EU free movement put into question at Vienna summit
EU politicians are threatening to dismantle the bloc’s free-movement rights amid calls to revamp asylum rules, due to the surge in the number of people seeking refuge in Europe
On August27th, the bodies of up to 50 people, who had suffocated, were found in the back of a refrigerated food truck on the outskirts of Vienna. News of the tragedy came the same day EU and Western Balkan leaders and ministers met in the Austrian capital for a summit on migration issues. “We cannot continue like this with a minute of silence every time we see people dying”, the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, said, referring to previous EU gestures of respect for migrant deaths.
Earlier the same day, Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s Foreign Minister, warned media the EU’s asylum regime, the so-called Dublin regulation, which requires point-of-entry countries to process claims, risks collapse.
“I believe that we will need a quick solution for the entire system because otherwise countries will go at it alone and no longer adhere to spirit of the European Union,” he said, adding the EU should consider letting people apply for asylum from their home countries. “We should think about the possibility of making an asylum request in the country of origin in order to ensure better redistribution to European Union countries”. Earlier Mr. Kurz said that a European Union ‘without borders inside is in danger’ if its external borders aren’t secure. Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni made similar comments, “The way things are going, there is a risk of Schengen [the EU’s border-free zone] being called into question and having to go back to the old frontiers,” he said.
Beginning of the end of current rules
Maintaining open internal borders is sacrosanct to the European Commission. But the Brussels executive is now becoming more vocal on the possibility of reforming the so-called ‘Dublin’ rules, which, if applied correctly, would require EU states to return the vast majority of asylum seekers to their EU point-of-entry — Hungary and Italy. Commission Spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said ‘structural changes’ will have to be introduced into the system. The ‘structural changes’ involve relocation and redistribution of asylum seekers in times of crisis.
The commission has already proposed a new mechanism to cover Italy and Greece for the next two years. But it’s planning to propose a more permanent solution by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the need for asylum reform and for immediate action was underlined by Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Vienna the ‘Dublin system isn’t working’. German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the same. “What you are witnessing now is the end of the Dublin system”, Kris Pollet, a policy advisor at the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles.