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A fresh start on migration: Building confidence and striking a new balance between responsibility and solidarity

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Today (23 September), the European Commission is proposing a new Pact on Migration and Asylum, covering all of the different elements needed for a comprehensive European approach to migration. It sets out improved and faster procedures throughout the asylum and migration system. And it sets in balance the principles of fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity.

This is crucial for rebuilding trust between member states and confidence in the capacity of the European Union to manage migration. Migration is a complex issue, with many facets that need to be weighed together. The safety of people who seek international protection or a better life, the concerns of countries at the EU's external borders, which worry that migratory pressures will exceed their capacities and which need solidarity from others.

Or the concerns of other EU member states, which are concerned that, if procedures are not respected at the external borders, their own national systems for asylum, integration or return will not be able to cope in the event of large flows. The current system no longer works. And for the past five years, the EU has not been able to fix it. The EU must overcome the current stalemate and rise up to the task. With the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, the Commission proposes common European solutions to a European challenge.

The EU must move away from ad-hoc solutions and put in place a predictable and reliable migration management system. Following extensive consultations and an honest and holistic assessment of the situation, the Commission proposes to improve the overall system. This includes looking at ways of improving cooperation with the countries of origin and transit, ensuring effective procedures, successful integration of refugees and return of those with no right to stay.

No single solution on migration can satisfy all sides, on all aspects – but by working together, the EU can find a common solution. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We are proposing today a European solution, to rebuild trust between Member States and to restore citizens' confidence in our capacity to manage migration as a Union. The EU has already proven in other areas that it can take extraordinary steps to reconcile diverging perspectives. We have created a complex internal market, a common currency and an unprecedented recovery plan to rebuild our economies.

It is now time to rise to the challenge to manage migration jointly, with the right balance between solidarity and responsibility.” Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas said: “Moria is a stark reminder that the clock has run out on how long we can live in a house half-built. The time has come to rally around a common, European migration policy. The Pact provides the missing pieces of the puzzle for a comprehensive approach to migration. No one Member State experiences migration in the same way and the different and unique challenges faced by all deserve to be recognised, acknowledged and addressed.”

Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said: “Migration has always been and always will be part of our societies. What we are proposing today will build a long-term migration policy that can translate European values into practical management.  This set of proposals will mean clear, fair and faster border procedures, so that people do not have to wait in limbo. It means enhanced co-operation with third countries for fast returns, more legal pathways and strong actions to fight human smugglers. Fundamentally it protects the right to seek asylum”.

Stronger trust fostered by better and more effective procedures The first pillar of the Commission's approach to building confidence consists of more efficient and faster procedures. In particular, the Commission is proposing to introduce an integrated border procedure, which for the first time includes a pre-entry screening covering identification of all people crossing the EU's external borders without permission or having been disembarked after a search and rescue operation.

This will also entail a health and a security check, fingerprinting and registration in the Eurodac database. After the screening, individuals can be channeled to the right procedure, be it at the border for certain categories of applicants or in a normal asylum procedure. As part of this border procedure, swift decisions asylum or return will be made, providing quick certainty for people whose cases can be examined rapidly. At the same time, all other procedures will be improved and subject to stronger monitoring and operational support from EU agencies.

The EU's digital infrastructure for migration management will be modernized to mirror and support these procedures. Fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity The second pillar at the core of the Pact is fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity. Member states will be bound to act responsibly and in solidarity with one another.

Each member state, without any exception, must contribute in solidarity in times of stress, to help stabilize the overall system, support member states under pressure and ensure that the Union fulfils its humanitarian obligations. In respect of the different situations of member states and of fluctuating migratory pressures, the Commission proposes a system of flexible contributions from the member states.

These can range from relocation of asylum seekers from the country of first entry to taking over responsibility for returning individuals with no right to stay or various forms of operational support.

While the new system is based on cooperation and flexible forms of support starting off on a voluntary basis, more stringent contributions will be required at times of pressure on individual member states, based on a safety net. The solidarity mechanism will cover various situations – including disembarkation of persons following search and rescue operations, pressure, crisis situations or other specific circumstances.

