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MPI Europe director comments on EU migration deal agreed by European interior ministers
 
Press Release
Friday, June 9, 2023

MPI Europe director comments on EU migration deal agreed by European interior ministers

BRUSSELS — Following agreement by European interior ministers on a plan to reform EU migration policy, Migration Policy Institute Europe Director Hanne Beirens offered the following statement today:

This constitutes a historic deal. After eight years of negotiations—first under the Juncker Commission and now the von der Leyen Commission—member states have come to agreement on how to tackle some of the burning issues on the migration front: everything from rising migration pressures at the EU external borders and the absence of a predictable and smoothly functioning asylum solidarity mechanism, to easier procedures for recruiting third-country nationals to tackle structural labor shortages.

The agreement does not come a moment too soon. In the post-COVID period, the bloc has witnessed a steep rise in arrivals, both in the Mediterranean basin and along the Balkan route, and also has been the subject of deliberate attempts by third states, most notably Belarus, to destabilize the Union.

That said, this agreement is not the ending point, representing a deal that outlines the broad principles for cooperation. Next up are negotiations with the European Parliament, and ultimately codifying this agreement in legal texts and infrastructure.

If the pact is to succeed, it will be essential to translate this agreement into a system that works in practice. It is crucial to design a border management system that is capable of responding to rises and falls in arrivals and of distinguishing between those who need protection and those who need to be returned. This requires an operational infrastructure, with sufficient and well-trained staff, scalable reception centers and more. Similarly, the principles of solidarity need to be translated, and transformed, into a system that is predictable and works smoothly in preventing, detecting and alleviating rising pressure on asylum systems in member states—the opposite of the ad hoc, voluntary and bureaucratic systems of solidarity we have observed so far.

Such an operational infrastructure cannot be achieved in the space of a few weeks or months. The setup of a system that is sustainable and able to withstand and deal with changing migration trends will necessarily be a multi-year endeavor that requires step-by-step implementation.

Ultimately, the ambitions of the EU bloc rest with what lies beyond the pact: a migration and asylum system that meets the challenges of a future that is likely to be one of increased migration pressure due to refugee movements, instrumentalization of migration and climate-induced (im)mobility. The pact carves out the direction forward, but the operational translation—flanked by the EU agencies, sufficient funding and smartly innovated asylum, return and legal migration procedures—will be the ultimate piece de resistance. In the remaining months of this Commission and Parliament, that should now be the focus—if these officials truly want to leave behind a durable legacy.