The European Union agenda 2004-2005

The creation of camps at Europe’s borders is a plan that is still not formally on the table at the European Union. Although the issue has been raised on many occasions and has been widely commented on in the Press, it has not been proposed concretely either by the Member States or the Commission.

It is still not clear whether Germany or Italy will make a formal proposition in the forthcoming weeks. But these plans form part of a whole : It is about insidiously putting in place the policy of ‘externalising’ asylum and immigration, leaving the way open for the creation of camps at Europe’s borders. It is important to follow the stages of this policy and its establishment, locating the wider themes that are currently being discussed by the European Union and in which forum and the dates that they will be voted on.

Theoretically, the European Union mechanism of adoption of the policy of asylum and immigration (henceforth going under the name of an a area of Freedom, Security and Justice) is the result of the following process :

- Proposition of the legislation by the Commission (Responsible for Justice and Home Affairs) (JHA) or a member state.

- Discussion of the proposal, formal or informal,

  • During Council working group meetings
  • During the COREPER meetings (the committee of permanent European representatives that brings together representatives from every member state)
  • During meetings of the Council of ministers JHA (there is one about every month).

- Unanimous political agreement by the EU Council (meeting of ministers concerned with the subject matter being treated)

- Transmission to the European parliament

  • A member of the LIBE Committee drafts a report on the legislation.
  • It is voted on during this Commission’s meeting.
  • It is discussed and voted on definitively by the European parliament during a plenary session.

- Once the European Parliament has given its opinion, the Council can also adopt the document definitively. It can then be put into effect.

What we can call the ‘policy of the externalisation’ was never developed in these terms of legislation and official agendas. It is necessary therefore to identify :

On one hand ; the formulas that can hide plans for externalisation : ‘neighbourhood policies’, ‘protection nearer to regions of origin’, and ‘regional zones of protection’, ‘durable solutions’, ‘protected entry procedures’, ‘safe third countries’, ‘strengthening national asylum systems’ or ‘consolidating offers of protection in the first country in which asylum was sought’ and ‘capacity building’, ‘partnership between the third country and the country of transit’, ‘sharing responsibilities with the regions of origin’ etc.
On the other hand where these policies are susceptible to emerge.

On the whole this policy is expressed through :

1) The European Asylum System

Its establishment is supposed to proceed in two phases :

- The first phase, 1999-2004, has existed since the European Summit of Tampere on the adoption of European norms (directives and community regulations) based on minimum standards, in comparison with the norms claimed by NGO’s. The majority of instruments on the Right of asylum have already been adopted. One is still in the course of being adopted : the directive on asylum procedures which notably makes the detention of asylum seekers possible and provides for the establishment of a list of ‘third safe countries’ towards which, asylum seekers may be sent without their asylum claim being investigated.

- The second phase of harmonisation of asylum systems, 2005-2010. The European Council aims to validate the future asylum and immigration policy of the forthcoming 5 years (at Tampere II) on the 4th and 5th November 2004. The European Commission has made propositions, and the European Council has presented a programme, discussed by the member states during the JHA Council meeting of the 25th and 26th October 2004 (NB. This programme has not been made public. Neither European or National Parliaments or civil society has been consulted). It envisages these precise objectives :

  • Establishing a European single procedure of asylum that could be easily exported to third states.
  • Establishing ‘durable solutions’ of protection for asylum seekers in their region of origin : protection in countries where asylum is first sought, this nearer to the country of origin.
  • A system of resettlement in European countries for recognised refugees in first countries of Asylum (which can be closed countries or countries in the Mediterranean basin)
  • Establishing systems of protected entry procedures like the delivery of humanitarian visas or of ‘visas for asylum’.

2) The Return Policy

- The return policy affects the domain of asylum and the issue of clandestine immigration at the same time. It has become a priority for the European Union. It is an element of externalisation because it allows for effective cooperation and less costly expulsions.

- minimum standards for return should be discussed in 2005

  • It has already been decided that community charter flights can be financed by the European Union
  • It is also envisaged that those people without identification documents (the main obstacle to
    expulsion) can nonetheless be sent back by way of readmission agreements (For example : imminent
    signing of a readmission agreement between Morocco and the EU)
  • The nomination of a special representative for readmission (which will depend on the European Commission ) is planned.

