The European Commission today issued a Communication on Migration (COM(2011) 248 final) in response to the ongoing arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers in Italy and Malta and in response to the calls by Italy and France for changes in the implementation or interpretation of the Schengen Agreement.
France has welcomed the Commission’s Communication: “We note with interest that the Commission is considering establishing a mechanism for the temporary reintroduction of controls on some sections of internal borders in cases of difficulties or failures of a Member State. We also welcome the emphasis on strengthening the operational capacity of Frontex, the prospect of ultimately creating a European border guard that France has repeatedly called for. Finally, we welcome with satisfaction the intention of the Commission to propose a suspension clause of the liberalization of visa abuse.” (“Nous relevons ainsi avec intérêt que la Commission envisage l’établissement d’un mécanisme permettant la réintroduction temporaire des contrôles à certaines sections des frontières intérieures en cas de difficultés ou de défaillances d’un État membre. Nous nous félicitons aussi de l’accent mis sur le renforcement des capacités opérationnelles de FRONTEX, avec la perspective de créer à terme un système européen de garde-frontières que la France a régulièrement appelé de ses vœux. Nous accueillons enfin avec satisfaction l’intention de la Commission de proposer une clause de suspension de la libéralisation des visas en cas d’abus.”)
Excerpts from the Commission’s Communication on Migration:
The purpose of this Communication is to set recent and future policy proposals in a framework that takes account of all relevant aspects and allows the EU and its Member States to manage asylum, migration and mobility of third-country nationals in a secure environment.
The continuously evolving situation in our Southern Neighbourhood requires rapid responses. Building upon the European Council Conclusions of 11 and 25 March, the European Parliament’s Resolution of 5 April1, and, the joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative of 8 March, the Commission will present on 24 May a package of proposals to ensure a coherent EU approach in the area of migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean countries.
However, the need to address this challenging and evolving situation should not lead to a short-term approach limited to border control without taking account of long-term issues.
The EU should also ensure that it has in place safe and efficient asylum procedures for people in need of protection. Sixty years after the signature of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, it is time for the EU to reaffirm its commitment to offer protection to any persecuted third country national or stateless person arriving on its territory. A Common European Asylum System, offering a high level of protection and reducing the disparities among Member States’ asylum systems, must be completed by 2012, as agreed by the European Council.
At the same time, as recent events have starkly illustrated, the EU continues to face serious challenges in the development of its migration policy. The vulnerability of some sections of the EU’s external borders is a clear example, notably in the Southern Mediterranean and at the land border between Greece and Turkey. In particular, measures must be taken to prevent large numbers of irregular migrants, often exploited by unscrupulous criminal networks, from arriving in the EU. The EU should accordingly pursue a migration policy based on ensuring that inward migration is effectively managed and ensure that the need for enhanced mobility does not undermine the security of the Union’s external borders. While this Communication naturally focuses on regions of most immediate concern, the EU’s migration policy follows a geographically comprehensive approach.
However, while the current crisis confirms the need for increased solidarity at the European level and better sharing of responsibility, it must be recognised that the EU is not fully equipped to help those Member States most exposed to massive migratory movements.
Building on the experience gained so far with the current pilot project on relocation from Malta, the Commission will support an extension of this project in view of the current influx of migrants seeking international protection there, to be implemented in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration.
However, the currently available instruments fall short of fulfilling all the needs and providing a comprehensive response. They can only be resorted to in an ad hoc manner, and are entirely dependent on the will of Member States to voluntarily offer assistance – in whatever form – at a given point in time. This in turn exposes the EU to criticism and risks undermining the trust of the citizens in the EU.
The Commission will closely monitor the continuously evolving situation and may decide, if the relevant conditions are met, to trigger the Temporary Protection Directive3 to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from third countries that are unable to return to their country of origin.
The Commission will make further proposals during 2011 on delivering solidarity in a holistic manner and how concretely such assistance can be delivered. A number of different approaches are currently being studied, with a view to developing alternatives that will allow urgent needs to be responded to in a more rapid and structured fashion. This initiative will build on the appropriate legal basis of the Lisbon Treaty, such as Articles 80 and 78 paragraph 3, and will draw lessons from the situation in Greece, particularly at the land border between Greece and Turkey, and the crisis in the Southern Mediterranean; it will include possible ad hoc measures to be resorted to in case of particular temporary pressure on one or several Member States, as well as more structural means of ensuring solidarity, both financial and in the form of practical cooperation and technical assistance (e.g. via FRONTEX, EASO, joint operations).
FRONTEX’s role is key in channelling resources to places where the border is under pressure, as shown by the deployment – for the first time ever – of rapid border intervention teams to the Greek-Turkish land border in 2010 and the deployment of the joint naval operation HERMES to support Italy in 2011. FRONTEX’s legal framework needs be updated to allow it to be more effective in terms of its operational capacity to act at the external border. The Commission proposed the necessary changes in February last year5 and it is now urgent, especially in the light of recent events, that the Council and the Parliament approve this proposal before the end of this semester, as called for by the European Council.
[A] clear system for Schengen governance is needed. Currently the Union still relies on an intergovernmental system of peer reviews to ensure the application of the common rules. The current revision of the Schengen evaluation mechanism should be based on a Community approach with participation of experts from Member States, FRONTEX and lead by the Commission. The proposed mechanism would ensure more transparency and improve the follow-up of shortcomings identified during the experts’ evaluations. The Commission will also issue guidelines to ensure a coherent implementation and interpretation of the Schengen rules.
A mechanism must also be put in place to allow the Union to handle situations where either a Member State is not fulfilling its obligations to control its section of the external border, or where a particular portion of the external border comes under unexpected and heavy pressure due to external events. A coordinated Community-based response by the Union in critical situations would undoubtedly increase trust among Member States. It would also reduce recourse to unilateral initiatives by Member States to temporarily reintroduce internal border controls or to intensify police checks in internal border regions which inevitably slow down the crossing of internal borders for everyone. Such a mechanism may therefore need to be introduced, allowing for a decision at the European level defining which Member States would exceptionally reintroduce internal border control and for how long. The mechanism should be used as a last resort in truly critical situations, until other (emergency) measures have been taken to stabilise the situation at the relevant external border section either at European level, in a spirit of solidarity, and/or at national level, to better comply with the common rules. The Commission is exploring the feasibility of introducing such a mechanism, and may present a proposal to this effect shortly.
One of the main purposes of the Common European Asylum System is to reduce the wide divergence in the outcome of asylum applications lodged in different countries of the EU, and to ensure a common set of procedural and substantive rights which can be relied on across the Union, while ensuring full compliance with the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees and other relevant international obligations.
In 2010, there were some 257 800 asylum seekers registered in the EU, or 515 applicants per million inhabitants. Ten Member States accounted for more than 90% of applicants registered in the EU17.
It is time to complete the Common European Asylum System by reaching agreement on a balanced package by the 2012 deadline agreed by the European Council in December 2009. To that end, the Commission will shortly put forward modified proposals on the Reception Conditions and the Asylum Procedures Directives. A balanced agreement on the revision of the Dublin Regulation must be reached, including on a last resort emergency mechanism in case of exceptional pressures, and on the revised Eurodac system.
Click here for the Communication – COM(2011) 248 final.
Click here for Commission Press Statement and here for Commission FAQs.
Click here for French Government’s Point de Presse.