EU dispatch: political accord on Crisis Regulation paves way for a new EU Migration and Asylum Pact Dispatches
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EU dispatch: political accord on Crisis Regulation paves way for a new EU Migration and Asylum Pact

Mykyta Vorobiov is a political science student at Bard College, Berlin. He previously studied at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine, the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, the University of Tartu, and the University of Zagreb. 

The EU Crisis Regulation is sometimes called the key element in finalizing the deal on the highly anticipated Migration and Asylum Pact. Work on the Pact began in 2020; however, an agreement has yet to be reached. The Migration and Asylum Pact includes five subsidiary laws and regulations, among which is the EU Crisis Regulation. The political stance of the member states on the other four laws was finalized in July, and their stance on the Regulation only in October.

European Parliament (EP) President Ursula von der Leyen has called the political agreement “a real game changer that allows us to advance negotiations with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. United, we can deliver on the Pact before the end of this mandate.”

The Migration and Asylum Pact aims to establish a new framework for managing migrants and asylum-seekers. Due to the lengthy and intricate nature of policy-making in the European Union, the process is time-consuming. There are two negotiating groups: one representing the EU Parliament and the other comprising interior ministers from all 27 member countries. Each group must first reach an agreement internally before starting cross-negotiations.

The significance of the EU Crisis Regulation in this process cannot be understated. Although some may not view it as crucial, certain countries regard it as the only means to finalize the larger five-part pact. This Regulation is intended to establish mechanisms for responding to exceptional migration crises, providing a directive for action when the inflow of people becomes too great for the system to handle.

JURIST interviewed Damian Boeselager, a Member of the European Parliament, leader of the Volt party, and the Shadow Rapporteur (key negotiator) for the Greens on this Regulation. In an Instagram post, Damian had highlighted that the Regulation could be disastrous in terms of human rights but also could be key to effectively aiding people. In our conversation, he vividly described the difficulty of the negotiations over it, given that the positions of the European Parliament and the interior ministers are in his words “very far apart.” According to Damian, the drift of numerous EU governments towards right-wing and conservative politics is heavily influencing the negotiations. Interior ministers from some states are seeking to exert more control over migrants through stringent measures like detention camps or forced relocation, rather than focusing on maximizing integration efforts.

Damian contends that these ministers’ preferred method of addressing the crisis is “to quickly apprehend everyone crossing the border illegally and send them straight back from the camp to any other country with which the EU has significant links (such as Tunisia or Turkey), outside the EU.” The goal is to make the EU less appealing as a migration destination to reduce migrant numbers. He believes that a compromised version of the Regulation which may incorporate such measures would be catastrophic and severely complicate the lives of asylum-seekers.

After discussions with City Council officials from Berlin and Athens, Damian warned against this approach. Those officials say that it will not reduce migrant numbers but instead will make individuals reluctant to engage with authorities, increasing the population of undocumented illegal migrants, along with all the attendant problems. Additionally, if the document’s text allows for the detention of these individuals, the risk of human rights abuses, already prevalent in refugee camps, could escalate. “There is no way to solve a crisis by just jailing everyone who crosses the border when there are too many people arriving,” Damian told JURIST.

Damian advocates for maximizing local-level integration. He has successfully incorporated into the EU Parliamentary group’s stance the concept of prima facie recognition (using written applications instead of interviews with asylum-seekers, similar to the method used in Germany during the 2015 migration crisis) and financial support for local authorities, which are significantly affected by migrant integration. Moreover, mandatory relocation and solidarity are essential in ensuring that some countries do not avoid taking in migrants while others are overwhelmed by them. In 2022, 23 EU countries and associated nations agreed to support Member States under pressure by pledging to relocate some asylum seekers and through financial contributions. By early 2023, relocations had successfully moved more than 1,000 asylum seekers from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Spain.

On October 12th, a new round of negotiations between EP representatives and interior ministers on the Crisis Regulation commenced. Negotiations must result in a deal by December in order to allow for a European Parliament vote before April, as that month marks the last plenary session for in the mandate of the current MEPs. “The handshake must be done before Christmas,” it is said, with the entire deal, including the Regulation, to be concluded before new parliamentary elections.

But Damian notes that if an agreement is not reached by then, the Migration and Asylum Pact could still be adopted without the Regulation, albeit in a different form. The same is true for the other four laws in the pact, which are currently undergoing meticulous, word-by-word negotiations. With the positions of the sides being very far apart, the outcome and the final version of the Migration and Asylum Pact remain uncertain, to be unveiled, perhaps, as a surprise under the Christmas tree.