Annalena Baerbock defends the EU's asylum compromise – but there is criticism within the party. © Soeren Stache/dpa
The EU agrees on asylum reform, but not all parties are happy about it. Merkur.de asked MEPs.
Luxembourg – After years of wrangling, the EU's asylum compromise has been reached. In essence, stricter border procedures and more solidarity in the distribution of refugees. Is the reform a success? "Of course not," says Birgit Sippel, home affairs spokeswoman for the European Social Democrats. CDU colleague Lena Düpont says: "We as the EPP group are relatively satisfied, you can work with that." The conservative EPP group, to which the CDU/CSU also belongs, had been pushing for years for concrete legal bases for European migration. The fact that concrete plans have been made is positive. But when it comes to evaluating these reforms, the parties are sometimes far apart. The Greens, in particular, are divided.
Greens argue over asylum reform: Battle between Realos and Fundis
The Greens appear to be divided within the party. On Thursday evening, Twitter showed how differently the party leadership already sees the EU compromise on the asylum system. At 21:14 p.m., Omid Nouriour described the approval "as a whole" as a "necessary step to move forward together in Europe." Two minutes later, his co-leader Ricarda Lang wrote: "Germany should not have agreed to the proposal for reform in the Council today." The parliamentary group leaders Britta Haßelmann and Katharina Dröge also expressed themselves differently. Annalena Baerbock defended the course. In a letter to the parliamentary group, which is available to our editors, she campaigned for the agreement of the EU interior ministers – although the compromise was "very difficult for her as foreign minister, as a Greens and also personally".
It is also a trench warfare between two party currents. Nouripour and Haßelmann belong to the Realo wing, Lang and Dröge to the left Fundi camp. Nearly 200 Green realists called on the party leadership to do more to deport rejected asylum seekers," reports theTagesspiegel. For other politicians, on the other hand, the rules go far too far.
Greens' criticism of traffic lights: "These decisions are undignified and shameful"
Co-leader Timon Dzienus is harsh on Merkur's request with the traffic light and his own party: "These decisions are unworthy and shameful of an SPD-led and Green-supported government," says Dzienus. "The traffic light coalition is failing because of its own aspirations. It had set itself the goal of ending the suffering at Europe's external borders. Now there will be more chaos, more violence and more suffering. Not a single life of people on the move will be improved."
Dzienus and 730 other Green Party members had already expressed their unease about the "incomprehensible German negotiating position" in a letter to the Green leadership before the summit. The letter is available to our editors. It also denounces the relaxation of the classification of safe third countries.
MEP Erik Marquardt also finds clear words, speaking to the Merkur.de of a "great tragedy". Marquardt does not see Germany's yes vote covered by the coalition agreement on which the migration expert has worked. For him, it is clear that the tightening of asylum laws has been pushed through, while aspects of a humanitarian migration policy have been neglected. The "strategy of the right-wing populists" has worked. Marquardt is particularly critical of the rigid border procedures.
EU politician Erik Marquardt has been a member of the European Parliament since 2019. There, he is particularly committed to improving the situation at the EU's external borders. The migration politician has been on the ground several times at borders, for example in Greece. © Philippe Stirnweiss
Asylum reform: Dispute over safe countries of origin
The Social Democrats also see room for improvement. In an interview with our editors, SPD politician Sippel sees problems, for example in dealing with families and children. "According to the presentation of the member states in the Council, they must go to a border procedure that is clearly linked to detention conditions."
Sippel also criticises the Council's handling of fast-track procedures and returns to the country of origin. "If you can't get asylum, you should go back to your country of origin," says the MEP. But the definition of what a safe state is problematic is is problematic. "There is no coordinated European list here. This opens the door to individual member states entering into agreements with third countries." Something like: "You take back refugees so that we can get rid of them."
Düpont believes that the previous solutions have not worked: "On the one hand, you can say that every person who arrives must be distributed per se – and then it is checked whether he or she is entitled to protection at all. I don't think that's so wise." Instead, the CDU MP advocates reforming the areas of procedural duration and lack of repatriation.
For the first time, the EU compromise allows asylum procedures at Europe's external borders so that people with little chance of being accepted do not come to the EU in the first place. For this purpose, there should be asylum centers near the border, from where migrants are to be deported directly. "This can only be achieved in combination with accommodation that is worthy of human rights," Düpont demands. But there is also criticism of the plans. This is how the situation at the external borders is getting worse, argue the Greens, for example.
Blockade of Hungary and Poland: "Should consider whether they still want to be part of the whole"
The reforms, which were drawn up under the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU, are a concession towards the Mediterranean countries. For years, Greece and Italy in particular have not seen sufficient support in taking in refugees. They take in most people. The "mechanism of solidarity" does not work, the Italian Ministry of the Interior said before the summit on request. Now the EU wants to counteract this with a migration fund.
In the future, EU countries will have to pay a penalty payment of 20,000 euros for each migrant they do not accept. This money will then be used to finance migration projects. This arrangement is aimed at Poland and, above all, Hungary, which were the only states to vote against the compromise. "We have all lost patience with Hungary for a variety of reasons," Düpont concludes. Enthusiasm for the EU in Budapest is low. "But then maybe at some point they should consider whether they still want to be part of the whole thing or not." Whether Hungary will ever pay is uncertain. After the summit, Prime Minister Viktor Orban rumbled that the EU wanted to "forcibly transform Hungary into a migrant country".
Hungary will probably try to prolong the implementation of the reforms. So far, only the European Council has reached an agreement, and negotiations with Parliament are now underway. The European Union had always set itself the 2024 European elections as the "last deadline". The new asylum package is to be presented before the elections in June. Whether this will succeed is something EU representatives do not dare to conjure up these days. But it is a start that there is finally something concrete.
After all, when it comes to migration, the EU does not need a unified majority. The package can therefore be adopted without the votes of Poland and Hungary after a possible agreement between the Council and Parliament. But then it also has to be implemented, says Sippel. "Otherwise, all negotiations have no value at all." (as)