Bratislava doesn’t like the Commission’s mandatory relocation scheme — so has drawn up its own plan.
Author: Jacopo Barigazzi
EU interiors ministers will on Thursday discuss a long awaited alternative to the European Commission’s mandatory relocation scheme for refugees put forward by Slovakia, one of the strongest opponents of the Commission scheme.
The Slovak plan, obtained by POLITICO, is called “Effective solidarity: a way forward on Dublin revision,” a reference to the EU’s Dublin regulation that forces migrants to be registered in the first EU country in which they arrived, and which the Commission wants to overhaul.
It says “experience shows that the current Dublin system does not function satisfactorily;” stresses how “effective solidarity should be ensured;” and says “each member state should be ready to contribute in different ways.”
The ministers will discuss it over dinner the evening before a meeting in Brussels at which they will focus on security and terrorism.
“As we are currently in the process of assembling other member states’ comments, this informal dinner will be … important.” a Slovak diplomat said.
Slovakia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council, and Hungary are the two staunchest opponents of mandatory relocation of migrants, as proposed by the Commission in May last year, and they have both brought cases before the European Court of Justice. Bratislava and Budapest were outvoted in September last year when the mandatory relocation of 120,000 migrants was agreed by EU interior ministers.
In response to that decision, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said: “As long as I’m prime minister, mandatory quotas won’t be implemented on Slovak territory.”
In recent months, Slovakia and Hungary have been talking about an alternative to the Commission plan based on “flexible solidarity” — without outlining what that means. The new Slovak document shines some light on “flexible solidarity,” now rebranded “effective solidarity.”
It proposes a “a three-pillar strategy” covering “normal,” “deteriorating” and “severe circumstances.” Under the second of those scenarios, it calls for a “tailored solidarity contribution mechanism” that all EU members take part in but where “the solidarity component could also equally take other forms” rather than simply relocating refugees.
Among the alternatives to relocation suggested by Bratislava are “financial contributions to the member state under pressure” and the “increased contributions to EASO and EBCG” — the acronyms for the European asylum agency and the new EU border and coast guard.
Yet some diplomats argue that simply sending money would be of limited help to, for example, a small country such as Malta that is on the migration frontline.
The document is also lacking in details, such as when a country would be deemed to be “deteriorating” or facing ”severe circumstances.” It says in “severe” cases, “the European Council should … decide on additional supportive measures, on a voluntary basis.”
Another option outlined by the Slovaks is “sharing reception capacities” for examining asylum applications (something Slovakia and neighboring Austria already do.)
Europe agreed last summer to relocate 160,000 refugees, with most of that number (120,000) moved under mandatory quotas and the rest (40,000) with voluntary pledges.
The target of 40,000 voluntary pledges has not been met, a year on, and member countries have voluntarily agreed to take in only around 37,000 refugees.