The interior ministers of the European Union’s member states will meet in Luxembourg next week (9 June) to discuss the Union’s migration and asylum policy, before national leaders address the topic at a summit on 23-24 June.
They will hold an initial discussion on revised asylum proposals scheduled for adoption by the European Commission today (1 June), but major decisions are expected ahead of the leaders’ summit.
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The Commission’s revisions to the draft directives on asylum procedures and reception conditions are aimed at simplifying the standards they set and reducing the additional cost for member states, the two issues that had prompted opposition in the Council of Ministers. Progress on the two proposals – originally submitted in 2008 and 2009 – is important as a step towards creating a Common European Asylum System by the end of next year, the goal agreed by member states and the Commission.
Other elements of the asylum system are still far from being resolved. They include revisions to the Dublin II regulation, which requires that asylum-seekers be sent back to the country through which they entered the EU. Greece, Italy and Malta want the provision to be suspended in migration emergencies, a move opposed by the other member states. An EU official said that an overall compromise was more likely now that all the revised proposals were on the table.
The ministers will also review outstanding questions on revisions to the regulation of Frontex, the EU’s border management agency. Proposals for a pool of national border guards remain controversial, and member states have yet to agree on whether secondments of national experts to Frontex will be voluntary or mandatory. Talks between the European Parliament and the member states began in April, and both sides are hoping for an agreement before the summer.
The interior ministers are expected to approve positive reports on the technical readiness of Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen area of passport-free travel. Hungary, the current holder of the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers, hopes that the two countries can join Schengen once political difficulties raised by France and Germany have been overcome. This would probably be next year at the earliest, but a date later this year has not been ruled out.
France and Germany lead a group of member states with concerns that Bulgaria and Romania have yet to achieve full control of their borders, and over the land-bridge that their entry would create between Greece and the rest of the Schengen zone.
Greece is still struggling to secure its land and sea borders and is receiving assistance from Frontex.
A senior member state diplomat said: “Greece is the problem. Until the Greek problem is solved, Bulgaria and Romania will not join Schengen.”