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German proposals to create immigration transit zones within the EU
Today’s European media outlets continue to provide report and comment on Brussels’s reaction to the current migration crisis and also to a German proposal to set up transit zones at internal borders in order to stem the flow of refugees entering Germany. Regarding this specific issue, a Süddeutsche Zeitung article says that the European Commission is showing“considerable doubts,” with a spokesman for EC President Jean-Claude Juncker’s questioning the “practicability” of such transit zones. While transit zones are not “explicitly forbidden” at internal borders, they can only serve as an “extraordinary measure on a temporary basis.”
The German daily adds that this early positioning of Mr Juncker’s spokesperson speaks for the European Commission’s scepticism towards the proposal. “New border controls evoke Old Europe,” reads aWashington Post article, while referring to the reintroduction of some border controls between Germany and Austria and the implications for international travellers and migrants. Several newspapers, such as Poland’s Informacje, say that the Commission warned Germany against extending the use of restored border controls. The Independent notes that German Chancellor Angela Markel’s coalition government is split over the transit zone plans. They are seen as an attempt to convince the German public that the government has a plan to slow down the influx of refugees, and come amid an uprising of anger on the right.
There are several other migration stories today Finland’s Keskisuomalainen says that the Commission is planning to offer aid to EU member states for integrating refugees. Vice-President Jyrki Katainen said that the aid could be financial or technical. The EU has spent considerable sums on the refugee crisis this year. VP Katainen says that it would be best to help people in their countries of origin or in refugee camps, but that we should get used to the idea that people will move around for various reasons and the world has become smaller. El Pais, Die Presse, L’Echo and Denmark’s BT, among others, report that the number of migrants arriving in the EU is hitting an all-time high, as more than 710,000 people illegally entered the EU in the first nine months of the year, the EU’s border control agency Frontex has said. That means more than twice as many as the already record-breaking 282,000 figure recorded in all of last year.
The Danish newspaper and Il Sole 24 Ore, for instance, add that the leaders of the EU will meet to discuss the situation on Thursday and Friday and recall that, at the most recent summit, EU member states agreed to speed up the process of sending home rejected asylum seekers, and they discussed the establishment of a joint EU border task force. Meanwhile, Naftemporikireports that Greece said yesterday that it had no plan to carry out joint sea patrols with Turkey. Asked about whether the EC has proposed joint patrols of the Greek and the Turkish coast guard in the framework of its refugee plan, EC Chief Spokesperson Margaritis Schinas categorically replied that Brussels never proposed such a thing. He also pointed out that the action plan for the cooperation of the EU with Turkey only notes that Turkey must strengthen controls at its land and sea borders and that the cooperation of Greece with Turkey is needed on the issue of refugees, the Greek daily adds.
La Stampa says that Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu has written to EU leaders, warning of a possible immigration apocalypse if Syrian President Al-Assad is not controlled or if Isis is not stopped. He once again called for a “safe zone”between Turkey and Syria. The WSJE reports about statements made by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who has stated that his country has little choice but to let in thousands of migrants every day, and that “the problem can only be solved by better controlling access to Europe.” Most of the comments express criticism of the CSU’s proposal. In an interview granted to MDR, Jürgen Bast argues that Schengen Border Code prohibits border control systems within the EU. According Mr Bast, even though the actual purpose is to serve as some sort of reception camp at the EU’s external borders, he says that transit zones cannot be used as a “classic method” to regulate migration.
Along the same lines, Christian Rath expresses his point of view in a commentary for Die Tageszeitung, stressing that the CSU’s proposal is yet another sign of the party’s “incompetency.” He further considers that that transit zones cannot work as they require effective border controls which are only allowed for a maximum of two years under EU law. Therefore, building infrastructure only to tear everything down shortly after would be nothing but “wastefulness,” Mr Rath underlines.
A FAZ opinion piece notes that transit zones do not lead to lawlessness but rather serve as an example of acknowledging refugee’s human rights while another item of the same German daily notes that the SPD argues that the CSU’s proposal is “not feasible” and will only lead to “detention facilities” in the border regions. In more general commentaries, German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier discuss the refugee issue in an opinion piece for Delo. They argue that Germany could set up national conditions in order to help those truly in need of protection in particular. It is nonetheless obvious that efforts must be made to come up with international and especially European solutions, so as to relieve the pressure on Germany.
La Vanguardia‘s op-ed columnist Lluís Foix writes that if the EU fails to face the current refugee crisis bravely and with generosity, it will have lost a portion of its foundational idea. He concludes by saying that Europe cannot afford the mistake to return to state-level nationalism.
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