EU Deal on Migration Reform Draws Mixed Reactions

EU Deal on Migration Reform Draws Mixed Reactions

The European Union (EU) has reached a provisional agreement to overhaul its contested migration and asylum rules after more than three years of tense negotiations among member states.

The deal was sealed on December 20th following marathon talks between the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm. It still needs formal approval.

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum aims to establish a comprehensive and collective European policy in an area that has divided governments and sparked unilateral actions.

The reform includes mandatory solidarity among member states to share responsibility for migrants.

Hungary Firmly Rejects Mandatory Relocation of Asylum Seekers

Hungary has rejected the migration pact in the “strongest possible terms” due to its system of mandatory relocations, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said.

The pact foresees a target of 30,000 asylum seekers to be redistributed per year among member states that decline to receive them.

Governments can also choose to pay €10,000 per person in contribution costs.

“Hungary rejects in the strongest possible terms the migration and asylum pact (...),” Szijjártó told reporters in Budapest. “Only those we want to come to Hungary or allow to come and stay here can come,” he stressed, adding: “We reject this migration pact, we will not let anyone in against our will.”

Csaba Dömötör, a parliamentary state secretary, said the deal is “contrary to what the Hungarian government stands for, both in its elements and as a whole.”

He warned the pact could lead to “migrant ghettos” in Hungary through mandatory relocations.

Greece Hails Solidarity Mechanism and Deterrence Against Abuse

Greece welcomed the agreement, noting it meets several of its key demands.

Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis said the solidarity system and annual review process will ensure member states get the support they need.

Kairidis also praised provisions that discourage abuse of the asylum system and allow Greece to take its national security into account when handling applications.

In 2020, Turkey encouraged thousands of migrants to mass at the Greek border in what the EU denounced as attempted blackmail.

“The EU and its member-states will now have a more complete legal framework to be able to face the major challenges posed by the constant migratory pressure on our continent,” Kairidis commented.

Reformed Rules Establish Mandatory Solidarity

Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said the deal represents the EU’s first comprehensive and collective migration policy.

Johansson said the new pact will speed up asylum procedures, improve conditions for claimants, and introduce a solidarity mechanism so no country is “left alone.”

“Member states realize that working alone (and) trying to tackle the migration challenge alone is a lose-lose situation,” she explained.

Johansson admitted more work remains to be done, including fighting human trafficking, ensuring returns of irregular migrants, and expanding legal pathways to the EU.

ETIAS Launch Poised to Impact Non-EU Visitors

The migration deal comes ahead of the expected launch of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) in May 2023.

ETIAS will require citizens of over 60 non-EU countries to obtain pre-travel authorization to visit the Schengen Area.

The pact’s provisions on border controls and asylum procedures could influence how ETIAS screenings are conducted.

The deal’s broader impact on EU migration flows may also affect ETIAS application volumes.

As the bloc moves to fortify external borders and crack down on abuse, the ETIAS is likely to become an increasingly prominent tool to filter travelers and maintain security.

Agreement Sets Stage for Stricter National Immigration Policies

The pact foresees expanded EU-level migration management, but individual governments will retain key powers over national immigration policies.

Hardline stances from Hungary and border nations like Greece indicate the deal will not deter additional restrictions.

Tighter borders and limited relocation options may pressure governments to reduce immigrant inflows.

Nations are expected to leverage the pact to justify more selective visa and work permit regimes.

The climate of mistrust risks harming families, workers, and students seeking long-term residence.

Investors and digital nomads may face heightened scrutiny as governments emphasize border security over labor and skills gaps.

Breakthrough Deal Only First Step

The provisional agreement on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum concludes three years of exhaustive and often bitter discussions.

The deal introduces solidarity but faces criticism over detainment rules.

Further steps will be required to fully reform the EU's migration and asylum system.