German chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking bilateral talks on managing so-called secondary migration, at the two-day summit starting today (28 June). Georgi Gotev has the story.
The dispute is over plans drawn up by Merkel’s interior minister Horst Seehofer, the head of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), to send back migrants who reach the German border after having registered in other EU states. Merkel needs to take home a significant number of bilateral deals to be able to save its coalition.
Reportedly Germany has sent letters to a number of EU capitals to request assistance on “secondary movements”, but not to all of them.
A diplomat from a Visegrad country said yesterday that his capital wanted to “help Merkel”, but added that “she needs to say how”. It can be deducted that Germany didn’t sent such requests to the Visegrad countries.
At the Sunday mini-summit, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said Bulgaria would not tale back any of the 60.000 refugees who were first registered in Bulgaria.
“First, before they send them back to me, they should agree that we build prisons and keep them in prisons”, he said, adding that migrants assigned to stay in Bulgaria have been caught “30-40 times” trying to cross Bulgaria’s borders “because they don’t want to stay with us”.
At the mini-summit, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said his country would not take back “all the secondary movement migrants”.
A country that reportedly gave a positive response to Germany’s is Greece. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told the FT yesterday that he was open to a special agreement with Berlin to curtail the “secondary movement” of refugees.
“We have to find a way, in the framework of the international law, to share the burden and to not have this unfair position for the frontline countries but also for Germany. Because it’s not fair all these people to go to Germany, if we believe that this is a European problem,” the FT quoted Tsipras as saying.
It seems however that Greece is ready to take back only the refugees that will cross the German borders in the future.
Tsipras said any agreement with Germany would not have significant knock-on effects on Greece as only between 50 to 100 asylum seekers a month are crossing the country’s northern border, according to the FT report.
Borissov too has said recently that the migration pressure on Bulgaria is now close to zero. This means that the country in principle would have no difficulty to accept the charge of the “secondary movements” in the future.
This could become an internal policy problem, however. Both the opposition BSP and the junior coalition partner, the United Patriots, are likely to oppose such agreement.
What is certain is that EU refugee policy is no longer European, but will be based on inter-governmental agreements.
On the Dublin reform, there is clearly no agreement, and as a diplomat said, there will be no agreement during this European Parliament. (It was already clear that this summit can take no decision, as the summit draft conclusions on migration clearly indicate so.)
The Bulgarian Presidency compromise proposal on the Dublin reform, which foresees mandatory quotas only in case of emergency like in 2015, could not even pass qualified majority vote, as not only Eastern European countries, but also Spain and Italy (for a different reason) rejected it, diplomats explained.
The “disembarkation platforms” are apparently the most frequently mentioned idea. A diplomat close to the institutions said that these should not be seen as camps. Moreover, the idea is that similarly to the EU-Turkey agreement, the scheme will break the business model, and the pool factor will be drastically reduced. He reminded that before the July 2016 EU-Turkey deal, tens of thousands of people a month were arriving in the Greek islands. In comparison, in the two years since the deal is in force, only some 2,000 migrants have been returned to Turkey, and there are very few new arrivals, he said. Similarly, the pressure on Italy is expected to drop dramatically, if disembarkation platforms are in place, the diplomat added.
On disembarkation platforms, the UNHR has sent a letter to Borissov, in his EU Presidency capacity, diplomats said.
If the summit would give a mandate to start work on the concept of disembarkation platforms, this would be a “breakthrough”, the diplomat said. However he (and others) was less clear where these disembarkation platforms would be put in place. In any case, he mysteriously said “we know with whom we are going to work”.
Asked by this website if Albania was one of the countries considered for such a “disembarkation platform”, a EU diplomat gave a negative answer. He hinted that such a location could be counterproductive and open a new “Balkan route”.
The summit is expected to decide to release the second €3 billion tranche to Turkey, as decided under the July 2016 EU-Turkey deal to prevent migrants arriving to the Greek islands from the nearby Turkish territory. However, Italy raises conditions: Rome wants in parallel a decision to release €500 million to the EU’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.
At EU summits Borissov has repeatedly acted as Turkey’s advocate and is likely to strongly support the release of the second 3-billion tranche.