Virtual expert workshop: “A fresh start? Review of the German EU Council Presidency and analysis of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum”

In December 2020, Germany’s EU Council Presidency ended after six months. This is why the Centre for Human Rights Erlangen-Nürnberg (CHREN) began the year 2021 with a virtual expert workshop as part of the FFVT project to look back on the past six months and to discuss the proposals for a new Pact on Migration and Asylum published by the European Commission in September 2020. To this end, researchers and politicians met on 8 January 2021 in two panels, moderated by Professor Petra Bendel and Dr Lorenz Wiese.

Anuscheh Farahat, Professor for Public Law, Human Rights and Migration Law at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Gerald Knaus, Chair of the think tank European Stability Initiative (ESI), Berlin, and Daniel Thym, Professor at the Chair of Public, European and International Law at the Department of Law at the University of Konstanz, initiated the discussion. Daniel Thym expressed his disappointment about the outcomes of the German Council Presidency, saying that no breakthrough had been achieved in the field of migration and asylum. He blamed this, inter alia, on the combination of the complexity and late publication of the proposal for the EU Commission’s Pact on Migration and Asylum. Thym concluded: “COVID absorbed too many resources, time was too short and the proposals far too complicated”. He found the Pact on Migration and Asylum inadequate on several counts: While it formally abolished the Dublin Regulation, most of theold regulations continue to apply. Gerald Knaus agreed with this criticism and drew particular attention to the situation at the EU’s external borders where laws currently in force were de facto not being observed. For him, the biggest deficits in the presented Pact were the lack of representation of interests of the countries at the external borders as well as the lack of proposals on how to change the current situation on the Greek islands and in the Mediterranean. Looking back on the past months as well as years of pushbacks and the abysmal accommodation situation of refugees, Knaus summed up: “The Achilles heel of the EU’s Pact on Migration and Asylum is that no lessons have been learned from this.”

Anuscheh Farahat was sceptical about the proposals of “flexible solidarity” and so-called return sponsorships by the Commission, as she believed that the member states were not interested in them. At the same time, she also pointed to the danger that the few sensible approaches to include further criteria for the distribution of those who are seeking protection in the Dublin Regulation would, in the end, not be put into practice. Instead, a further tightening of restrictions wouldbe expectedas a consequence of these proposals.

The second part of the expert workshop brought together the politicians Lena Düpont (CDU), Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke) and Birgit Sippel (SPD), all three members of the European Parliament, as well as Luise Amtsberg (Member of the Bundestag for Bündnis90 / Die Grünen).

Luise Amtsberg, Cornelia Ernst and Birgit Sippel echoed the previous speakers’ criticism. They stressed that it was not a truly European proposal but that member states were burdened with too much responsibility, provoking a ‘two-tier society”in the asylum process and that the principle of first country of entry was continued. Giventhe many years of debates, Lena Düpont, on the contrary, considered the proposal of the EU Commission as pragmatic and emphasised the offers it contained for all member states, which could now be elaborated further.

This expert workshop thus provided a comprehensive review of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum as well as Germany’s role during the Presidency from different academic and political perspectives. It also contributed to networking and exchange between the experts.

Authors:

  • Magdalena Fackler, Student Assistant, CHREN
  • Lorenz Wiese, Networking coordinator, CHREN
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