On 27 January, the EESC held a debate with Commissioner Johansson at its plenary session just before adopting its opinion on A New Pact on Migration and Asylum. In the opinion, the Committee voiced reservations as to whether the Pact would help develop a common European framework for migration management that would be both effective and in line with the EU's values.
The rapporteur for the opinion, José Antonio Moreno Diaz, said "We had great hopes for this pact but I have to say we are a bit disappointed. The Commission's analysis is good, and we agree with the conclusions, but we are frustrated with the devil in the detail, where the proposals are concerned."
The co-rapporteur, Cristian Pîrvulescu, regretted the lack of progress on some of the issues dealt with in the pact. "We are sad to say that there has not been a lot of headway made, but a lot of backtracking. We would encourage the Commission to take a bolder approach to some of these issues."
The EESC's main objection was that the pact focused primarily on returns and the management of borders, at the expense of dealing with other burning issues, such as regular immigration channels, safe pathways for asylum and the integration of migrants. Also, some of the proposed solutions may not be feasible in practice.
The European Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, said she "did not agree at all" with criticism that the Commission was lacking in ambition. "The reality today is very different from 2015, when we had a massive inflow of refugees and relocation was a big issue", she said, explaining that the vast majority of irregular newcomers today were not refugees. Therefore, swift decisions and returns were very important, but so was the need to guarantee a fair process for all asylum seekers
"Those who are eligible to stay are welcome and we would like them to be part of our society," Ms Johansson said.
During the debate, the EESC expressed its utmost concern at the plight of migrants at the EU border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. (na)