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Migration and Asylum - Related Opinions
Turkey’s geographical position makes it a first reception and transit country for many refugees and migrants. As the result of an unprecedented influx of people seeking refuge, the country currently hosts more than 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees and is making commendable efforts to provide them with humanitarian aid and support. The EU is committed to assist Turkey in dealing with this challenge.
The Commission recently published a Communication on a Renewed Partnership with the ACP Group of countries. ACP-EU relations are currently governed by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement that will expire in 2020, therefore the Commission has published recommendations on what the future structure should be. Last year the EESC already drafted a general opinion on the post-Cotonou framework; this new opinion will have to answer specifically to the Commission's communication.
The EESC is a strong advocate of a fair, well-administered and sustainable development policy at EU level. It is also very committed to the cause of greater tax justice. In recent years, questions have been raised as to whether the international tax policies of the Member States, in particular the concluding of certain types of double taxation agreements, are consistent with EU development policy objectives.
The EESC considers the intention to create ETIAS as a currently inevitable step corresponding to the threats caused by external and internal circumstances. ETIAS should be based on the right balance between risks and safety, at the same time avoiding increased administrative burdens and barriers for people travelling to the EU. The Committee stresses that ETIAS should fully respect the fundamental rights of applicants and avoid any discrimination. All data gathered by the system must be protected and access to it should be strictly limited. All applicants should be allowed to use the services of intermediaries to obtain the travel authorisation, if needed. However, the costs charged by these intermediaries for their services should be monitored and evaluated by EU delegations in the third countries.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) believes that the European Agenda on Migration should be designed so as to take into full consideration the humanitarian dimension of its scope, and the EU should not forget its fundamental commitments and legally binding rules to protect lives and human rights, especially of people in danger. The EESC supports the vision to provide a long-term response to migration, addressing the root causes of migration and creating a dialogue with third countries based on cooperation and shared responsibility. Tailored and specific agreements with each country, with full respect of human rights are also supporter. Flexibility provides the right perspective and combination of actions and incentives.
The Committee supports the European Commission proposal for the creation of a Union Resettlement Framework and calls for a genuine common asylum policy that respects European values. It calls for the common criteria for resettlement to focus on people's need for protection, not on the third country's effective cooperation on asylum and it considers the "first country of asylum" and "safe third country" concepts to be open to question due to the current unsafe and unstable situation in the third countries and regions concerned. The Committee calls for the resettlement programme to be uncoupled from partnership agreements that aim to encourage third countries to prevent refugees from fleeing, as this carries the risk of infringing international law and fundamental rights.
The opinion welcomes the revision of the Blue Card, since it makes the card more attractive as a way of entering the EU.
However, the Committee considers that Commission's proposal to replace parallel national schemes with a single EU-wide scheme goes too far, and prefers that Member States maintain their own routes for admitting highly qualified workers alongside the EU Blue Card.
The opinion agrees with the measures to facilitate granting of the card, but expresses scepticism about the application of lower salary thresholds.
Finally the opinion recalls that equal opportunities and non-discrimination must be guaranteed in the employing of third-county nationals and that close involvement of national and European social partners is needed in this field.
In this opinion the EESC supports further harmonisation of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and welcomes the proposed improvements. However, it is concerned about some limitations of fundamental rights of asylum seekers. It sets out specific recommendations on the three proposals for: the Qualification Regulation, the Common Procedure Regulation and the Standards of Reception Directive, taking into account the human rights perspective, in line with the opinion on CEAS Reform I.
Development responses to forced displacement should be tailored for each geographic region, whilst ensuring joined-up action across the European Commission and other institutions. While a development-led approach can produce considerable results with the current budget, the need for extra resources should not be ruled out. Civil society, end users, development partners and NGOs should be involved in the delivery and in making the Commission's Communication operational. Social and civil dialogue structures and processes should be enhanced and improved in partner and host countries to assist with its delivery. Entrepreneurship in the affected regions should be supported and developed as a viable development path for many forcibly displaced people. Education and training responses should be based on a lifelong learning approach. The possibility of making EU programmes available to forcibly displaced people should be considered.