A change of paradigm in cooperation with non-EU countries The EU will seek to promote tailor-made and mutually beneficial partnerships with third countries. These will help address shared challenges such as migrant smuggling, will help develop legal pathways and will tackle the effective implementation of readmission agreements and arrangements.

The EU and its member states will act in unity using a wide range of tools to support cooperation with third countries on readmission. A comprehensive approach Today's package will also seek to boost a common EU system for returns, to make EU migration rules more credible. This will include a more effective legal framework, a stronger role of the European Border and Coast Guard, and a newly appointed EU Return Coordinator with a network of national representatives to ensure consistency across the EU.

It will also propose a common governance for migration with better strategic planning to ensure that EU and national policies are aligned, and enhanced monitoring of migration management on the ground to enhance mutual trust. The management of external borders will be improved. The European Border and Coast Guard standing corps, scheduled for deployment from 1 January 2021, will provide increased support wherever needed. A credible legal migration and integration policy will benefit European societies and economies.

The Commission will launch Talent Partnerships with key non-EU countries that will match labour and skills needs in the EU. The Pact will strengthen resettlement and promote other complementary pathways, seeking to develop a European model of community or private sponsorship. The Commission will also adopt a new comprehensive Action Plan on integration and inclusion for 2021-2024.

Next steps

It is now for the European Parliament and Council to examine and adopt the full set of legislation necessary to make a truly common EU asylum and migration policy a reality. Given the urgency of local situations in several member states, the co-legislators are invited to reach a political agreement on the core principles of the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation and to adopt the Regulation on the EU Asylum Agency as well as the Regulation on Eurodac by the end of the year.

The revised Reception Conditions Directive, Qualification Regulation and recast Return Directive should also be adopted quickly, building on the progress already made since 2016. Background Today's proposals deliver on President von der Leyen's commitment in her Political Guidelines to present a new Pact on Migration and Asylum. The Pact is based on in-depth consultations with the European Parliament, all member states, civil society, social partners and business, and crafts a careful balance integrating their perspectives.

Brexit

UK can overcome post-Brexit fishing 'teething' woes, minister says

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Britain believes it can resolve the post-Brexit “teething issues” that have prevented Scottish fishermen from exporting goods to the European Union because of customs delays, Food and Environment Minister George Eustice (pictured) said, write Kate Holton and Paul Sandle.

Some EU importers have rejected truck loads of Scottish fish since Jan. 1 after the need for catch certificates, health checks and export declarations meant they had taken too long to arrive, angering fishermen who are facing financial ruin if the trade cannot be resumed.

Eustice told parliament his staff had held meetings with Dutch, French and Irish officials to try to “iron out some of these teething problems”.

“They are only teething problems,” he said. “When people get used to using the paperwork goods will flow.”

Eustice said with no grace period to introduce the rules, the industry was having to adapt to them in real time, dealing with such issues as what colour of ink can be used to fill in forms. He added that while the government was considering compensation for sectors hit by the post-Brexit changes, he was now focusing on fixing the delays for fishermen.

Logistics providers, which are now struggling to deliver goods in a timely manner, have said the change to life outside the single market and customs union is much more significant and while delivery times can improve, it will now cost more and take longer to export.

To get fresh produce to EU markets, logistics providers now have to summarise the load, giving commodity codes, product types, gross weight, the number of boxes and value, plus other details. Errors can mean longer delays, hitting French importers that have also been hit by the red tape.

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EU

Hungry for change: An open letter to European governments

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In 2020, the entire world knew what it was to be hungry. Millions of people went without enough to eat, with the most desperate now facing famine. At the same time, isolation took on a new meaning, in which the lonely and most remote were deprived of human contact when they most needed it, while the many victims of Covid-19 were starved of air. For all of us, the human experience fell far short of satisfying even the most basic needs, writes Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit.

The pandemic has provided a taste of a future at the limits of existence, where people are bereft, governments are stymied and economies wither. But it has also fuelled an unprecedented global appetite for change to prevent this from becoming our long-term reality.

