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EU completes migration reform, despite Poland and Hungary voting against

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EU completes migration reform, despite Poland and Hungary voting against

Forumul Economic Regional Moldova 2024 – Vatra Dornei, 4–6 iulie

Since the migration crisis of 2015-2016, the concept of establishing a unified, predictable set of rules to manage the irregular influx of asylum seekers has been under consideration.

This crisis, which escalated into a highly contentious political issue, sharply divided countries into opposing factions.

After a decade of persistent efforts, the European Union has finally succeeded in reforming its migration and asylum policy, marking a significant milestone. This complex and often tumultuous process reached its conclusion on Tuesday afternoon when member states convened to give their definitive approval to the five regulations comprising the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

The New Pact represents a comprehensive overhaul aimed at ensuring equitable burden-sharing among all countries, regardless of their geographical location. Among its provisions are stricter measures to enhance applicant screening, expedite examination procedures, and provide free counseling services. A key innovation is the introduction of “mandatory solidarity,” offering governments three options for managing asylum seekers: relocating a specified number, paying a fee for each rejected applicant, or funding operational support.

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Initially targeting 30,000 relocations annually, the New Pact encountered expected opposition from Poland and Hungary, who voted against the entire legislative package due to their staunch opposition to mandatory solidarity. The Czech Republic and Slovakia abstained from most votes, while Austria opposed the Crisis Regulation.

Nevertheless, the New Pact secured the necessary qualified majority for ratification, marking a significant achievement. However, the journey to this point was far from smooth. The migration crisis of 2015-2016 triggered intense debates, with southern member states feeling overwhelmed, western and northern states demanding stronger border enforcement, and eastern states resisting relocation quotas.

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Amidst this turmoil, far-right movements capitalized on the issue for political gain, with lasting repercussions seen in today’s political landscape. Despite ideological differences, member states gradually reached a provisional agreement on the New Pact throughout 2023, culminating in its endorsement by the Parliament in April.

While hailed as historic, the New Pact faced criticism from various quarters, with some deeming it too lenient and others too harsh. Humanitarian organizations also voiced concerns, warning of potential degradation in asylum procedures. Yet, the pact was seen by some as a step towards a coordinated, protection-centric approach to resettlement.

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With formal ratification completed, attention now turns to implementation. The European Commission will present an implementation plan in June, with member states required to submit their national plans by January. However, the potential for political discord remains, particularly regarding budget allocation and compliance.

Non-compliance poses a significant threat to the pact’s effectiveness, with the system of mandatory solidarity dependent on all member states adhering to the rules. The European Commission has warned of legal action against non-compliant countries, but enforcement mechanisms may face challenges.

As the journey continues, the plight of asylum seekers persists, underscoring the urgency of effective policy implementation and international cooperation.

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