Support for ‘unambitious’ common rules on asylum
European Voice

MEPs yesterday (12 June) approved a compromise deal on changes to the European Union’s asylum and internal border policy. But many MEPs were exasperated with member states for watering down the proposals.

The Parliament was looking for a wide-ranging overhaul of EU asylum rules. Under the current system, member states can return asylum-seekers to the country through which they first entered the EU. This, said MEPs, was placing a disproportionate burden on the EU’s border states.

The Common European Asylum System approved yesterday is less ambitious. It puts in place only an ‘early warning system’ during surges of migration that would allow some of the normal rules to be suspended.

“This is not a perfect package, nor is it indeed a common system,” said Sarah Ludford, a British Liberal MEP. “We are not yet there in having both fairness and efficiency across the EU in asylum management.”

“The negotiations with the Council were difficult, and the results were not what we expected,” said Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, a hard-left Cypriot MEP. “The Parliament was not successful in replacing the misguided principle on which [the existing rules] were based, whereby the state of entry is the state responsible.”

Other MEPs expressed concern that the new asylum system would not help Italy, Greece and Malta, the countries that face the biggest asylum challenges.

Schengen changes

MEPs also ratified an agreement with member states on changes to the rules for the EU’s Schengen zone of border-free travel. The new rules specify the circumstances under which a member state can temporarily impose checks at internal borders.

The Commission proposed making the changes in September 2011 after France imposed checks at its border with Italy because of concerns about refugees coming from northern Africa during the Arab spring.

Green MEPs said both pieces of legislation adopted yesterday represent a general trend of “scaling back the ambition of what is one of the EU’s major policy successes”, adding that giving member states the prerogative to reintroduce border controls was “illogical”.

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