Q&A, Anna Triandafyllidou*
European Union member states should pay into the EU budget or toward development projects in Africa if they refuse to take in refugees. This is according to a document submitted by France and Germany to EU interior ministers in Brussels as seen by Reuters.
Sputnik has discussed the proposal with Anna Triandafyllidou, a professor of global governance at the European University Institute in Florence.
Sputnik: What is your take on France and Germany’s proposal on migration suggesting that EU nations could “pay their way out” of accepting migrants?
Anna Triandafyllidou: I think these two governments which, of course, have an important impact on others are trying to break the deadlock that was created mainly by Central Eastern European states but now increasingly also from Italy with regard how to distribute migrants or asylum seekers once they set their foot on European soil, which can be the soil of any EU member states which is close to the external borders. So, I think this is probably a way forward. This step is taken under the pressure of the upcoming European elections in June 2019 and I think there’s concern that the European Parliament we’re going to get after these elections will be shifted much more towards the far-right.
So it is better to find a good solution, perhaps, not the best solution but a good solution, and a solution that can work rather than go to the next Commission or the next European Parliament with a deadlock. On one hand, you might say that paying your way out of welcoming refugees is in principle wrong, but if, for instance, these countries are made to implement their financial tasks of, for instance, promoting development and direct investment in Africa and/or paying into the EU budget and have been in this way [helping] the countries that are hosting the refugees would be important. Perhaps we would have to see how much they would pay because there have been discussions in the past which were rejected as unrealistic in terms of the financial burden for countries like say, Slovakia, Hungary that are not very rich economically.
Sputnik: What do you make of the mainstream media portrayal of the proposals as softening of the European Union demands, how justified does this wording sound to you?
Anna Triandafyllidou : I wouldn’t say it’s a softening. I would say it’s becoming more pragmatic and it is acting under some pressure, and I would say it’s more realistic. I wouldn’t say it’s a softening. Such ideas of paying your way out of refugee integration have been tabled before, perhaps, now the time has come to take a decision. On the other hand, we shouldn’t ignore something that is of concern to many other countries that are farther North; that there is secondary informal movement, so that’s also another part of the picture.
Of course, the secondary movement is not going to the Baltic States or Slovakia, or to Poland, it is going to, say, the Netherlands or Denmark, or Britain, but I think it’s also important. I don’t know how much people know that Poland, that is so vehemently against migrants and asylum seekers hasn’t received any, they haven’t received any, the same for Slovakia and the same for the Baltic States. We’re talking about maybe a couple of hundred people. It’s what we call Islamophobia without Muslims, migrantphobia without migrants. So that’s why I say the political issue is very important, but maybe it’s important, however, to strike a deal now rather than wait for after the summer.
Sputnik: Another problem is if all countries choose payments over accepting refugees, how likely is that scenario?
Anna Triandafyllidou: I don’t think this is very likely and I don’t think this is also very likely from a political point of view. I think the idea is to neutralise some countries that are being very vocal. They’re being so vocal to gain votes internally, but they are also disrupting EU policies. There I think are to neutralise some countries instead of coming to a deadlock and instead of coming to collision. I think the EU in that sense and the large countries within it are right not to come to a collision because Poland and Hungary, for instance, have provoked and deviated from the Eurozone from other very important issues that concern their own democracy, their own government; the independence of the judiciary, human rights, abortion, issues of women. In Hungary, they’ve attacked the NGO’s, so civil society, they’re all in civil society. So I think for the EU it’s more important to keep them at arms distance and try to influence them positively rather than have a collision and kind of break the communication.
*Professor of global governance at the European University Institute in Florence. The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
France and Germany to EU States: Either Pay or Host Refugees
The European migrant crisis that erupted in 2015 has raised tensions among EU members regarding the asylum system established to deal with the influx of refugees. Amid growing public discontent over Brussels’ migrant policy, which is based on the idea of “burden sharing”, many EU states have started conducting more national-oriented plans.
Those European Union member states that refuse to take in refugees should have an opportunity to apply “alternative measures of solidarity” by either paying into the EU budget or toward development projects in Africa, a document submitted by France and Germany to EU interior ministers in Brussels reads, according to Reuters.
In a bid to put an end to intra-EU clashes over migration, Berlin and Paris proposed on Thursday an amended version of a migration management mechanism, which deals which some migrant related issues.
The document seen by Reuters, suggests a new formula for EU states’ responsibility to host refugees, according to which initial host countries would bear the responsibility for migrants, who entered the EU through their borders for about eight years.
The Franco-German initiative also proposes elaborating specific rules on how to deal with migrants, who arrived in the EU after being rescued at sea.
The “alternative measures of solidarity” that could be imposed upon member states in the event they refuse to provide asylum seek to end the divisions between the West and East in the bloc as the former have been willing to take in refugees while the latter have rejected giving shelter to migrants.
The document also warns that the EU would need to create a mechanism to avoid a situation, when all European Union states prefer to pay instead of taking in refugees. No specific details regarding such a mechanism have been provided.
In 2015-2016 the EU experienced a huge influx of migrants and refugees. In 2015 more than one million migrants arrived in Europe, of which 250, 000 people came by sea. The main migrant entry-points into the EU were in southern and eastern EU member states, such as Italy, Greece, Spain, etc.
EU authorities, in an attempt to deal with the burden the migration caused, established a quota system, according to which all EU states have to share responsibility for hosting migrants. While the bloc’s western states, such as Germany, were willing to give shelter to refugees, eastern countries, such as Hungary and Poland strongly opposed the decision.
The UN is set to hold a conference on migrants on 10-11 December 2018, where the participant states are expected to sign The UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The Compact has caused a controversy among EU states, leading some of them to reject it.
So far the US, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Lithuania have rejected the UN Compact. In November Italian Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini announced that Italy would not take part in the upcoming conference, however, noting that “the floor of parliament must debate it. The Italian government will allow parliament to decide”.