EU Ministers Propose Controversial Border Control Measures

As part of the debates on the Migration and Asylum Pact, European ministers say they are ready to introduce new rules to close borders and prevent the submission of asylum applications in cases of “instrumentalization” by a third country, according to information from a diplomatic source.

The practice of third-country governments opening their borders or encouraging migrants to enter the EU, known as “instrumentalization”, has been used by countries such as Russia, Belarus and Morocco in recent times. years as a means of increasing geopolitical pressure.

“It now appears that instrumentalization will not be a separate text but should be covered by the [general] crisis management regulation,” a diplomatic source told Euractiv.

The Crisis Management Regulation, which aims to address situations in which large numbers of third-country nationals cross European borders in a short period of time, is currently under debate as part of the Migration and Asylum Pact.

The Pact, presented by the European Commission in September 2020, is made up of ten legislative proposals which aim to review and update the Union’s migration policy.

According to the European Parliament’s position on the crisis management regulation, adopted in April, the Commission would be responsible for determining what constitutes a “crisis” situation in a country. This would then trigger a solidarity clause for other member states who could decide how to help, for example, by providing money, equipment or offering their territory for the relocation of migrants.

In the context of crisis measures, European ministers are now pushing to introduce an “exemption” from the normal processing of asylum applications for cases of “instrumentalization”, according to the same source.

This would apply when, for example, countries such as Belarus, Russia or Morocco encourage and/or facilitate the arrival of third-country nationals from Africa or the Middle East via their countries to the EU.

The planned revision of the law would allow member states to give border guards the power to decide who can apply for asylum and who cannot.

It is not yet clear how and according to which authority the cases would be classified as “instrumentalizations”.

In early 2022, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko opened the country’s borders to large numbers of third-country nationals from the Middle East and facilitated their transportation to EU borders, a move that attracted international attention considerable.

In June 2022, Moroccan authorities opened the border with Spain, allowing large numbers of people to cross the border, in order to exert political pressure on Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on a separate foreign policy issue.

The instrumentalization proposal has been criticized by civil society groups because, according to international law, any national of a third country can request international protection when trying to enter European territory. Any expulsion without assessment of the individual request is considered an illegal refoulement.

Different European organizations and media have shown that pushbacks of third-country nationals have become increasingly frequent in the EU in recent years.

Lack of time

Tensions over the negotiations increased last week when the European Parliament’s working group on migration decided to suspend trilogue discussions on two key files of the pact — the European fingerprint comparison system (Eurocdac) and the filtering system — until EU ministers adopt a common position on the crisis management regulation.

Parliament’s rapporteur on crisis management, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, said on Monday (25 September) that Parliament could block the entire pact if EU ministers continued to “cut it into pieces”. .

Once EU ministers have adopted their position on the file, they must find a common position with the European Parliament in the so-called trilogue, with which disagreements are increasingly marked.

However, EU ministers generally have more leverage when negotiating in trilogues with the European Parliament, because when it comes to immigration, most powers and competences lie at the national level.

According to the roadmap adopted by the European institutions in autumn 2022, the files for the migration pact must be approved before mid-February 2024.

If the EU fails to approve the pact before the end of the mandate, it would be the second time that the institutions have failed to approve a European framework on migration.

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