The European Parliament adopts the vast reform of migration policy

“A page of history”: MEPs adopted on Wednesday the vast reform of European migration policy, the result of a difficult compromise on a subject which has fueled tensions and divisions between the 27 for years. During a plenary session briefly interrupted by protests from human rights activists, the ten texts of this “Pact on Migration and Asylum” were approved by the European Parliament meeting in Brussels.

This reform tightens controls on arrivals at the bloc’s borders and sets up a system of solidarity between member states. “We have written a page of history,” rejoiced the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola. “We have been working on this for more than ten years. But we kept our word. A balance between solidarity and responsibility. This is the European way,” she reacted on X.

“Get out of the status quo”

The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz saw this as an “indispensable historic step” which “limits irregular migration and finally relieves the countries which are particularly affected”. “Thank you for having the courage to compromise,” welcomed European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, hailing a “great success”. “It is time to remedy our failing migration policy”, urged before the vote the manager, who presented this proposal for a Migration Pact in September 2020, after the failure of a previous attempt at reform, in the wake of the refugee crisis of 2015-2016.

The three main European political families – EPP (right), Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and Renew Europe – have generally supported this pact, which has aroused opposition from a large part of the far right, but also the Greens, the radical left and some socialists.

French MEP Fabienne Keller (Renew Europe), rapporteur for one of the key regulations, relating to asylum procedures, said she was “proud” of the vote, “which allows Europe to move away from the status quo “what.” Manfred Weber, president of the EPP, the first group in Parliament, also welcomed the result. “We will ensure that the provisions of the pact are properly implemented. It is the states and not the smugglers who will decide who enters the EU,” he commented.

A “border procedure”

The reform, which was the subject of a political agreement in December, will now have to be formally validated by the Member States, probably at the end of the month. The negotiators’ goal is a final adoption before the European elections in June. Alongside this reform, which will only apply in 2026, the EU is increasing agreements with the countries of origin and transit of exiles (Tunisia, Mauritania, Egypt) to try to reduce the number of arrivals to its borders.

The EU is facing a rise in asylum applications, which reached 1.14 million in 2023, their highest level since 2016, according to the European Asylum Agency. “Irregular” entries into the EU are also increasing, to 380,000 in 2023, according to Frontex. The reform puts in place compulsory “filtering” of migrants arriving at EU borders, consisting of registering them in the common Eurodac database.

A “border procedure” is planned for those who are statistically the least likely to obtain asylum: they will be held in centers while their file is examined in an accelerated manner, with the aim of returning those rejected more quickly. . Some 161 human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Rescue Committee, and Oxfam, had called on MEPs to reject the Pact, worrying about “detentions of families with children” and a ” criminalization” of exiles.

“Pact of Shame”

“The pact kills, vote no,” chanted some activists present in the stands at the top of the hemicycle during the voting session. Same grievances on the left of the political spectrum. “It’s a collapse of values,” criticized French elected official Mounir Satouri (Greens). “It is a pact of shame, because it abolishes the individual right to asylum,” denounced German MP Cornelia Ernst (GUE, radical left). The current rule according to which a migrant’s first country of entry into the EU is responsible for their asylum application is maintained with some adjustments. But to help countries where many exiles arrive, such as Italy, Greece or Spain, a compulsory solidarity system is organized.

The other Member States must contribute by taking care of asylum seekers (relocations) or by making a contribution – financial or material – for the benefit of the country under migratory pressure. A way of trying to overcome the opposition of Hungary and Poland to any quota of refugees – even if these two countries remain hostile to the reform. A proposal castigated by the far right. The French MEP Jordan Bardella (Identity and Democracy group), accused the EU of having chosen “the path of weakness and that of the air appeal”.

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