In 2015, the EU faced an overwhelming number of migrants arriving on its territory. The situation amounts to a crisis that needed an appropriate and coordinated response from member states. Many solutions were found, but none were agreed upon by everyone, especially front line countries like Italy, Greece, and Malta, which complained that they were shouldering too much of the burden. Since taking over as president of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, made one of her biggest priorities the reformation of the EU's migration policy, and in September, in her first state of the European Union address, she made a major point of it. A new pact on migration and asylum has been designed at the European level, in order to bring about a balance between responsibility and solidarity.
Euro MP Iuliu Winkler was interviewed by Radio Romania about this issue:
“If we look at statistics, we could have a breathe a sigh of relief, because starting in 2015, when over eight and a half million people arrived in the EU, in 2019 we had under half a million entries. I use the word arrive because we have to make a distinction between refugees and migrants, and make a distinction between legal and illegal entries. Commissioner Johansson speaks of an evaluation according to which two thirds of 2019 entries are people who do not qualify for the status of future resident of any kind in EU states, and approximately a third of people qualified based on existing regulations. Looking at these figures, we can be relieved. At the same time, we should be relieved that the issue of refugees and migrants for economic reasons is pressure put on the EU. First of all because we have commonly accepted rules, and this is where the proposal from the EC comes in, to be discusses in the following months in the European Parliament and all relevant institutions. At the same time, we should be aware that the things that create divisions between member states have not gone away. They are very complex reasons, starting from tradition and history, up to the attitude that individual member state governments manifest towards migration and asylum, which means that a lot more dialog is needed.”
In essence, the new pact reviews the so-called Dublin rules, according to which the first country that receives a migrant is responsible for sorting out their asylum application. According to the new proposal, the country that examines the asylum application shall be the country where the migrant has a relative in, or where they had previously worked or studied. In the other cases, the country of arrival will be responsible with processing that claim, and at the same time, a country that feels added pressure may apply to the Commission for a mandatory solidarity mechanism. Once the Commission approves this mechanism, it may decide the number of migrants to be taken in by other member states to relieve pressure, and bring a contribution function of their economic and population strength. EU member states may opt for taking in asylum seekers, contributing to building refugee camps, or financing repatriation. The latter are defined as economic migrants who didn't leave their country because of a war, but only to seek better living in the EU. The proposed solutions are meant to persuade countries that have turned down their quota of refugees, especially the Vishegrad Group, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, as well as Austria, which said that redistribution of migrants among EU countries does not work.
Iuliu Winkler commented on this:
“We definitely have solutions to stop or regulate the flow of migrants, but we have to ask the question, do all in the EU want to stop the flow? There may be countries in the EU that need an inflow of workforce. And then the issue is to manage expectations and create predictable solutions. For instance, in Greek islands, as well as elsewhere, there are refugee camps that are humanitarian disasters. That is unacceptable. The EU is founded on human rights. At the same time, there is the principle of the rights of individual states when it comes to residence, asylum, and migration. At the same time, the EC rightly speaks of the issue of people trafficking. We all know that such refugees are often rescued off boats on the Mediterranean, which are very efficiently managed by people traffickers. These illegal traffickers are both EU citizens or are from outside the EU. All these illegal operations are punishable by law, or should be. We are taking steps towards that.”
At the same time, Iuliu Winkler points out that a new pact does not include mandatory redistribution quotas.