In September 2023 the European Union presented a new strategy to address the immigration issue that has been increasingly present in the European public debate in recent months.
The pact is a set of regulations and policies which aims to define an European approach to the migration phenomenon, in particular on how to manage migration in Southern Europe. The document was presented in September 2023 by president Ursula von der Leyen, but is still under revision. Last week in Granada presidents of Member States met to discuss a number of points of the Pact, in particular on the mechanisms of solidarity among states and the relations with African countries.
The New Pact is based on three fundamental points: increasing relations between non-European countries in particular with those on the African continent, reinforcing border controls also thanks to the Frontex Agency, and finally improving internal solidarity relations between Member States.
As reported in the revision Document of the Schengen Code 1, drawn up by the European Commission in December 2021, the European Commission’s management of immigration has received increased attention following events related to the 2011 Arab Spring, particularly with the outbreak of the civil war in Syria. A significant moment in this context was 2015, which can be described as a “black year” for Europe. During that year, there was an extraordinary influx of migrants crossing Europe’s borders illegally, with the number reaching almost 2 million people. This was the highest number of immigrants ever recorded since the start of the Syrian civil war.
It is important to underline that this situation was exacerbated by a series of events that started after the outbreak of Arab Spring in 2011. In fact beside the civil war in Syria there have been the series of terrorist attacks, a continuous unstable situation in the African continent and the Russian-Ukrainian war: they have put a strain on the stability of the Schengen Agreement, which provided for the free movement of people within most European countries without internal border controls.
The New Strategy of the European union in a changing world
In this context, the European Commission has faced significant challenges in managing immigration, trying to balance the need to provide refugee and humanitarian assistance to migrants with the preservation of security and stability within the European Union. These events underlined the importance of a common European immigration policy and brought about an in-depth debate on the measures needed to address future challenges related to immigration and asylum in Europe.
The first solution of the EU was to place several systematic controls along the continent’s borders and then to introduce a common electronic system suited for the registration of all non-EU travellers called the ”Schengen Information System”.
Through the Schengen System the EU and its Member States will have the power and the possibility to repatriate all those who have arrived in Europe illegally. Over the years the EU has always tried to improve the Schengen System, and the final deal they reached was signed in December 2021.
The European Union has always tried to draw up a set of proposals to reform the EU’s immigration and asylum system, also modifying some salient elements of the Schengen Convention, to address migration challenges more effectively and fairly. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum aims to strengthen solidarity between EU Member States and improve the migration management system.
This proposed package foresees several elements, one of the most important will be to create a faster and more efficient procedure for processing asylum applications to not letting the immigrants stay too long in the arrival country. The first point aims to speed up sorting and this will be possible also by creating more efficient load-sharing mechanisms between Member States to ensure a fair distribution of asylum seekers.
Another important point of the enhanced cooperation with third countries is to prevent irregular migration and improve resettlement options, but also to improve the arrival conditions in reception centers for asylum seekers.
The new Schengen Convention also highlights some new rules for the control of internal borders between EU Member States, in particular ensuring increasing cooperation, increasing internal border controls, and improving information sharing between Member States to ensure a higher level of security.
In September 2023 the European Commission presented a revised New Pact which is not an agreement born in the last period, but the result of a very long journey that started years ago. The next two posts that will be published the coming weeks, we will try to better explain how the European Union’s immigration plan has evolved. We will describe the Voluntary mechanisms of June 2022 and the programme presented in September 2023 focusing on the background and the various processes that have led to the situation that we are living in nowadays.
1. On the revision of the Schengen borders code and the regulation addressing the instrumentalization of people on December 2021. Margaritis Schinas, the European Commission Vice-President, had report the number of immigration from 202ì15 to now and explained the new rules on the revision of Schengen.