The Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee - the committee with the widest range of legislative powers in the European Parliament - has already legislated an extensive migration package.
There have been eight separate EU laws and an asylum package with no less than nine legislative acts. The Gordian Knot among these packages - the seemingly unsolvable problem - is the Dublin Regulation, which assigns responsibility for managing asylum claims and humanitarian protection to the country of first entry.
Despite having been in place for some time now, the implementation and performance of the EU’s migration and asylum packages suffer from two persistent shortcomings.
There is an unfair distribution of responsibilities, with reception capacities of many southern countries with maritime borders saturated because of their vulnerable position to the influx of irregular migration.
In addition, there have been numerous breaches of European law by a growing number of Member States, led by the governments of Hungary and Poland, the champions of the lack of solidarity.
At the end of 2018, the United Nations General Assembly in New York adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, subsequently supplemented by the conclusions adopted at the Geneva Conference in December 2019.
Its philosophy is in line with European resolutions since 2016, and with the laws adopted by the European Parliament.
“These are complex debates, but with the right spirit, with shared responsibility and solidarity as our guiding principles, we can finally solve Europe’s migration and asylum puzzle”
We now have both the need and the opportunity to reach an agreement on a new Pact and this provides the starting point for the debate. This new Pact should incorporate that same vision, built up over recent years and based on the facts of migration and asylum.
It needs to be both comprehensive and holistic, consistent with European values and law, and effective when it comes to enforcement. This implies simultaneously understanding and managing all the pieces of an enormously complex puzzle and dealing with its scope in terms of geography and time.
The essential pieces of the puzzle include cooperation with countries of origin and transit, the opening and strengthening of legal and regular channels of access to the EU and establishing a reliable and stable framework for search and rescue at sea.
The EU also needs to commit to the cross-border fight against human trafficking and the illicit exploitation of people, with police and judicial cooperation to reduce the current margin of impunity, the protection of refugees and asylum seekers in accordance with international humanitarian law, the reinforcement of returns, with dignified repatriation.
This requires a robust structure of international agreements to ensure a common response that is effective, truly European and compliant with its own and international law.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson presented the New Pact on Migration and Asylum in September last year. Some read this proposal as ‘solidarity à la carte’.
Consequently, the debate makes the distinction between laws on migration policy and laws that protect the individual right to asylum and - even if it is not easy - between ‘economic migrants’, who we cannot forget are people with inviolable dignity and rights, and asylum and refugee claimants who are fleeing persecution and risking their lives in the process.
These are complex debates, but with the right spirit, with shared responsibility and solidarity as our guiding principles, we can finally solve Europe’s migration and asylum puzzle.