- These agreements also envisage allowing forced return of nationals of third states that have been transiting through signatory countries : the states concerned are clearly the States bordering Europe, such as the North African Countries (for example Nigerian nationals arrested in Italy can be sent back to Morocco in accordance with this agreement between Morocco and the European Union. Morocco would then be responsible for sending nationals back to their country of origin.)
All this will be financed by the European Return Funds. The European Commission must initiate a pilot project. The putting into use of funds is planned for 2007.

3) Border Controls

- Putting in place a European Border Agency responsible for managing the common control of borders, the return policy and the creation of the European Border Guards.

- As proposed by the European Council, the putting in place of a rapid reaction group of national experts in case of ‘exceptional migratory pressure’ and a request to the Commission make proposals on the financing and responsibilities of such a group - no deadline.

- The allocation of funds is of more and more importance for the control of borders. The financial programme ARGO is in principle destined to improve the administrative cooperation between national services with the aim of ensuring the harmonised application of Community Law. A proposition of amendment to allow the allocation of funds to border control programmes is currently made.

4) Maritime Controls - Neptune (III)

5) Cooperation with third countries

- Under the cover of ‘partnership’, of development aid or of cooperation with third countries, the policy of incentives to third world countries to cooperate with the control of borders outside the Union takes place by the financing of externalisation projects

- Incentives for agreements to be signed for readmission : 250 million euros in four years. The programme of technical assistance in third countries for asylum and immigration (AENEAS) must be put into effect by the end of 2004.

The European Agenda for ‘An Area of Liberty, Security and Justice’

For the coming 8 months, the agenda is already broadly known. The programme is progressively being made public.

Some useful information may be found on the following websites :

- European Commission (DG JHA)
- European Parliament
- Plenary Sessions
- Public Freedom Committee
- Human Rights Sub Committee
- JHA Council
- European Council

October 2004

- 25/26 october JHA Council : multi-annual Programme on Justice and Home Affairs
- 25 october European Parliament : Meeting of the Human Rights sub-committee
- 25 October European Parliament : Meeting of the LIBE committee
- 26 october European Parliament : Vote on cooperation agreements with Russia, Georgia, Kyrigistan, Moldova, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine
- 28 october European Parliament : vote on the European Commission
- Deadline end of October European Neighbourhood policy : Countries plans of action (European Commission)

November 2004
- 4/5 november European Council on the pluri-annual programme for strengthening the area of Security, Freedom and Justice of the European Union.
- 15 november European Parliament : Plenary Session ; vote on ARGO programme
- 23 novembre European Parliament : Meeting of the Human Rights sub-committee
- 24 novembre European Parliament : Meeting of the LIBE committee

December 2004
- 2 december European Parliament : Meeting of the LIBE committee
- 22 december European Parliament : Plenary session
- Deadline end 2004

  • Return policy : Commission proposal for a directive on minimum standard for return
  • Green paper on Economic immigration (Commission)
  • Borders : Proposition on the SIS II (Commission)

2005

Current Asylum - Protection in regions of origin : The Council asks the Commission to develop regional protection programmes : the launching of pilot projects for the regional protection programmes (capacity building, programme of European installation...)

- Beginning 2005 Return Policy ; Discussion on the directive on minimum standards for Return

- Deadline Spring 2005

  • Asylum- Directive Procedures : (Political agreement on the 9/04/04-new European parliamentary consultation).
  • The Council asks the Commission to integrate the migratory dimension into the strategic documents for countries concerned by immigration, by country and by region.
  • The Council asks the Commission to present some proposition on the links to establish between migration, development, humanitarian policies, with a particular focus on the first causes of immigration and the ‘push factors’.

- 1st April Deadline for passing through the co-decision demanded by the European Parliament.

- 1st May Border Control Agency : starts (Rules establishing the Agency : COM (2003) 687, 11th November 2003 - political agreement 30/03/04- Consultation of the Parliament)

- Autumn 2005

  • Rules establishing a code for the crossing of borders (COM (2004) 391, May 2004)
  • Proposition on the detailed functioning of the VIS (Visa Information System) by the commission

- Before end of 2005 Neighbourhood Policy : Evaluations of progress and achievements in this field