For all the obstacles and challenges we face in the weeks and months ahead, I start 2021 with a tremendous sense of optimism and hope that the growling in our stomachs and the yearning in our hearts can become the collective roar of defiance, of determination and of revolution to make this year better than last, and the future brighter than the past.

It starts with food, the most primal form of sustenance. It is food that determines the health and prospects of almost 750 million Europeans and counting. It is food that employs some 10 million in European agriculture alone and offers the promise of economic growth and development. And it is food that we have learned impacts our very ecosystems, down to the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the climate we enjoy, come rain or shine.

Even before the pandemic, 2021 was destined to be a “super-year” for food, a year in which food production, consumption and disposal finally received the requisite global attention as the UN convenes the world’s first Food Systems Summit. But with two years’ worth of progress now compressed into the next 12 months, 2021 takes on a renewed significance.

After a year of global paralysis, caused by the shock of Covid-19, we must channel our anxieties, our fear, our hunger, and most of all our energies into action, and wake up to the fact that by transforming food systems to be healthier, more sustainable and inclusive, we can recover from the pandemic and limit the impact of future crises.

The change we need will require all of us to think and act differently because every one of us has a stake and a role in functioning food systems. But now, more than ever, we must look to our national leaders to chart the path forward by uniting farmers, producers, scientists, hauliers, grocers, and consumers, listening to their difficulties and insights, and pledging to improve each aspect of the food system for the betterment of all.

Policymakers must listen to Europe’s 10 million farmers as custodians of the resources that produce our food, and align their needs and challenges with the perspectives of environmentalists and entrepreneurs, chefs and restaurant owners, doctors and nutritionists to develop national commitments.

We enter 2021 with wind in our sails. More than 50 countries have joined the European Union in engaging with the Food Systems Summit and its five priority pillars, or Action Tracks, which cut across nutrition, poverty, climate change, resilience and sustainability. And more than two dozen countries have appointed a national convenor to host a series of country-level dialogues in the months ahead, a process that will underpin the Summit and set the agenda for the Decade of Action to 2030.

But this is just the beginning. With utmost urgency, I call on all UN Member States to join this global movement for a better, more fulfilling future, starting with the transformation of food systems. I urge governments to provide the platform that opens a conversation and guides countries towards tangible, concrete change. And I encourage everyone with fire in their bellies to get involved with the Food Systems Summit process this year and start the journey of transitioning to more inclusive and sustainable food systems.

The Summit is a 'People’s Summit' for everyone, and its success relies on everyone everywhere getting involved through participating in Action Track surveys, joining the online Summit Community, and signing up to become Food Systems Heroes who are committed to improving food systems in their own communities and constituencies.

Too often, we say it is time to act and make a difference, then continue as before. But it would be unforgivable if the world was allowed to forget the lessons of the pandemic in our desperation to return to normal life. All the writing on the wall suggests that our food systems need reform now. Humanity is hungry for this change. It is time to sate our appetite.

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Biodiversity

Public hearing on link between biodiversity loss and pandemics such as COVID-19 

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The Parliament hearing on 'Facing the sixth mass extinction and increasing risk of pandemics: What role for the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030' will be held today (14 January).

Organized by the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the hearing will address the loss of biodiversity and the extent to which this increases the risk of pandemics due to change in land use, climate change and wildlife trade. The role that the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 could play in countering biodiversity loss and in increasing the EU’s and the global commitment to biodiversity will be discussed.

Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Executive Secretary Dr Anne  Larigauderie and European Environment Agency Executive Director Dr Hans Bruyninckx will open the public hearing.

The detailed programme is available here.

You can follow the hearing live here from 9h today.

EU biodiversity strategy for 2030

On Thursday afternoon, Members will discuss the draft report by rapporteur César Luena (S&D, ES) which responds to the Commission's Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and welcomes the level of ambition in the strategy. The draft report underlines that all main direct drivers of change in nature must be addressed and expresses concern about soil degradation, the impact of climate change and the declining number of pollinators. It also addresses the issues of funding, mainstreaming and the governance framework for biodiversity, calls for a Green Erasmus programme focused on restoration and conservation, and emphasises the need for international action, including with regard to ocean governance.

You can follow the committee meeting live here from 13h15.

More information 

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