|Author (Person)||Harding, Gareth|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.4, No.43, 26.11.98, p6|
|Content Type||Journal | Series | Blog|
A DAMNING critique of EU immigration and asylum policy drawn up by the Austrian presidency is sparking bitter arguments between EU governments.
Vienna had hoped justice and home affairs ministers would approve the document at a meeting next week. But differences between member states mean that final agreement on the way forward is now likely to be delayed until late next year.
The strategy paper claims past measures to halt the flood of bogus asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants into the EU have been "fragmentary" and have produced "no lasting results in important areas".
Pointing the finger of blame at both member states and the European Commission, the paper lists a litany of specific policy failures. It argues that past efforts to halt the increase in illegal immigrants have failed, asylum laws are systematically abused, effective measures to combat illegal employment have not been taken, the voluntary return of illegal immigrants has been "strikingly unsuccessful" and information on the number of migrants is lacking.
The main reason for this shambolic state of affairs, according to the report, is that present decision-making structures are "clumsy", making it impossible for the Union to react quickly and effectively in crisis situations. There is also a risk of "parallel, opposing or uncoordinated" action being taken by member states.
The problems are compounded by the fact that national interests still dominate decision-making on migration policy - a situation described as an "anachronism" by the Austrians.
The strategy paper calls for a "new start" to migration policy based upon a uniform European approach. This should primarily focus on reducing migratory pressure from the main countries of origin of immigrants by intervening more swiftly in conflicts and providing more development aid to the regions concerned. It also argues that the fight against illegal immigration networks and illegal employment should be stepped up.
Although it has already been criticised by some EU governments for being short on specifics, the paper makes a number of concrete proposals. It recommends that a single European Commissioner should be responsible for all migration policy questions instead of the multitude who currently deal with the issue, and says there is an urgent need for accurate and up-to-date information on such trends.
Council of Ministers officials admit that the paper is controversial and that some of the suggestions have touched a raw nerve with member states. "No one has any great love for it," said one diplomat, adding that the Austrians "still have an awful lot of rewriting to do".
In particular, most member states would like the document to make a clearer distinction between asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants. The Austrian idea of setting national quotas for 'burden-sharing' of asylum-seekers is also being strongly resisted by many countries, including Finland, Sweden, Spain and the UK.
However, ministers are expected to reach political agreement on one concrete measure to tackle illegal immigration at their two-day meeting, which begins next Thursday (3 December).
An EU convention on fingerprinting asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants (EURODAC) will be approved after a bumpy ride through the Council.
The convention is designed to help member states establish if a migrant has previously applied for asylum in another EU country and is intended to prevent so-called 'asylum shopping.'
Report of a draft Austrian EU Presidency paper on EU immigration and asylum policy.
|Subject Categories||Justice and Home Affairs|