terça-feira, 23 de fevereiro de 2016
Last-gasp push to save EU migration policy / Austrian leader says Germany will copy its refugee policy
Last-gasp push to save EU migration policy
As others imitate Austria’s moves to limit migration, Brussels insiders want to revive pan-European approach.
By JACOPO BARIGAZZI 2/24/16, 5:30 AM CET Updated 2/24/16, 7:29 AM CET
A group of senior EU officials in Brussels is looking to save and give new impetus to a flagging pan-European approach to migration.
The push from Brussels comes as Austria and a handful of other EU states adopt unilateral national solutions to stop the flow of refugees, undermining the efforts by the European Commission — strongly backed by Germany — to fashion and implement a common policy across the 28 member nations to alleviate the crisis.
While EU interior ministers meet Thursday in Brussels to improve the implementation of an existing policy that’s widely considered a failure, leading EU officials, including the presidents of the European Commission and Parliament and leaders of the Parliament’s two main political groups, who make up the so-called G5 group, will gather Monday to discuss alternatives.
The proponents of a common approach are seeking to prevent countries from retreating behind reinstated borders and to step up pressure on them to honor commitments made last year, including to relocate refugees that are already in Greece and Italy to other countries in the EU and to keep borders open for new asylum-seeker arrivals.
In an interview Tuesday on POLITICO’s German-language In the Loop podcast, Manfred Weber, chairman of the center-right European People’s Party group in the European Parliament and member of the G5, said the EU needed to strengthen its efforts on several fronts — from humanitarian aid to border control.
“We need first an approach to help people in need,” Weber said. “Then a burden-sharing mechanism in the EU. We need to invest, thirdly, more resources in the regions, need to step up development aid.”
He also said that “if a country is unable to protect the external borders, [EU border agency] Frontex has to have the right to do border checks and to secure European external borders.”
Weber added: “We have agreed with the presidency, the Netherlands, that we want to conclude the legislative process [on the proposals already on the table] by the end of the presidency, by the summer, that is.”
The G5 is an informal group that meets regularly over dinner to coordinate policy. It includes European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Vice President Frans Timmermans, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, and leaders of the Parliament’s two main political groups, Weber of the center-right European People’s Party and Gianni Pittella of the center-left Socialist and Democrats.
In two weeks’ time EU leaders are planning to gather again for a summit with Turkey, which is seen as a crucial partner in the strategy.
The form and substance of the renewed push remains unclear but the move by top EU political leaders suggests they could be gearing up for another coordinated attempt to fix the failed policy. European leaders are planning to gather again for a summit on March 6 with Turkey, which is seen as a crucial partner in the strategy.
The EU’s migration strategy, already in disarray as thousands of refugees continued to arrive and several European countries began to erect frontier fences, suffered a new blow at last week’s European Council summit when Austria introduced a cap on asylum applications, saying it will only process 80 a day and allow no more than 3,200 migrants to transit the country a day.
That provoked a harsh reaction from EU leaders and officials, who feared that Vienna’s decision would encourage other countries to take unilateral decisions to cope with the refugee influx.
That has turned out to be the case in the days since the summit, provoking a tersely worded statement Tuesday from EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Dutch migration minister Klaas Dijkhoff calling for a “European approach” to the problem.
Greece in the cold
The Commission was already upset that Austria did not inform it of the decision to impose a cap, according to an EU official. It was further angered when Austria decided to organize a meeting Wednesday in Vienna of countries on the Western Balkan route, but invited neither the Commission nor Greece, triggering a fierce reaction from Athens.
French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras meet on the second day of the European Summit
The Austrian ambassador to Greece was summoned on Tuesday to the foreign ministry to receive a complaint, according to the Greek newspaper Kathimerini. And a Commission spokeswoman said “we are concerned that some member states are acting outside the agreed framework.”
Earlier this week, Slovenia, a Schengen country, said it will beef up controls on its border with Croatia. Further to the south, Serbia and Macedonia were both looking at curbing the flow of refugees from Greece, essentially moving to close that border entirely, which would leave hundreds of migrants stranded on the Greek side.
On Tuesday, the Belgian government notified the European Union of the temporary suspension of the Schengen agreement on free movement, deploying up to 290 police officer to the French border to prevent migrants from the Calais camp known as the “Jungle” from crossing into Belgium.
The move came as France awaits a court ruling that could order French authorities to break up camps and settlements of migrants near Calais.
“This might include the possibility of using violence against refugees” — Alexandra Stiglmayer, European Stability Initiative.
Belgium is the seventh country to request the temporary suspension of Schengen rules over the past few months. The others include Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden and Norway, which is a member of Schengen but not the EU.
The Austrian decision and the bottlenecks it has triggered all along the migration route highlights what increasingly seems to be the fate of Greece: to become a huge refugee camp.
“This is the worst possible strategy because it leaves Greece out in the cold and because it’s very difficult to implement it,” argued Alexandra Stiglmayer, senior policy analyst at the European Stability Initiative, a think tank. “Fences are not enough,” she warned. Police would also be needed, “and this might include the possibility of using violence against refugees.”
The prospect of Greece being both the beginning and the end of the line for refugees trying to get to northern Europe is one of the reasons why at the last summit, EU leaders welcomed the Commission’s intention to “make concrete proposals as soon as possible” to provide humanitarian assistance “to support countries facing large numbers of refugees and migrants.”
Almost 50 EU officials are working in Greece to figure out how to provide help.
Meanwhile the refugees continue to arrive in huge numbers. Greece alone has received some 102,547 arrivals since the beginning of the year, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday.
By comparison, in 2015, it took until June for arrivals to surpass 100,000, the organization said.
Florian Eder contributed to this article.
Austrian leader says Germany will copy its refugee policy
By CYNTHIA KROET 2/17/16, 3:23 PM CET Updated 2/17/16, 3:45 PM CET
Germany will soon be forced to follow Austria’s lead and crack down on migration, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said Tuesday.
In an interview with the newspaper Kurier, Faymann said that governments “must take decisions based on reality” and “be able to justify decisions in their own country.”
“That is what we did and I think that is a step that Germany will also take. I personally believe that we will be in harmony again soon,” he said.
On Tuesday the Austrian government announced that it will tighten border controls at crossings in the south of the country, along the frontier with Italy, Slovenia and Hungary, to slow down the influx of migrants.
Faymann also said he wants Turkey to take tougher action against people smugglers.
Migrants line up at a transit area between Slovenia and Austria
“That will be a clear signal that it’s no use getting on a boat, because you will be sent back anyway.”
In January, the Austrian government agreed on to cap the number of migrants allowed to enter the country in the next four years as a way of managing the influx.
Austria will accept 37,500 asylum claims in 2016, and a total of 127,500 through 2019. In 2015, the country received 90,000 asylum applications.