The EESC highly appreciates the first activation of the Temporary Protection Directive 2001/55/EC in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The current activation of the Directive could well be used to develop solidarity mechanisms among the Member States. It strongly supports an urgent need for effective, genuine, humane – and humanitarian – common European regulations on migration, asylum and security cooperation in an open, but equally secure Schengen area, in full accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The consequences of the war are also a threat for the European model of the social market economy as well as for the freedom and rights of EU citizens and other inhabitants. The EESC encourages preserving and valuing the Schengen area as it is currently constituted, to guarantee not only the free movement of human beings, but also the functioning of the Single Market.
Multiannual strategic policy for European integrated border management - Related Opinions
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This opinion deals with the new Strategy for the future of Schengen issued by the European Commission last June. The Strategy is part of a broader effort to update and strengthen Schengen, which also includes a proposal to amend the regulation on the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism. In this opinion, the EESC welcomes the Commission's Strategy towards a fully functioning and resilient Schengen area and reaffirms its full support for the principles underlying Schengen cooperation. Nevertheless the opinion also advances some concerns, such as: reports of fundamental rights violations at the EU's external borders; the semi-permanent reintroduction of border controls at parts of Member States internal borders and the negative economic and social impact this has had on businesses, and in particular frontier workers, border communities and Euroregions.
The EESC is deeply aware of the horror of human trafficking and the harmful consequences for its victims and supports all measures to fight and eradicate it. It supports the intention to establish minimum standards at EU level that criminalise the networks involved in trafficking and exploiting human beings, and the use of services arising from the exploitation of trafficking victims. The EESC proposes that involvement of CSOs and social partners be incorporated into the Strategy and that these organisations be properly supported.
This opinion provides with the EESC's views on the new EU Strategy on voluntary return and reintegration, a key objective under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The EESC welcomes the strategy as a management tool that seeks to improve coordination and Member States' shared objectives in the field of migration governance. It also agrees with the Commission's approach of further reviewing and harmonising the existing instruments, in order to, among other things, improve the fragmented approach to the issue, reduce the costs of return and increase the funding allocated to programmes. The EESC however continues to hold the view that the strategic weakness of the European Union's immigration and asylum policy is its almost exclusive focus on tackling irregular situations, whether at the border or through voluntary and forced returns.
This opinion will focus on three of the nine instruments contained in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum released by the European Commission in November 2020. The opinion deals with: i) the new screening regulation; ii) the amended proposal revising the asylum procedures regulation; iii) the amended proposal for a recast Eurodac regulation.
The EESC stresses that ensuring balance in dealing with asylum applications should not have to be the responsibility of individual Member States alone, but should be managed by the EU as a whole. It recognises the importance of the proposals having the legal status of a regulation – as opposed to a Directive. The EESC is pleased that the regulations invoke the principles of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, but this burden is not sufficiently balanced. Solidarity needs to be binding, in the form of mandatory relocations.
In this opinion, the EESC stresses that the EU needs to strike the right balance between effective and realistic migration management that is humane and sustainable, while ensuring security and control of its external borders. It must send a clear message that migration can be better managed collectively. It notes that the proposals accompanying the PMA are important but insufficient for the development of the common European framework for migration management, which would be both effective and in line with the EU's values and objectives.
The EESC welcomes the Commission's efforts to speed up returns, but regrets that the recast was not supported by an impact assessment and/or public consultation on the existing Directive 2008/115/EC.
The EESC believes that an effective returns policy should be part of a truly common policy and legislation for legal migration and for asylum, which is currently missing, giving the impression that the EU adopts a purely security and policing-focused vision of migration as a criminal matter. Such a comprehensive common EU migration policy would also be the best answer to the extreme right-wing and nationalist discourse on migration.
The EESC welcomes the Commission's efforts to making the return procedure quicker and more efficient. Even so, consideration should be given to how realistic the proposed time-scales are and an assessment made of the obstacles that could frustrate this intention.
The EESC welcomes the new funds, very different to each other, that will give continuity to the work undertaken, and approves of the increase in their financial allocation. Equal treatment and anti-discrimination policies represent the pillars of European policies, including those concerning the integration of third-country nationals. The removal of the word "integration" from the title is worrying, as this could be seen as reflecting diminishing concern for this aspect. The Committee welcomes the importance given to flexibility in both funds, as this entails acknowledging the importance of better reflecting the needs of each Member States within the framework of joint action.
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