Common position of V4 countries, Estonia and Slovenia on The New Pact on Migration and Asylum
In December 2020, the Polish Minister of Interior together with his counterparts in V4 countries, Estonia and Slovenia signed a common position on the EU’s proposal of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.The document, in the form of ‘non-paper’ - which does not form part of a formal and binding communication but provides an addition to discussion - was submitted to the German and the Portuguese Presidencies of the Council of the EU (former and current one) and the European Commission. It was prepared throughout the period of Polish presidency of the V4 group and it presents a common view of its Member States joined by two neighbouring countries - Estonia and Slovenia.
Overall, the joint position conveys a message similar in its content to the Visegrad group’s previous statements on EU’s methods to cope with migration management. Furthermore, it provides suggestions of a desirable course of EU’s migration policy, also offering a critique of particular elements of the new Pact, especially the catalogue of solidarity measures.
Focus on external dimension of migration policy
The common position stipulated by V4 member states, followed by Estonia and Slovenia, presents a vision of a new EU system based on two principles: cutting down the number of migrants arriving at the EU borders and improving assistance to asylum-seekers in the countries outside of EU. According to the argument presented in the document, the main way toward reducing the numbers of migrants is through intensified externalization practices such as: securitization of border management and migration control, enforcing rapid returns, and focus on international protection – providing assistance outside of the EU.
The external dimension of migration control is a recurring theme of the document, it is mainly based on a misconception that increased securitization of border management will have a deterring impact on prospective migrants, and as a consequence, that it will reduce the number or “irregular” migrants. Another striking point put forward in the document is a strong support for introducing measures such as “establishing regional disembarkation platforms outside the EU”, that is realizing the EU border control extra-territorially and through other countries and organs, despite the fact that this idea was not even mentioned in the Proposal. Protection of external borders is treated by the document’s signatories as a priority for further negotiation process, however the paper fails to mention the wide scope of challenges related to the protection of migrants.
Responsibility vs. solidarity
The document’s signatories express common concern regarding the unbalanced relation between responsibility and solidarity measures proposed in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. What is worth noting in this part is the contrasting narrative used in reference to these measures while the Pact emphasizes their complementarity. In fact, the proposal of the Pact declares a catalogue of solidarity mechanisms aimed at sharing responsibility to assist those Member States that are facing the challenge of managing high number of asylum seekers. Responsibility is addressed at two different levels: the “criteria for determining the Member State responsible” for each asylum seekers reaching the EU, and the “solidarity mechanisms”. Indeed, responsibility can be shared by recognizing a responsible Member State other than the country of entry – in contrast to the “first safe country” principle – but also by taking the burden off the countries of entry through other solidarity measures applied in case of high migratory pressure.
Criticism of solidarity measures
The V4 common position document articulates a strong disagreement with the proposed distribution key, used to calculate each Member State’s fair share of solidarity contributions, that is based on an algorithm considering the number of population and GDP. According to the document’s signatories, the criteria are too narrow, and should also take into account the “factual efforts” of Member States in managing the EU’s internal and external border controls, effectiveness of return procedures, as well as the high-level securitization practices - the areas in which V4 countries already stand out.
The Pact introduced a new definition of mandatory burden-sharing, accommodating the Visegrad group’s notion of “flexible solidarity” and carving out a role for all the Member States opposing the previous relocation scheme. A new solidarity measure of return sponsorship is proposed as an alternative to relocation, allowing those countries to take on the responsibilities for external border management and/or return of rejected asylum seekers. Despite this option being added to the solidarity measures catalogue with the aim of adjusting to the needs of, among others, V4 group - their representatives, followed by Estonia and Slovenia, questioned the prospective effectiveness of this instrument which, in their view, could potentially lead to a factual relocation, a measure that they strongly oppose. Instead they propose a tough top-down approach, namely to increase the involvement of Frontex and focus on the cooperation with third countries regarding the return policy.
Problem of sovereignty
The common position of the Visegrad group surely remains unchanged regarding the question of sovereignty – it seems that any migration management scheme that will not be a fully voluntary one, offering the opt-out paths, will continue to be considered as a possible violation of their sovereignty.
Since the announcement of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum proposal in September 2020, its provisions are subject of discussions and negotiations between EU Member States. The V4 group, together with several other Central European countries, have been expressing their dissatisfaction with the proposal for the last couple of months and it seems that the document delivering their common position is yet another part of these negotiations.
The New Pact on Migration and Asylum - a common position of V4 countries, Estonia and Slovenia
New pact on migration and asylum joint position of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Estonia, and Slovenia
Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on asylum and migration management and amending Council Directive (EC) 2003/109 and the proposed Regulation
New Pact on Migration and Asylum: Questions and Answers
NIEM's National Coalition Officer
The European and Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs