Thomas de Maizière in Sofia: Plea for new approach on asylum policy

Written by on January 26, 2018 in Europe - Comments Off on Thomas de Maizière in Sofia: Plea for new approach on asylum policy

After years of arguments regarding the quota system for the admission of asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries to states within the European Union, there is still a deadlock in the discussion. Europe, and especially its Interior Ministers, are understandably sick of it. At the same time most of them know solutions have to be found.

During the meeting of the EU’s Ministers of the Interior and its Ministers of Justice in Bulgaria, the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said, this was the time for a reformed and just system with a fair burden sharing.

As much as many ministers agreed, they all knew that implementing such a system everyone would agree with is a mission impossible in today’s Europe, in which member states are even being accused of not playing ball in front of the European Court of Justice.

Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière therefore made a suggestion which would bypass the argument at first. In Sofia, he said the allocation of refugees was the toughest subject of them all. For that reason, other aspects of the asylum policy should be agreed to first. Any breakthroughs on that end could lead to agreements in other areas.

The German ministers approach would be to talk about points everyone will agree with and save the bitter pill, the quota, for last.

But there is a long list of unresolved questions, including the kind of relief member states should get which are more involved that others, because of their geographical location. Those countries would include Bulgaria, Greece and Italy.

Another big question is how EU member states could actually be forced to accept their share of refugees. That one is hard to answer, since several EU countries keep on rejecting any quota system in the first place, including Hungary, Czechia and Austria.

The two and a half years since the peak of the refugee crisis have shown that the Dublin Regulation is not working well. This has to do with countries which do not adhere to it, but also with the fact that most asylum seekers who enter Europe want to go to Germany, France and other Western European countries, even if they register in other EU countries, such as Greece or Bulgaria, before they get there.

The regulation says that the first EU country a refugee enters will be responsible for his or her asylum procedure.

In the coming months, a reform of the EU’s asylum policy will be subject of the never ending discussion. The ministers want to have the same kind of asylum procedures in all members states. And those should never take longer than 6 months, some of them said.

It is good to have good ideas. But implementing them in today’s European Union is a tough job. The outcome, if there is one, will not be perfect.

Another never ending discussion was continued as a sideline of the Sofia meeting: Bulgaria’s entry into the Schengen zone. The Austrian Herbert Kickl, who is part of the far-right party FPÖ, said his country acknowledged Bulgaria’s efforts in protecting the outer EU border. But forcing things would not work in this regard, since any decision on Bulgaria and Schengen would be too important and the challenges at hand were too big.

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