Understanding the challenges of the European “migratory pact”, target of criticism from the National Rally

The thousands of migrants who landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa in September have reignited debates around the European migration and asylum pact

Understanding the challenges of the European “migratory pact”, target of criticism from the National Rally

The thousands of migrants who landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa in September have reignited debates around the European migration and asylum pact. Presented in 2020, this “migration pact” aims to reform European migration policy, in particular by organizing a system of solidarity between member states in the distribution of refugees. But since that date, the Twenty-Seven, deeply divided on this subject since the refugee crisis in 2015, have still not managed to find a compromise.

This new episode offered the National Rally (RN) the opportunity to hammer home its opposition to the pact. For the president of the RN deputies, Marine Le Pen, this text “is an organized plan for the submersion of Europe and the nations that compose it”. His successor at the head of the far-right party, Jordan Bardella, assures that this pact plans to “impose on EU member states a compulsory distribution of migrants in our municipalities, in French towns and villages”. What exactly is it?

Presented on September 23, 2020 by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the European pact on asylum and migration aims to fundamentally reform European migration policy undermined during the 2015 migration crisis. massive influx of migrants (1.8 million arrivals in one year) had in fact greatly destabilized cooperation between member states, and illustrated European failure in terms of asylum and immigration.

This pact, strongly supported by France, aims to reform the controversial Dublin regulation (known as “Dublin III”) which crystallizes all the tensions. Adopted in 2013, this system delegates the processing of asylum applications to the first EU countries in which migrants arrive (Italy, Greece, Malta, etc.), and concentrates a good part of the migratory pressure there. But the 2015 crisis highlighted the ineffectiveness of this system, the weaknesses of national asylum systems, and the lack of solidarity in the EU, while countries on the front line, such as Greece, were overwhelmed and unable to properly process asylum applications.

Since then, the countries of first entry have called for a more effective solidarity mechanism. But in vain. The project for the distribution and compulsory quotas of refugees was put in place in the wake of the migration crisis, but it did not have the expected effect since it was not applied by certain member states such as Poland and Hungary. It is to remedy these difficulties and shortcomings that a new pact has been proposed.

This is a set of regulations intended to establish a balance between border control and solidarity in welcoming refugees on European soil. “If the pact aims to try to better control the borders, the overall philosophy remains the same as “Dublin III”, with countries of entry remaining responsible for most receptions,” summarizes Camille Le Coz, associate director at the Migration Policy Institute Europe research center.

Concretely, Brussels intends to act on three key elements.

- Accelerated border management. The pact provides “new procedures to quickly establish a person’s status upon arrival.” Clearly, migrants will have to know more quickly – within five days – whether they can stay in Europe or leave, via a “screening” procedure upon entry (identity check, security and health checks, statement fingerprints).

- A new, more flexible solidarity mechanism. Each country must contribute to the solidarity mechanism, but in a less restrictive manner. While relocations (transfers of asylum seekers between Member States) were previously compulsory, they are now done on a voluntary basis. Countries therefore have several options: relocation, financial contribution, or other solidarity measures (deployment of personnel, logistical aid to other countries, etc.). Each year, in order to better take into account migratory flows, the Commission will produce a report and propose recommendations.

It is on this new system that the criticism of the National Rally focuses. However, contrary to what the far-right party assures, the relocation of refugees will not be compulsory. All member states are required to contribute to solidarity, preferably in the form of relocation, but other options are offered for countries that refuse to welcome exiles.

- Strengthening cooperation with countries of origin and transit (such as those in the Balkans) in order to limit arrivals, and fight against smuggling networks and migrant smuggling. Brussels aims in particular to change the way of forging migration partnerships with third countries, and to position Europe within the framework of a more voluntary labor migration policy.

“Let’s show that Europe can manage migration effectively and compassionately. Let's finish the job! » During her annual State of the Union speech on September 13, 2023, Ursula von der Leyen urged MEPs and the Twenty-Seven to adopt the pact which has been under negotiation for more than three years now. .

The Commission wants to be optimistic about adoption before the European elections in June 2024. The pact “is now on track,” the institution assured Le Monde in early September. Certainly, the discussions have made progress in recent months: on April 20, 2023, the European Parliament adopted its negotiating position in favor of four fundamental texts, including the regulation concerning "filtering", and the essential one, managing "the crisis situations.”

More recently, on June 8, 2023, member states found a compromise on two proposed regulations, including the one establishing the new mandatory solidarity mechanism. “An important step”, even greeted Ursula von der Leyen. It remains to ratify a final section on crisis situations which is still the subject of blockage from the part, in particular from Germany which is asking for guarantees on the situation of minors returned to the border. The European Parliament also decided, on September 20, to suspend negotiations to press member states to find an agreement on this subject.

But above all, this agreement has highlighted the deep divisions that remain among the Sixty-Seven. In June, Poland and Hungary voted against two key texts of the migration pact while Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia abstained – they were still adopted. “This pact is slow because the negotiations were very politicized, and the migration issue remains the one on which Europe is still torn apart,” analyzes Camille Le Coz, also knowing that the text also proved extremely complex to negotiate. »

The researcher calls for caution regarding the outcome of this text. “If this project is not adopted, it will mark a failure of the European project which the far right will continue to exploit. » Conversely, if it is adopted, we will have to remain attentive to its implementation, in particular to respect for the rights of asylum seekers: “The modalities of implementation of the text will be as important as the negotiations in progress, and European partners need an action plan that guarantees these fundamentals,” continues Ms. Le Coz. And recall: “During the 2015 crisis, Europe had a common text on asylum and migration, which, in the end, only existed on paper. »