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.
Implementation of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration based on EU values (own-initiative opinion) - Related Opinions
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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.
Screening regulation, amended proposal revising the asylum procedures regulation and the amended proposal revising the Eurodac regulation
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.
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.
In this own-initiative opinion, the EESC calls on the European Union to develop a coherent and uniform approach to protecting unaccompanied foreign minors in Europe. It urges the European Commission to draw up a Directive on the protection of unaccompanied minors that serves the best interests of the child. The principle of "the best interests of the child" should take precedence over all other national and international law. The EESC calls on the Member States to evaluate minority based on a body of evidence, consisting principally of the declarations by the person in question, civil status documents presented and interviews with the person. Given that bone tests are not really reliable, the EESC calls for them to simply be stopped.
Application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third country national or a stateless person
On 13 May, the European Commission presented a European Agenda on Migration outlining the immediate measures that will be taken in order to respond to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean as well as the steps to be taken in the coming years to better manage migration in all its aspects. The EESC welcomes the Commission's "European Agenda on Migration", which it believes symbolises a new-found understanding of the need to address migration at a European level, and encourages the Member States to collectively support the implementation of this Agenda.
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