The migration crisis is not the EU’s fault, but a failure of national egoisms
An Op-Ed published by EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber in POLITICO on 10 September 2015
Europe faces an unprecedented migratory crisis. People are migrating in their hundreds of thousands, fleeing war zones or searching for better conditions. Conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan or Eritrea show no signs of abating. Putting aside the emotion created by the terrible images that we see in the media, we need to come up with solutions for the long term. While we have to offer protection to those whose lives are really at risk, we also must fight the misuse of our asylum system. And since the migration flows are not only a challenge for individual member states, but for Europe as a whole, our response must be collective.
With the proposals he made this week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has shown that Europe is delivering. In view of the upcoming discussions, the Group of the European People’s Party considers the following points essential.
Firstly, we favour making the “Dublin regulations” more flexible. Today only a few countries carry most of the burden.
This has to change. We need a binding mechanism for the equitable distribution of asylum seekers between EU members, which takes account of a country’s size, its economic situation and the number of migrants already inthe country.
Secondly, we need to fight people-smugglers by all possible means. Every day we see sickening examples of the cynicism of these human traffickers who exploit the despair of fellow human beings. We cannot tolerate this. When boats which traffickers intend to use are discovered, they should be destroyed. All options, including military ones, have to be on the table. The establishment of reception centers in the countries of origin, for example in North or Central Africa, as well as at “hotspots” at the external borders in EU member states, would also help the fight against smugglers. We need to create a humanitarian passage to Europe for those who are persecuted.
If we do not return those ineligible for asylum, we lose public support to help those in direst need.
Thirdly, Europe’s external borders need to be better secured to prevent illegal entry. Schengen is our shared house: Its doors — our external borders — must be open to refugees, but they must also be better guarded. The most urgent task at hand is effective control at the entrance of the free-movement zone, one of the most valuable achievements of the EU. If we want to protect Schengen, we need to ensure that strict rules are applied. All refugees should be efficiently registered when entering European soil. Then the decision must be made swiftly whether asylum is granted or not. If a member state is unable to comply with its responsibilities, the EU should be able to act directly. We have already reinforced the EU’s border management agency Frontex, but we should equip it to do more.
Fourthly, the reality is that two out of every three asylum-seekers in Europe are not granted asylum. They should be returned expeditiously, but in dignity, to their country of origin. In 2013, less than 40 percent of the return decisions were implemented. I strongly believe that European citizens understand that it is Europe’s duty to help those who are persecuted. But if we do not return those ineligible for asylum, we lose public support to help those in direst need. We must convince the countries of origin to accept immediate returns of irregular migrants. If they refuse, Europe should impose stronger measures, including linking the return agreements with EU Development Aid and Trade Policy. The EU cannot finance states which refuse returns. Only with assistance comes engagement.
In the EPP Group, our red lines are two-fold: The first is that Europe must remain a haven for those fleeing war and persecution. We fight the populists and the extreme right who incite fear of refugees and migrants. The second, distinguishing us from the Left, is that we do not believe it possible to keep our doors wide open and welcome everyone when so many Europeans are out of work.
President Juncker has presented an ambitious plan aimed at tackling all the aspects of the migrant crisis. This crisis is not the failure of Europe. It is the failure of national egoisms. Now we call on member states also to deliver.
This opinion piece was published by POLITICO on 15 September 2015