EU’s Juncker Announces Refugee Quota PlanSeptember 14, 2015 in European Union
European Union (EU) Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced last week plans, which he says will offer a “swift, determined and comprehensive” response to Europe’s migrant crisis.
Speaking to the European Parliament, Mr Juncker set out the plans in a “state of the union” annual address, in which he outlined the priorities of the European Commission. Under the proposals:
- EU member states to accept their share of an additional 120,000 refugees, building upon proposed quotas to relocate 40,000 refugees, which were set out in May (however governments then only actually agreed to take 32,000)
- A permanent relocation system aimed to “deal with crisis situations more swiftly in the future”
- Commission to propose list of “safe countries” to which migrants would generally have to return
- Efforts aimed at strengthening the EU’s commons asylum system
- A review of the Dublin System, which states that people must claim asylum in the state where they first enter the EU
- Better management of external borders and better legal channels for migration
Under the new plans, 60% of those currently in Italy, Greece and Hungary would be relocated to German, France and Spain. The numbers allocated to each country would depend on GDP, population, unemployment rate and asylum applications that have already been processed. Countries that refuse to take in migrants could face financial penalties.
While Spain has already indicated that it will accept a quota of almost 15,000 additional migrants set by the EU, Mr Juncker’s proposals have been criticized by both Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has stated that the compulsory quotas were “not a good solution,” while his Slovakian counterparty has called them “irrational.” Poland and Romania have also opposed the idea, however Poland has agreed to take in more migrants. France has already welcomed the first of 1,000 migrants that it has pledged to take from Germany and it has committed to receive 24,000 migrants over two years. Waving EU rules, Germany has welcomed Syrian migrants, and has indicated that it expects to deal with 800,000 asylum seekers this year alone, warning however that not all will quality as refugees and some will be sent back. Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that Germany needed to learn from its mistakes in labelling incomers in the post-war period as “Gastarbeiter” or “guest workers,” with the implication that they were not permanent residents, adding that many of the refugees it expects in future “will become new citizens of our country.”
In a separate development, Australia has announced plans to take in 12,000 Syrian refugees.
The mass migration has seen those seeking an end to persecution, conflict and hardship travel from Turkey across the sea to Greece, through Macedonia and Serbia, then to Hungary, where from there they aim to reach Austria, Germany and Sweden. This mass migration however has forced some countries to close their borders in a bid to keep migrants out or force them to travel through other countries to reach their final destinations. On 9 September, Denmark suspended all rail links with Germany and closed a section of motorway after migrants cross the border and began walking north, apparently trying to reach Sweden. Meanwhile in southern Hungary, migrants on the border with Serbia broke through police lines at the Roszke camp, which forced authorities to close the M5 highway.
The next steps for EU leaders will include:
14 September – Special meeting of EU interior ministers on refugees crisis, with Mr Juncker’s proposals on the agenda
15 – 16 October – EU leaders’ summit, with refugee crisis high on the agenda. The European Parliament will then decide on any new asylum measures with EU governments
Early 2016 – EU proposals for better management of legal migration to EU are due.