The 27 EU states were unable to agree on new measures against refugees. Sea rescuers can also temporarily breathe a sigh of relief. But there is a threat of worse to come.
With a Crisis Regulation, the EU Commission wanted to loosen further guarantees of the right of asylum. Under certain conditions, governments such as Italy or Greece could have extended the duration of so-called border procedures for refugees to 20 weeks. The EU interior ministers had agreed on the introduction of these controversial asylum procedures in closed camps at the external borders at the beginning of June. Anyone who the authorities consider to have no chance of obtaining asylum from the outset is to be deported immediately. This asylum procedure regulation is now with Parliament and is to be adopted before the European elections in June.
However, the Crisis Regulation failed in the Council on Wednesday. There, the final draft was on the agenda of the chief negotiators of all EU countries. In this Committee of Permanent Representatives, the Commission’s draft was controversial from the outset. On Tuesday, the Spanish Council Presidency therefore proposed amendments a second time – but again unsuccessfully.
The rejection of the crisis regulation occurred for different reasons. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia do not think the planned law goes far enough. In addition, these so-called Visegrád states are opposed to a mandatory redistribution of protection seekers after the Council, for example, identified a “mass influx” of migrants at the external borders. This mandatory “relocation” should even be able to apply retroactively to refugees who had entered the country up to six months before a “mass influx” was identified.
However, the Commission had accommodated the four governments known as hardliners. The first draft of the crisis regulation already provided for “responsibility offsets” in addition to “relocation pledges”. Accordingly, EU states could, for example, financially support the Libyan or Tunisian coast guard instead of taking over refugees for asylum procedures.
Germany abstained on Wednesday on the latest draft, partly because minors would also be forced into the extended border procedure. The German government also did not want the Crisis Regulation to apply when migrants are “instrumentalized.”
The German government also did not want the Crisis Regulation to apply in the case of “instrumentalization” of migrants. This refers to situations such as at the external border with Turkey or Belarus. The governments there had made it easier for asylum seekers to continue their journey to the EU from 2020 and encouraged them to cross the border in large numbers.
According to information from “nd”, the version of the Crisis Regulation from Tuesday also contains the passage according to which such a situation can arise if a third country “instigates irregular migration into the Union by encouraging or facilitating, or even forcing the movement of third-country nationals or stateless persons to the external borders”. Explicitly mentioned are “non-state actors” that might “destabilize” a member state.
Individual EU states could also have used this regulation against disagreeable sea rescue organizations. This is because, according to the latest draft, a “crisis situation” should also exist if the alleged “mass influx” occurs after search and rescue operations on the territory of the Member State concerned.
The Crisis Regulation is one of nine new pieces of legislation intended to tighten the EU asylum system as part of a major “reform”. The Commission calls it the “Pact on Migration and Asylum”. Wednesday’s rejection in the Council could now affect the overall package. This is because the EU Parliament only wants to deal with individual laws of the “overall package “Pact” after the Council has formulated its position on all nine individual parts.
MEPs have therefore already suspended negotiations for a new Screening Regulation. According to the draft, protection seekers could be detained at the external borders for up to 15 days so that their identity can be established. In doing so, they would be declared as “not yet entered.”
Parliament is also currently blocking the planned Eurodac Regulation. The database of the same name will store fingerprints and facial images of asylum seekers. According to the new draft, even children as young as six would have to hand over their biometric data.
However, the planned amendment to the Schengen Borders Code poses a greater threat. This new draft is also part of the overall asylum reform. In the event of a “mass influx” of people seeking protection, the EU would be able to close external border crossings and thus completely prevent entry at the borders with Belarus or Turkey, for example.
This would be an absolute novum in the history of the Union. EU interior ministers have already reached agreement on this possibility of sealing off borders. The draft is now also being debated in Parliament – but there is still no word on whether it will be blocked by MEPs.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: Guillaume Duez/ Sea-Eye.