Strong Borders and New Europeans: How To Keep the Scale Stable? EP Today


In the past two years, migration has caused severe challenges in the EU. In 2015 the number of asylum applications was at its highest with 1 323 000 applications. As the number of asylum seekers almost doubled within a year, Europe did not know how to respond and ended up in a chaos.

The EU faced imminent security threats from Russia and ISIS in 2015. In 2016, the events of the previous year turned into the change of political atmosphere, with the rise of populist parole and the radicalisation of European citizens. Now in 2017, it is the responsibility of the EU and the Member States to try to solve all of these problems and manage with increased amount of migrants and the rising radical opinions.

The EU needs to manage the question of asylum seekers together with centralised measures. It is important to clarify the misconceptions that exist on migration and turn the discourse into practical level. The EU measures need to be credible and acceptable for the citizens. The responsibility of the EU is to provide security to its own citizens but also to respect international law considering asylum seekers and refugees. The EU can do it by securing the external borders and distributing the responsibility of asylum application management equally between the Member States. The way these practical measures are possible, is if all the Member States commit to the common responsibility.

The problem is that the political atmosphere on managing the migration crisis is shattered vertically both in the party politics in the EU and the Member State level. Currently the discourse on anti-immigration is vivid but unable to achieve any concrete measures. The truth is that the number of people seeking for asylum will not disappear. On the contrary, it is likely to increase over the upcoming years due to various changes in the world politics. With the immediate pressure toward the EU on hosting an increasing number of asylum seekers, it is impossible to turn the blind eye and deny the fact altogether. That is why it is important to develop further already existing mechanisms that can process the changes in the world politics. The aim is to prevent such crisis that the EU experienced in 2015.

It is important that the EU is ready to face new challenges regarding migration, by creating effective mechanisms that will lead to safe, stable and legal migration. The measures that will efficiently manage migration are further developing Border and Coast Guard Agency, The European Travel Information and Authorisation System and the revision of Dublin Regulation.

Border and Coast Guard Agency, formerly known as Frontex highlights the fundamental rights in the EU, such as free movement of people in the Schengen area. The agency also promotes legal migration and tries to tackle illegal migration. Due to its structure, illegal migration is often time involved with other illegal activity, such as human and drug trafficking. Border and Coast Guard Agency works both in practical ways of searching and rescuing asylum seekers in the Mediterranean but also by monitoring and analysing the risks of migration flows. In order to have secure borders, the agency needs resources and commitment from Member States. The new Border and Coast Guard Agency was officially launched in 2016 and it will increase its functions in several areas in 2017. This year the European Parliament is amending the regulation on external borders, providing smart technologies to support the work of the agency. The goal is that the agency works for strengthening the external borders, so that the Member States would not close their national borders due to increased migration, which is against the Schengen principles.

In order to keep the Schengen area open for free movement, the European Commission has also proposed a new EU-wide monitoring system ETIAS (The European Travel Information and Authorisation System) for visa-exempt third country nationals who cross the EU’s external borders. ETIAS will help strengthening the external border security and enhance the Schengen area capabilities of free movement.

The aim of the revision of Dublin Regulation, is to harmonise asylum practices in Europe. The Regulation determines the Member State responsible to handle the asylum procedures. The goal is to revise the parameters on sharing the responsibility of handling asylum applications between the Member States. The original Dublin Convention from 1990 has functioned under the assumption that all Member States process the asylum applications in the same way, which is still far from the truth. The goal of the revision is to avoid secondary movement within the EU and provide a centralised system, which could facilitate the administrational workload of individual Member States. Currently neither of these goals are met as the Member States have not accepted the idea of a unified EU in this matter. Currently only Finland and Malta have fulfilled their responsibility of the quotas the Dublin Regulation sets up for the Member States. Now that European Parliament is revising the Dublin Regulation in LIBE committee, it must succeed its purpose to share the responsibility between the Member States.

The increased flow of forced migration started in the second half of 2015. The EU was left unprepared on the way of how to respond to the amount of people coming to the territory. Even though the number of immigration has decreased from the peak of 2015, the pressure on the EU remains strong. The largest groups of people arriving to the borders of Europe are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq all of which have on-going political crisis. The Red Cross reported in March 2017 that Yemen and Somalia are facing severe famines in the near future, forcing people to move away from their homes.

The aim is to develop mechanisms to receive future asylum seekers, but also ensure the security within the EU. That is why the EU has taken some measures to stabilise the movements of forced migrants. The Budget Committee, where I work as a Vice Chair, is working on the resettlement framework of displaced persons. Resettlement helps the asylum seekers to access the European territory in legal ways and simultaneously decreases the need to approach illegal smugglers.

It is true that many asylum seekers will stay in the EU for good. In order for that to work, the EU and the Member States should find concrete ways to integrate the asylum seekers into European societies. Eventually, I see it rather as a possibility than a problem. They will be tomorrow’s Europeans and a young, important part of the European labour market. The EU has acknowledged that due to the quickly ageing European population, Europe needs more young people. The EU has presented the Blue Card program, which is a work- and residence permit for skilled third country nationals. Its aim is to encourage the migration of skilled professionals.

An increased number of migrants is not a problem in itself. The way we as the EU will manage migration, could become one. The security threats might become reality in the future, if we do not develop measures to prevent illegal migration. Unfortunately, due to its structure, illegal migration often involves criminal activity. The establishment of efficient and centralised agencies of managing asylum seekers increases legal migration. It also decreases the need for asylum seekers to turn into the hands of smugglers. At the end of the day, it is up to the political will of the Member States whether the EU will tackle the migration crisis or leave it as it is.

Petri Sarvamaa

Member of the European Parliament

Julkaistu EP Today-lehdessä 6.6.2017.