Last week saw a number of developments in the migration crisis management at the EU level. First, on Monday 5 October, Brussels hosted Recep Tayyp Erdogan, president of Turkey. During the visit, the EU leaders presented a draft EU-Turkey action plan to tackle the migration crisis together – a draft that Erdogan accepted in principle. Over the next couple of weeks, details of the deal will be hammered out. The point of the plan is for Turkey to step up its efforts in accommodating, registering and processing asylum seekers, as well as strengthening its Coast Guard and border controls. The EU, on its part, plans to mobilize further €1 billion to support Turkey in tackling the migration crisis (over 2 million asylum seekers live in Turkey) and cooperate on border management, as well as on asylum processing, relocation and returns schemes. Although the draft plan was a good point of depart for technical discussions, Turkish officials pointed out that the €1 billion pledged is nowhere near what Turkey would need.
On Thursday 8 October, EU interior ministers met to hold a Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg. They held a follow-up discussion on the agreed relocation schemes, taking note of the fact, that first asylum-seekers were relocated from Italy to Sweden last week under the first voluntary scheme. The main point of discussion, however, was border management. It is largely agreed that border management is crucial to tackling this and eventual future crises. The ministers therefore discussed the possibility of creating a shared EU-wide border management agency – a strengthened Frontex of some sort. Although border control is tightly connected to what some see as state sovereignty, the predominant view has been that crises such as the present one must be tackled together. The ministers also discussed measures for effective return policy. According to Council sources, up to ten flights under the return policy will be made in October alone. The possibility to link development assistance to migration was also made – countries accepting development assistance would be eligible for a bonus if they showed commitment to stopping irregular migration to Europe (so-called more-for-more principle).
Later that same day, on 8 October in Luxembourg, EU interior ministers held a high-level conference with their colleagues from neighboring countries to discuss the migration crisis in a new, enlarged format. Ministers from Syria´s neighbors and from the Balkans transit countries joined their EU peers. The result was a declaration, promising a set of actions as part of a comprehensive approach – from orderly accommodation of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, through border management cooperation, fight against smuggling and support for transit countries, all the way to launching a renewed diplomatic effort to end the Syrian conflict. On the sidelines of the conference, the V4 countries agreed to help Hungary protect its Southern border. Migration flows are becoming unsustainable even for Germany, which toughened its asylum laws last week.
20th February 2019
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