quinta-feira, 18 de fevereiro de 2016
5 biggest migration headaches
5 biggest migration headaches
EU leaders are determined to show progress on refugees, but old problems persist and new ones keep arising.
By JACOPO BARIGAZZI 2/18/16, 5:30 AM CET
After seven summits devoted to the issue in less than a year, expectations are low that EU leaders will work any miracles this week on a migration crisis that has tested European values, shaken alliances, erected razor-wire fences and reinstated border controls in the passport-free Schengen zone.
The stakes are high, and getting higher, with leaders again warning that the European project is at risk of collapse. Problems that have plagued the EU’s migration strategy from the beginning — notably, reluctance to accept refugee quotas — refuse to go away. Others have arisen, including concerns that Greece’s inability to control its borders will mean the end of Schengen.
But EU leaders are determined to show that progress is being made. The buzzword is “implementation” — getting countries to deliver on what they have reluctantly promised.
Here are five of the hottest migration issues on the summit agenda:
The EU invested a lot of political and financial capital to enable Turkey to stem the flow of refugees to Europe. Its cooperation is key, but the return on the investment so far has been poor.
The European Commission says the number of people entering the EU illegally has been in steady decline since October, although more than expected are still crossing the Mediterranean from Turkey to the Greek islands despite harsh winter weather. There is a contentious proposal that Syrian refugees could be sent back from Greece to Turkey to have their asylum claims processed. Turkey’s ambassador to the EU, Selim Yenel, called the idea “dangerous.”
While progress on hotspots is slow, the relocation scheme has not even got off the ground.
“This destroys the readmission agreement, the understanding behind it and it would jeopardise the action plan,” Yenel said, referring to the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement that the Commission is pushing Ankara to implement, starting in June.
Talks with Turkey were dealt a blow Wednesday evening when Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu cancelled a trip to Brussels for migration talks after a deadly car bomb attack in Ankara.
Primer minister of Poland, Beata Szydło; PM of Hungary, Viktor Orbán; PM of the Czech Republic, Bohuslav Sobotka; and PM of Slovakia, Robert Fico, prior to the V4 summit
The Council last week introduced a procedure allowing countries that have reintroduced internal border controls to extend them for up to two years. Germany and Austria, which resumed border checks in September, will be the first up for extensions if the flow continues northward from Greece along the Western Balkan route.
The Council came up with 50 recommendations to help Athens manage its borders. Greece was given a month to form an action plan and three months to implement it. Officials insist the tight deadlines are not intended to punish Greece, but to allow countries to extend border controls if the situation has not improved.
Hotspots and relocation
Greece is trying. Government officials have come to Brussels with “four-and-a-half hotspots [out of five] fully operational,” according to Nikos Xydakis, the Greek minister for European affairs. The hotspot on the island of Kos still needs a few weeks before completion, he added, due to local opposition. In Italy, only two out of six are up and running, the Commission said last week, criticising Rome for its slow progress. So far Lampedusa and Pozzallo are functional, and Taranto “will be open February 28,” said Mario Morcone, head of the migration department at the interior ministry. Italy and Greece were expected to have 11 functioning hotspots in November.
“The fear many people have in Turkey is that Europe will choose the best and brightest and leave the rest to us” — Selim Yenel, Turkey’s ambassador to the EU.
While progress on hotspots is slow, the relocation scheme has not even got off the ground. Out of 160,000 people to be relocated, only 497 refugees have moved from Italy and Greece to host countries around the EU.
EU coast guard
Two days before the last EU summit in December the Commission put forward a proposal to set up a European border and coast guard body. EU leaders agreed, in principle, though not all saw a need for a multinational naval force. Spaniards said they are quite satisfied with their own navy, and Greeks raised sovereignty concerns about a clause allowing the Commission to send in border guards even if a country objects.
The deadline is July and there are urgent calls for work on the agreement to be accelerated. Home affairs and justice ministers have been meeting once a month and diplomats say that, with some changes, a deal could be struck by the summer. However, it will take time for the coast guard to be fully operational, diplomats say.
Dutch Labour Party leader Diederik Samsom proposed that refugees could be sent to Turkey while they wait for the application process. He also proposed a resettlement of 250,000 refugees from Turkey to EU countries willing to accept them. Turkey opposes the idea of taking back refugees. Ankara also complains about the slow pace of resettlement. “The fear many people have in Turkey is that Europe will choose the best and brightest and leave the rest to us,” said Selim Yenel, Turkey’s ambassador to the EU.