangerous journey to seek a better life in Europe is not going to stop.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

A shrewd political manoeuvre by the centrists

Dnevnik sees the upcoming European elections as the reason why the agreement has been reached now:

“As the pact is a compromise with which neither the parties on the left nor the right of the political spectrum are satisfied, interpretations will naturally be diametrically opposed for election purposes, with the aim of mobilising the electorate. By ratifying the pact, Europe has nevertheless achieved at least one goal. The established centrist parties have gained a strong argument vis-à-vis the populists and the far right: that Europe is capable of solving its own problems and that a common asylum policy is possible.”

Iswestija (RU) /

Aimed at stopping the right-wing populists

Izvestia sees the legislative package as a populist measure by EU parliamentarians:

“The new pact contradicts the EU's hitherto tolerant migration policy. Therefore, as expected, it has provoked protests from the left-liberal public. It's clear that the MEPs didn't take this step just for fun. On the eve of the European Parliament elections, the ruling centre-right and centre-left coalition decided to take the wind out of the sails of the increasingly popular far-right politicians of the 'European Conservatives and Reformists' and 'Identity and Democracy' groups. The latter have sharply criticised the EU leadership for being too lax on mass immigration into Europe - but now they have less reason to do so.”

La Croix (FR) /

This is not progress

The text is an aberration, La Croix criticises:

“It is normal for European states to exercise control over access to their territory. However, the planned selection procedure runs the risk of arbitrariness and of leading to violations of the human dignity of those who are placed in such centres [in third countries] against their will. Above all, the objective seems to break with the long-standing tradition of welcoming migrants in most of the continent's democracies. France in particular has evolved since the 19th century through the integration of numerous immigrant communities.”

Stuttgarter Zeitung (DE) /

The first step on a long road

There is no reason for euphoria, writes the Stuttgarter Zeitung:

“The sobering experience of recent years tells us that there will be no quick, big, fair solution. If Europe wants to tackle the root of the problem, introducing effective controls at the borders will not be enough. The transit countries, and above all the refugees' countries of origin, must be part of the concept. ... More targeted support for development projects can ensure that people don't have to make the journey to Europe in the first place. All of these proposals have been under discussion for years. ... The planned asylum package is a success in this sense, but it is only the first step on a very long road.”

La Stampa (IT) /

A wrong and inhumane approach

An opportunity to create a fundamentally new understanding of migration has been missed, Sea Watch Italy spokesperson Giorgia Linardi rails in La Stampa:

“The pact reflects an approach that continues to treat migration as an exception, an emergency, instead of recognising it as a structural phenomenon of our time. Rather than managing migration, this approach prefers to sweep it like dust under the carpet. .... The reform of the European legal framework on immigration could have offered a great opportunity. However, not only has this opportunity been wasted, but the groundwork has also been laid for legitimising ongoing violations at the EU's external borders. Member states will now have an even freer hand to violate human rights.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Strengthening the people smugglers

Europe is now officially selling out, the Frankfurter Rundschau fumes:

“The conditions in the camps on the borders, for example in Greece or Italy, are already unacceptable without the EU having done anything to improve the situation. ... So why would it open its eyes to the suffering now, when many more people, including families with children, will be held in camps on its external border? ... This shows how far the EU has shifted to the right in terms of migration policy. Too many EU states want to deter refugees, and unacceptable living conditions in the camps are precisely the deterrent they need. But this has a side effect: it strengthens the gangs of people smugglers that the Ceas [Common European Asylum System] is supposed to thwart.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

A bad deal for Italy

With the exception of Fratelli d'Italia and Forza Italia, Italy's MEPs voted against the reform. This is entirely understandable, says La Repubblica:

“Little will change for Italy. And whatever does change will be for the worse. The burden of reception and management of applications remains with the country of first arrival, whose period of responsibility has actually been extended to 20 months. And it must also ensure registration in the Eurodac system with identification, fingerprinting and biometric surveys of all arrivals, including children, as well as monitoring so-called secondary movements. And there is little hope of being able to count on the relocation of arrivals to any significant extent, or rely on concrete help with repatriation.”

Polityka (PL) /

Poland's no is consistent

Polish MEPs have rejected the pact notwithstanding the resistance of the new government in Warsaw. An understandable move, Polityka writes:

“The migration and asylum pact, often criticised by the right as too 'pro-immigration', was passed by the European Parliament today. ... The Polish no vote, which was firmly upheld by Donald Tusk's government, came as a surprise to many in Brussels, even though it is in line with Tusk's anti-relocation statements from his time as president of the European Council.”