The 13th of May the European Commission presented its new European Agenda on Migration as expected since April (see an earlier post on this Blog). The new agenda has been discussed by the MEP’s at the European Parliament Plenary Debate on the 20th of May 2015. During the debate, a number of measures, as the resettlement scheme and an emergency mechanism for relocating migrants were presented by the Commission Vice President, Frans Timmermans and the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos. Avramopoulos in his closing statement expressed that “no member states can address the challenges alone”. The European Commission has also released a video of Juncker, President of the European Commission, describing the importance and details of the new European Agenda on Migration.
The new agenda is finally set and it is clear that it will require a great cooperation between all the European Member States to face the issue of migration. One of the big concerns regarding the mass influx of migrants in Italy has been the closure of Mare Nostrum. There have been speculations that the new Operation Triton has increased the number of deaths in the last few months, due to the poor standards of its vessels and to the lack of money and personnel. The latter operation was closed due to the great costs for the Italian Government which has successfully forced the EU to find a Union-wide solution. The tragedies in the Mediterranean were undoubtedly a result of the lack of cooperation between the Member States as well as between Italy and Frontex regarding resources and financing.
The new European Agenda on Migration
The new agenda is the EU’s response to the concerns regarding the migrants deaths at sea and the mass influx. The Commission has presented concrete and immediate actions which hopefully will be taken as soon as the European Parliament and the Council have approved the Commission’s proposal. The new agenda is build on four pillars: 1) reducing the incentives for irregular migration; 2) saving lives and securing the external borders; 3) a strong common asylum policy; 4) a new policy on legal migration.
The first step is to reinforce operation Triton and Poseidon. Triton had been criticized before and is still unclear if the standard of the vessels will be improved, but the Commission has promised € 50 million to finance that refugees are brought to the EU territory safely and legally. Regarding the lack of cooperation between Member States and the failure of securing the safety of migrants at sea and the mass influx, the EU will support the frontline Member States with additional € 60 million emergency funding to enforce solidarity. The emergency mechanism aims to trigger a relocation of refugees when a Member State is under pressure.
Further, the Commission will establish a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operation in the Mediterranean pursuing the aim to dismantle traffickers’ networks and to fight smuggling of people, in accordance with international law. The agenda is not only an emergency solution, it is expected to lead the EU forward for 5-10 years. The strategy for the migration issue will not be to open or close borders, but rather to mobilize resources and ensure migration in a better and more safe manner.
Is the solution that will prevent thousands of refugees of drowning in the Mediterranean finally here?
Many refugees crossing the Mediterranean arriving to Europe are in need of urgent medical care. As mentioned before, the EU is planning to support the frontline Member States with additional € 60 million in emergency funding. This also includes the ‘support to reception and healthcare system of Member States under particular pressure’, however the commission does not elaborate the healthcare system in detail. The Policy Manager for Health System of The European Public Health Alliance, Sascha Marschang says that ‘The European Migration Agenda misses the mark by omitting health’ and one can assume that refugees urgent health attention is overlooked in the European Agenda on Migration.
The Commission have proposed an EU-wide resettlement scheme to offer 20.000 refugees a place in one of the Member States. The distribution of refugees will depend on the GDP, size of population, unemployment rate and past numbers of asylum seekers and numbers of resettled refugees and efforts made voluntarily by Member States. Some Member States, such as the UK, have shown their unwillingness to receive more refugees and opposed the new resettlement plan, while other Member States have shown their willingness. As mentioned before, the new European Agenda on Migration requires a great cooperation between all Member States, but the unwillingness to receive more refugees by some Member States might disrupt the expected level of cooperation that is required to reach the aim of the new agenda.
The agenda is still only a proposal from the Commission and still needs to be debated and approved by the European Parliament and the Council. The success of this agenda is therefore to be doubted since some Member States already have expressed their unwillingness to participate. British Member of the European Parliament, Timothy Kirkhope, criticised the plans to redistribute asylum seekers in Europe at the European Parliament Plenary Debate: “We have a moral duty to assist one another, but true solidarity is offering assistance because it is the right thing to do, not because we have been compelled”. Further, the mechanism for the relocation and resettlement of migrants comes across a very complex system regarding the calculation of the number of migrants a Member State shall receive. It would be unfortunate if a country as Sweden, would not receive as many as it is willing to, due to the application of a new calculative system.
The Commission, when it released its plans on a Common European Migration Policy, claimed that solidarity shall not only be a slogan. However, considering the measures and actions the Commission is going to take, and considering the delicate political situation in Europe, it seems a slogan only – more than ever before.
by Kristé Zvinklyte, Stephanie Winkler, Mathias Davatz