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European Commission’s proposals to overhaul EU’s asylum rules generate reactions

Today, European media provide a wide coverage of the European Commission’s proposal to overhaul the EU’s asylum rules, mainly describing the measures in details. Yesterday, the European Commission presented two options: maintaining the current regulation and implementing a temporary mechanism in case of massive migrant influx or scrapping the Dublin Regulation and relocating asylum-seekers in the different EU member states. Kathimerini describes the first proposal as the “modest” one and the second the more “radical” one. Les Echos reports that the Commission was “walking on eggshells” yesterday when it issued these proposals as the issue is particularly sensitive.

European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said the ideas were intended to launch a debate on next steps among member states and EU lawmakers who must sign off any plans, the Wall Street Journal Europe notes. He expects the review process to be completed before the summer, in parallel with the plan for the creation of a European Coast Guard, Kathimerini reports. Moreover, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, while presenting the Entry-Exit System project, part of the Smart Borders Package, said that “the use of new technologies can help manage the flow of travellers arriving at our external borders, while at the same time tackling irregular migration and enhancing our internal security”, writes. The EC has decided not to lay down a specific proposal because by opening the matter to debate, it strives to avoid the possibility of member states or the parliament immediately turning down a specific legislative proposal, VP Timmermans explained, quoted by Dnevnik. Indeed, according to Commissioner Avramopoulos, some member states “lack political will”, ZDF reports.

The proposal is particularly clever because it is deliberately meant only as a basis of discussion which allows the members flexibility, according to Kleine Zeitung’s editorial, Austrian press even speak of a “communicative decision-making process”. The EC is convinced that the pressure of migrants and refugees on Europe will continue for some more years, so it must find some long-term solutions to the problem, Večernji List notes. The European Commission proposal of jointly processing asylum applications will for better or for worse come to nought because of several EU member states, according to a commentary in Die Presse, adding that solidarity among the 28 member states would be needed, but it is non-existent. De Tijd notes that the EC calls for a harmonisation of the asylum procedures in EU member states and for a legal and safe migration route to Europe, in order to “end the asylum shopping in Europe”.

Politis reads that the main aim of the new efforts of the Commission to revise the Dublin Treaty concerns the establishment of a truly common and fair European Asylum System, which will alleviate member states welcoming large numbers of migrants. Rai radio 1 says that the European Commission wants to involve EU member states even more. According to Le Monde, finding a common agreement will be tough as the EU will probably divide into two camps. An Express editorial argues that the latest proposed reforms are another step for Brussels to “take an ever tighter grip on the asylum system”, adding that this initiative shows that the EU remains “utterly determined to extend their own powers and to take more control away from member states”. He even says that a vote to remain as a member state would be to consent to being “part of the creation of a European super state”.

A commentary in Delo says the new proposals from the EC do not solve any of the current issues and are far from the reality on the ground. In his commentary for daily Pravda, Martin Krno wonders what the EU actually did during the past year to solve the influx of migrants, highlighting that it is already clear that the proposed variants will not be acceptable for Central European countries. Indeed, Gazeta Wyborcza says that the Visegrád Group is suggesting a “3rd variant”, without any quotas. In his commentary in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jasper von Altenbockurn welcomes the EC plan to reform the Dublin system which has “never really worked”.

Besides those political considerations on the EC proposals, media continue to comment on this week’s first returns of migrants from Greece to Turkey and their consequences. According to human rights and refugee groups, it is an inhumane deal and they even question its legality, writes. According to Amnesty’s director for Europe and Central Asia, John Dalhuisen, quoted by the International New York Times, “Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees and is getting less safe by the day”. In I, Filipe Baptista shows his indignation with the agreement considering that the European leaders have lost their morality with it, as they did not take into consideration the refugees and their dramatic situation.

The Greek government is facing the growing discontent of refugees, who are occupying several spots and are making violent protests in the port of Piraeus, the islands and Idomeni, Naftemporiki notes. However, the EC announced through the responsible Commissioner that the EU-Turkey agreement implementation is going in the right direction, as there are encouraging signs from Ankara and there are estimates that the number of arrivals from Turkey to Greece has decreased, Athina 984 says.

Finally, some media comment on the latest Frontex report, which shows that in 2015 a record high number of illegal migrants entered the EU. Rai Due even underlines that two of the terrorists who carried out the attacks in Paris entered Greece using fake documents. Regarding the borders issue, German Interior Minister Thomas De Maizière said, that Italy cannot just let migrants go to northern Europe through the Brenner pass, as it has happened in the past, approving Austria’s decision to toughen controls at its southern border, La Stampa reports. The Italian newspapers also comments that Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, for his part, criticised Austria’s intention to deploy troops on the border with Italy and said this crisis must on the contrary be an opportunity to cooperate more.

In The Telegraph, Richard Walton says that the Frontex report “makes grim reading” and lays out the “stark reality that the EU cannot cope”. He adds that EU failure to deal with the migration crisis has left the continent at greater risk of terrorism, and that it could lead to the abandoning of Schengen entirely. In his editorial in Hospodářské noviny daily, David Klimeš warns that rejecting the quota system would necessarily lead to the end of the Schengen Area, which we must not let happen. He then calls on the Czech Republic to create a “light” version of the quotas instead of rejecting them completely.


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