Under the lead of the French Presidency, political agreements were reached and formal adoptions were passed during the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Councils of the 10 June and Coreper meeting of 22 June, on some proposals of the Pact on Migration and Asylum: the Screening procedure, the revised Eurodac database, the Schengen Borders Code, as well as a voluntary solidarity mechanism.
The Screening regulation proposal entails a pre-entry screening, to apply to all third country nationals arriving at the external border without fulfilling the entry conditions, including after disembarkation from a Search and rescue (SAR) operation. Its alleged objective is to steer third country nationals towards the applicable procedure. SOLIDAR has expressed concerns about the non-respect of fundamental rights, and the worrying resort to detention, including of children.
The Eurodac Regulation aims to modernise Eurodac, the biometrics database in which Member States have to enter fingerprints data of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in order to record where they entered the EU, and whether and where they have applied for asylum. The new proposal should enable it to better monitor intra-EU movements of these people.
The ‘’gradual’’ or ‘’step-by-step’’ approach implemented by the French presidency is at play on the linkage between different files: negotiating positions on these two legislative files, in exchange for a declaration committing to the principle of solidarity. A Solidarity Declaration was signed by 18 Member States (+3 associated countries), bringing in practical solidarity with relocation and funding. This voluntary, non-legally binding mechanism aims to support the Member States most affected on the migration routes to the EU. Member States negotiate how many will relocate asylum-applicants – those who are not willing to, will have to support in another way, notably with funding. It is worth noting that on the screening procedure, Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, proposed an amendment to include an independent monitoring mechanisms, that Member States rejected.
On 22 June, EU Member States adopted a negotiating mandate on the Screening and Eurodac regulations, which means the political agreement formally became the official position of the Council of the EU. In terms of pledges, the number is not officially known but according to EUObserver they would be somewhere between 7000 and 8000.
Further readings: we suggest reading ECRE’s editorial for an in-depths analysis of the approach put forward by the French Presidency.
In addition, at the JHA Council on 10 June, Member States agreed on a position on the Schengen Borders Code reform. The original proposal introduces new mechanisms to deal with threats at the external and internal borders, including allowing intra-Schengen transfers of people thought to be undocumented based on assumptions, without an individual assessment, both at the external borders and within Schengen. SOLIDAR is worried the provisions in the proposal may undermine the right to asylum and enable racial or ethnic profiling. Recommended reading: PICUM’s press release on the new Schengen Borders Code and ECRE’s policy note.
Next steps in the legislative realm: the Screening and the Eurodac regulations as well as the revision of the Schengen Borders Code all fall under the ordinary legislative procedure, so the Parliament has a major role to play too. The Council has adopted its position on all three.
All three texts are still in the LIBE Committee (Committe on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) and once the Parliament has adopted its position too, negotiations with the Council can start. For the moment, only a draft report has been presented for the Screening Regulation but has yet to be adopted.
Next steps in the political realm: The Czech Presidency will continue with the part on the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation. For now the Czech Presidency seems focused on managing the refugees flows from Ukraine and has not indicated much willingness to talk about moving on with the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum.
Although SOLIDAR welcomes any step towards a real solidarity mechanism in Europe, we have concerns besides the aforementioned elements concerning the risk of fundamental rights violations. We deplore that the legal binding of the legislative files has not been considered also for the Solidarity Declaration. A voluntary, non-legally binding declaration is simply not enough. The current number of pledges is well below the number that is needed – well under the hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers that arrive in the EU every year. With voluntary adherence to the relocation mechanism and no enforceable quotas, the burden of managing the asylum applications is doomed to remain on borders countries’ shoulders. Along with our S&D partners, we hope the current, overall positive experience of welcoming people fleeing Ukraine can serve as an example that it is possible to manage refugees flows at the EU level in a solidaric way, and provide momentum for moving in the right direction with reforms under the EU Pact.
We regret the absence of an independent monitoring mechanism and remind such a mechanism is crucial to ensure compliance to fundamental rights at the borders, and accountability in case of breaches. It protects first and foremost the people crossing borders, but by providing objective recounts of the human rights situation at borders, it also ultimately benefits Member States institutions and European societies as a whole.
We, as the rest of progressive civil society in Europe, are available to support reaching and input into the Parliament’s negotiating positions on the aforementioned documents, in order for the tripartite negotiations to start. We hope the Czech Presidency will follow up on this political agreement and be willing to translate it into practical action. SOLIDAR will continue to monitor any progress made on these files in the political and legislative realms.
Picture credits: Alexandros Michailidis via Shutterstock