Migration issues must be addressed before admitting more countries into the Schengen Agreement

The EU has some of the weakest rules and procedures for migration among safe countries, writes Lukas Mandl. Once the bloc implements necessary changes, Bulgaria and Romania can be admitted to the Schengen area
Photo: Alamy

By Lukas Mandl

Lukas Mandl (EPP, AT) is a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

21 Dec 2022

Since 2015, Austria has taken on a huge part of the burden that comes along with the migration crisis. The European Union must always be a shining light on the global stage when it comes to defending human dignity and freedom. The EU is also built on frank and deep deliberations, mutual respect and understanding, as well as conscious decision-making. Austria, my home country, has played a crucial role in this respect. 

I urgently call on my colleagues in the European Parliament who are responsible for the LIBE files on the asylum and migration management regulation (AMR), the screening regulation, the asylum procedures regulation (APR), Eurodac and the crisis instrument regulation to accelerate the finalisation of these files, since the Commission’s proposal from 2020 draws a very good path to solving most migration-related issues, as I have stated time and again. I also call on the Council to proceed. 

Just like any other Member State, Austria has to defend its very fundamental interests, which is why it was necessary to create some leverage in the European Council by postponing the Schengen accession for Bulgaria and Romania. In my view, it can be lifted as soon as the barriers to finalising the Commission’s proposal in the Council and the European Parliament are lifted. 

It is our duty to fight disinformation, which leads to irregular migration. Deutsche Welle and its partners are doing a great job on this front and should receive broader support. For one, we will need to rethink how we can strengthen and secure effective border control. Furthermore, since more than two-thirds of asylum seekers do not obtain the legal right for asylum, we need fast-track asylum procedures.  

We will need to rethink how we can strengthen and secure effective border control

In addition, I urge Member States to increase solidarity in various areas, such as resettlement and return policies. And the system must spread any responsibilities evenly after many years of a migration crisis that has seen very different levels of engagement among the Member States. Finally, I am convinced more flexibility regarding cooperation with third countries, especially on the European continent, is key for finding a solution to the aforementioned issues. 

On 18 October 2022, a majority of the European Parliament’s plenary voted in favour of the proposal for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States. Included in the proposal was an amendment suggesting that Member States should consider “extending the protection offered by the Temporary Protection Directive to all refugees”. The EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, which was triggered for the first time ever in response to the people fleeing Russia’s war in Ukraine, is unique in many different respects. The majority of my esteemed colleagues voting for the aforementioned language shows a high degree of irrationality and an idealistic approach. Both sentiments have harmed the EU’s migration policies for many years.  

The EU is at least as attractive as countries like Australia, Canada or the United States. However, among these, it is the EU that is the weakest in terms of rules and procedures for migration. As a consequence, the Union is also targeted by means and measures of hybrid warfare via the trigger of irregular migration. This has already been a reality for years, and Russia’s war in Ukraine has only aggravated it. To overcome this as quickly as possible, it is crucial that the Commission’s proposal from 2020 be dealt with swiftly and in detail. 

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