Migration – Towards a Strong, Common EU Asylum Policy
We cannot remain silent to the plight of the refugees on Europe’s doorstep. Their situation is extremely distressed and acute. Have we forgotten, as Jean-Claude Juncker said in his State of the European Union, that only seventy years ago sixty million Europeans were also refugees? The European Union of Christian Democratic Workers (EUCDW) wants a European solution to this European problem, involving all Member States and third countries, in particular the countries from the Western Balkans and Turkey.
Only a common European asylum policy will offer relief. Unfortunately, this insight first occurred when the crisis had started and thousands of refugees were waiting on our doorstep. For over twenty years, the Member States have blocked a decision by majority in the Council. Now, they understand that Europe is not the problem, but part of the solution.
An effective European asylum policy stands or falls with better control and registration at our external borders ,and that requires more European solidarity. In Greece and Italy, the so-called ‘hot-spots’ are already being established in order to support these countries at our external borders to identify, screen and register candidate-asylum seekers. At the European Summit on 23rd September, the Heads of State and Government decided to
speed up this process so that all hotspots are operational by the end of November — the first hotspot became operational on the Italian island of Lampedusa in mid-October. Common registration will play a key role in the protection of open borders within our Schengen-zone and will tackle the inhumane business-model of human traffickers.
Now we need to rapidly move ahead with a common European asylum policy. It is our moral and legal responsibility to offer protection to those people fleeing war and persecution. While some Member States already do a lot, European solidarity is key! The agreement on the emergency relocation of 120.000 asylum seekers, on top of the 40.000 agreed upon earlier, is a concrete first step, but even more important is that the EU has agreed on a permanent mechanism for joint registration.
A sustainable solution requires, however, that we tackle the root causes of the crisis. Years of neglect for the plight of the four million people displaced within Syria and in the refugee camps in Syria’s neighbouring countries has led to this mass movement of migrants. EU Member States cut their contributions by 38% compared to the last year. On 23rd September, the European Council changed course and took unprecedented action to respond to the urgent needs of the refugees in the region with at least an additional 1 billion euro for UNHCR and the World Food Programme, and a substantial increase in funding for the EU’s Regional Trust Funds for the Syrian Crisis and for Africa. Furthermore, the EU is the driving force behind the call for a renewed, UN-led international effort to end these conflicts, to tackle human trafficking and to build secure, peaceful societies on our borders. The EU is doing its best to do this with the help of Turkey, a key strategic partner in the region. But it will be key that we go further than merely ending wars: to stabilise the region in the long term, we need a complete overhaul of the EU Africa, Trade and Climate strategies.
The proposals tabled by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker are concrete and effective. The European Parliament during an emergency session on 17th September already expressed full support for these proposals. We expect the Heads of State and Government to also establish a common list of safe countries (such as Macedonia and Albania), a humane return policy and a permanent, fair and binding relocation mechanism at the next European Council.
Now, Europa has to prove that the values we promote worldwide are also the values we practice at home. The common European asylum policy must be comprehensive, effective and humane. The time for rhetoric lies far behind us. As so often in the history of the European Union, the crisis forms an opportunity. Now is the time for decisive action!