(Source: European Committee of Regions)
European Committee of the Regions critical of New Pact on Migration and Asylum at a European Parliament hearing
Antje Grotheer (DE/PES), rapporteur of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum and Vice-President of Germany’s Bremen City Parliament, presented the opinion of EU’s cities and regions on the asylum & migration reform package at the hearing of European Parliament’s LIBE Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, on 2nd September. She was highly critical of the importance of the first entry criterion in the analysis of asylum applications, a criterion on which Member States “waste too much time“, as well as of the failure to take account of the realities of the regions, particularly those on the front line of migration. She urged to this effect for a greater consideration of regional specificities in every aspect of the process.
“Consulting local and regional authorities is an essential element for the successful implementation of effective migration policies and cannot be considered a bureaucratic burden,” said Ms Grotheer, stressing that the Treaty principles and Protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality require the European Commission to consult Europe’s cities and regions.
In a debate which followed the presentation of the opinion, MEP Lena Düpont (DE/EPP) acknowledged that taking into account the local and regional aspects was ‘paramount’ to the functioning of any approach to asylum and migration, and called for a clear access to integration funds to LRAs, who are at the forefront of integration efforts and often also manage the reception facilities. MEP Birgit SIPPEL (DE/S&D) expressed her appreciation for the work of the CoR rapporteur and asked for funding under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) to be ‘taken away’ from Members States unwilling to participate in effective solidarity. MEP Fabienne Keller (FR/Renew) called for ideas on how to convince the reluctant Member States to accept mandatory relocations and stressed the need to work together with civil society and local and regional politicians on the migration and integration issues. According to MEP Tineke Strik (NL/Greens), regions and municipalities should have a greater say in relocation decisions and new legislation is needed so that they can welcome refugees even when there is reluctance to do so at the national level. She called for suggestions to be presented to the Commission and/or the European Parliament as a co-legislator on how pledges from cities and regions to welcome migrants could be institutionalised. Concluding MEP interventions was A.S. Pelettier (FR/The Left), who criticised the Pact as one where Europe is choosing to protect borders instead of human lives.
In response to MEPs interventions, Ms Grotheer stressed the need for a common approach where cities and regions are involved in designing the national migration & integration strategies and in quota planning to develop a proper climate where reception and integration work. She also called for effective solidarity between the Member States and regions, protection of fundamental rights of migrants, use of individualised assessments, and protection of vulnerable groups. Pointing out the CoR’s network Cities and Regions for Integration of Migrants as allowing the cities and regions to exchange good integration practices, the rapporteur also called for a direct access to EU funding for municipalities to be able to fulfil their reception and integration role. Ms Grotheer concluded with a call to the European Commission to rework the migration package so that the border regions get greater support and the processing time of individuals in border regions is reduced. While recognising that the task ahead was challenging, she warned that the European Union’s credibility depended on it.