Margaritis Schinas and Ylva Johansson | John Thys/AFP via Getty Images
The interior ministers of Germany, France, Spain and Italy have issued a joint proposal aimed at unlocking an EU-wide compromise on the combustible issue of asylum.
In a letter to the Commission dated April 9 and seen by POLITICO, they argue that a “binding mechanism” to distribute asylum applicants be included in the executive body’s latest plan — the New Pact on Migration and Asylum — for a Continent-wide solution to the problem. But crucially, their proposal says that other EU countries can offer “other measures of solidarity,” meaning that they could help in ways besides actually accepting migrants — although under the proposal this should be the exception.
Diplomats said that the letter — addressed to Margaritis Schinas and and Ylva Johansson, the commissioners in charge of EU migration policy — appeared to be an olive branch to Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary, which have resisted any new rules that would force them to take in refugees arriving on Europe’s southern shores. The joint proposal, from the bloc’s four largest countries, is also an attempt to keep asylum reform on the bloc’s agenda amid the coronavirus pandemic that has complicated the issue still further.
As a result of the crisis, Italy and Malta have already declared their ports unsafe for rescue ships, and many countries in the passport-free Schengen area have restored their internal borders.
Horst Seehofer of Germany, Christophe Castaner of France, Luciana Lamorgese of Italy and Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gómez of Spain wrote that the Commission’s plan “must create a binding mechanism for fair distribution according to specific criteria, in particular when a member state is under disproportionate pressure.”
But they add that “Member States resorting to other measures of solidarity than relocation must remain an exception, only for motivated reason.”
The letter also calls for a “Search and Rescue Solidarity Mechanism” for migrants rescued at sea, which would ensure that countries on the EU’s external borders are not overburdened with asylum claims. It also stresses that mandatory pre–screening of all asylum seekers wishing to enter the EU, including security, health and identity checks “is an essential part of the procedures,” calls for the establishment of “an updated and extended catalogue of clauses for declaring the inadmission of applications,” while stressing that “applicants who are clearly not entitled to protection must not be allowed to remain in the European Union.”
The ministers stress that “preventing secondary movements is still one key problem that needs to be addressed,” referring to the issue of asylum seekers moving, often in an irregular manner, from the country in which they first arrived to seek protection in another EU country.
The Commission has not indicated when the New Pact on Migration and Asylum will be published.