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EU nations reach deal on asylum seekers

26 June 20230 comments

European Union nations have reached a landmark agreement that would see member countries either accept a share of newly arrived asylum-seekers or pay into a fund to support migrants.

The EU’s 27 member states have agreed on an initial plan to enact tougher asylum and migration policies across the bloc, according to a recent announcement.

Sweden, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said the deal is a “good balance” of responsibility towards those seeking asylum and solidarity in the EU.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser called the agreement a “historic success” for the EU. 

The agreement was reached hours after tense negotiations, as some EU members like Italy, Austria and the Netherlands, said the compromise proposal was not good enough.

Poland and Hungary voted against the proposals, while Bulgaria, Malta, Lithuania and Slovakia abstained. 

“The compromise is not an easy one at all,”

In a statement, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: “The compromise is not an easy one at all. If we could have decided the reform as a federal government on our own, it would have looked differently.” 

But she said that if Germany had not made concessions the attempt to share asylum-seekers across the bloc would have failed.

“If Germany had voted against the compromise today, together with Hungary and Poland, among others, a common European asylum policy based on solidarity would be dead for years,” she said.

“Instead, all those who want to raise national walls in Europe again would have a free pass.”

Observers say the deal is a step towards the hosting of asylum seekers more equitably.

In order to go through, the deal needed approval from a majority of countries that represent at least 65 per cent of the bloc’s population. The agreement has come through after years of wrangling over asylum policy.

The proposal tabled at the meeting called for compulsory help between EU countries, but with an option of doing that in one of the two ways.

EU countries face priority to share hosting of asylum seekers who mainly arrive in countries on the bloc’s outer rim, like Italy and Greece.

The agreement says that countries that refuse to host refugees would be required to pay 20,000 euros (US$21,000) per person. The money will go to a fund managed by the EU.

The agreement means negotiations can begin within the European Parliament on legislation that could be adopted before European elections in June next year.

Parliament president Roberta Metsola said lawmakers were “ready to start negotiations immediately to reach a deal”.

The number of asylum seekers has risen recently after a drop caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the issue has risen to a top priority of EU nations.

The second text makes EU member states put in place a fast track mechanism at the borders for arrivals from countries deemed as safe in order to facilitate their return.  

“These files constitute the two main pillars of the reform of the EU asylum system and is key to a good balance between responsibility and solidarity,” the Swedish presidency tweeted.