At some point the voters will no longer believe the constant promise of a “European solution” to the migration issue. At some point the problem will be solved in the classic manner, namely with national border protection. And then the open Schengen Europe is only half a page in the history book.
At their Council in Brussels, the EU interior ministers negotiated the limitation of migration, it was about one of the central pillars of the planned EU asylum system: the distribution of many migrants from the countries of arrival in the south of the community to as many other member countries as possible. All attempts to set up a distribution system – and with it a new EU asylum system – have failed due to the lack of willingness to accept such refugees.
In the past, attempts at distribution by the EU Commission and the states willing to take it in had always failed. In 2016, the EU Commission presented a reform proposal according to which states should pay 250,000 euros for each asylum seeker not admitted to the EU member state, which accommodates them instead. This “fairness mechanism” was intended to ensure that the burden on the main countries of arrival would not be too great.
In the current attempt to find a migration agreement, the Commission is now proceeding very cleverly and cautiously and is only putting 22,000 euros on the price tag. If the distribution opponents in Eastern Europe do not take action now, which is already becoming apparent, then that was probably the end of the “European solution”.
The current negotiations on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which should be completed by next February, are now entering a crucial phase in which there is a risk of failure again. Because, knowing how explosive the question of distribution is, the EU negotiators remained adamantly silent for a long time about the extent to which the unwilling countries should share in the costs: those who do not want to accept must provide compensation in kind or in cash.
It has now become known that according to the ideas of the EU Commission, this compensation should be around 22,000 euros per refugee who is not admitted. First, the EU political portal Euractiv reported about it, as well as Polish and Italian media. The Commission does not deny this figure of 22,000 euros when asked, but it cannot be confirmed either because the content of the negotiations between the EU institutions and the member states is not public.
However, a spokesman confirmed that in the preparatory meetings for the Council of Home Ministers on migration to the EU Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States, the Commission had emphasized its position on the distribution. “Solidarity must be guaranteed. That is why the Commission advocates a system of mandatory solidarity.” This can be done by taking in redistributed migrants, by providing “operative support” to the overburdened states, or by making monetary payments.
The first harbinger that the current attempt at the GEAS reform, which has been announced for many years, could end in failure because the distribution is ultimately not accepted is Poland’s reaction to the 22,000 euro proposal. The EU ambassador of the Eastern European country involved in the negotiations, Andrzej Sadoś, told the Polish state news agency PAP that Warsaw would not agree to either a mandatory distribution or a mandatory financial contribution. He rejects a “punishment” for refusing to take in refugees who are intended for distribution.
While Poland and other countries that are not willing to take it up consider compensation payments of the order of EUR 22,000 targeted by the EU Commission to be excessive, those in favor of the distribution, i.e. above all the Mediterranean countries, may consider this order of magnitude to be too low. Because they fear that many states will ultimately evade acceptance by providing financial support and that they themselves will continue to be responsible for a large number of migrants.
The new development of the reform has also met with criticism in the German parliament. The domestic policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group said: “22,000 euros is a real bargain price. That corresponds to social benefits in Germany in about one to two years.” A mandatory mechanism with a certain basic distribution of refugees is needed at EU level. “No country should be allowed to buy itself completely free. Because the refugee from whom an EU country buys its freedom must be taken in by another country.”
If the distribution opponents in Eastern Europe do not take action now, which is already becoming apparent, then that was probably the end of the “European solution”. The critics of a new, restrictive asylum policy also see this “re-nationalization” as a major threat to the European idea. Politicians like the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock are now backing the EU Commission’s reform plan, according to which those seeking protection with little chance of recognition are to go through their procedures in centers on the EU’s external borders. According to the German politician, the Commission’s proposal is the only chance of achieving an “orderly and humane distribution procedure” in the foreseeable future. If this does not succeed, “one EU country after the other” will upgrade the borders. However, the plan will only work if a relevant number of those rejected in the centers are also deported and if the arrivals with a high chance of protection are distributed among many countries.
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