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Commission candidates’ perspectives on Immigration!

20140513PHT46903_originalFOOD FOR THOUGHT – Question Time: managing the priorities

Since the tragedy occurred off the coast of Lampedusa in October 2013 the Mediterranean has witnessed the ineffectiveness of the European efforts in the management of migration flows.

The issue of migration represents a fault line in the European election debate.

All the five candidates to the European Commission’s presidency (Martin Schulz, PES – Ska Keller, GREENS – Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP – Alexis Tsipras, GUE/NGL – Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE) )have been put under scrutiny with regard of their position on asylum, migration policies, social integration and external border control.

 EU-Logos Athèna has summarized the various candidates’ positions on this issue through the analysis of public electoral confrontations and political manifestos.

 EU-Logos Athèna is posing five questions with the aim of clarifying and further developing the general political positions expressed by the candidates.



1911 1. Legal economic migration policy

 “Europe is a continent of migration- with many Europeans emigrating to other parts of the world while many others flocked to Europe”. Nevertheless, unlike the major migration areas as United States and Canada, European Union lacks a clear migration policy. The time has come to set up a long term vision aiming to turn migrants in an economic and social opportunity for Europe which is needing to attract skills for its labor market. Consequently, M. Schulz considers a selective approach as being the most appropriate way to address migration mobility, also because “not everyone can come”. To perform such a European migration system it is primordial to create “a mutual understanding on quotas” among EU member states.

 2. Integration

 The PES manifesto stresses the importance both to fight firmly against xenophobia, hate and division and create a Europe that defends diversity and respects everybody’s rights and obligations. Migrants must have a real opportunity to find a place in Europe and to play a positive role.

3. Common European Asylum System

Protection of people escaping from persecutions and civil wars is not only an European international obligation, but also an European essential value. In M. Schulz’ view, the fundamental guideline to implement a Common European Asylum System is to ensure loyalty and solidarity along all 28 Member States with a fair sharing of responsibilities. Indeed, managing asylum seekers coming to Europe is not “a Maltese, Greek, Italian or Bulgarian issue”, but a European one. M. Schulz does not consider Dublin Regulation reform as being the most appropriate path to solve contrasts among EU member states since “its goal is in a way limited and there are problems which are not addressed by this regulation”.

4. Illegal Immigration and Border Control

The basic guiding principle in dealing with migrants attempting to cross illegally European external borders should be to uphold human life and dignity knowing that “every life counts” and “every single life lost off our shores, man, woman or child, is a stain on our civilization”. Tackling the illegal migration phenomena and empowering the European Member States’ capacities to save migrants in distress require six first class actions:

– establishing a clear and rule-based approach to avoid misunderstandings between the MSs, share responsibilities and act in solidarity;

– fighting against smuggling and human trafficking;

– strengthening coordination amid the Member States in Search and Rescue operations;

– addressing causes of illegal immigration by the means of reforming human rights and improving economic and social conditions in origin and transit third countries;

– ensuring that no ship master should be afraid of prosecution while saving lives;

– Syrian and Central African Refugees.

 5. Syrien and Central African refugees

Temporary protection is the most efficient and effective mean by which EU can protect people fleeing civil wars and humanitarian crisis such as the Syrian and Central African ones, even though it calls for conditions and timeframes.




1. Legal economic migration policy

The GREENS want to establish legal channel for migration. Ska Keller thinks asylum system is blocked by fences all around Europe. At the European presidential debate, contrary to her opponents who want a controlled economic immigration, she wants to open Europe to refugees and asylum seekers. In her way, Europe should use a humanitarian visa for refugees.

2. Integration

 Ska Keller fought for a more humane and human right orientated Refugee and Migration policy in the EU. And she wants to ensure a stronger family tie. According to their manifesto and priorities, we can say that the Greens see integration and migration like a opportunity.

3. Common European Asylum System

Ska Keller is in favor of a common EU policy on asylum that guarantees solidarity among Member States. There have been many disasters in EU, and we cannot continue like this, the EU migration policy needs a radical change. The problem is that members states are not willing at all to do more for asylum, to cooperate and to go under binding rules and rules are not implemented by them. For example, with the rule of the “first entry”, asylum seekers find inadequate and dysfunctional asylum system like in Greece, Italy or Malta. We have to find a way of allowing people to decide themselves where they want to apply.

She thinks that legal access reform and human rights should be on the top of the agenda. According to Ska Keller, EU has to complete the reform of asylum system, offer a fair system and guarantee legal procedure. Unless the EU is not “worthy of its Nobel Prize”.

4. Illegal migration

The current EU policy is unacceptable. The EU should adopt long-term humanitarian measures to cope with illegal immigration. EU should create “more legal ways of entry, more effective to dry out the illegal migration”. The Greens seems to agree with this cooperation with origin and transit countries. European governments can work with migrant-sending countries over the long term to foster development, increase in job opportunities for example. The Greens had an important impact on improving the regulation on Frontex. The regulation ensures better rules on rescuing migrants at sea and legalizing push backs. The regulation is not sufficient on protecting refugees compare to legalizing push backs. So the Greens wants Frontex to comply with its obligation and European case law on the principle of non-refoulement and the protection of refugees at sea is an “inviolable principle” that the EU should uphold and so, some concerns remain with Frontex operations.

Ska Keller said that “The more difficult the EU makes for people to reach EU territory the more it actually fosters the dirty and illegal business of smuggling, » adding that notwithstanding the need to fight smuggling and trafficking of human beings, providing more legal ways of entry for refugees and migrants would be more effective to dry out the illegal business.” It’s one of their tenth priorities for the campaign. The Greens want to avoid a “Fortress Europe” by “making Europe a fair haven for refugees and keeping the door open to future enlargement of the EU”.

5. Syrien and Central African refugees

Ska Keller said that millions of Syrian refugees took a dangerous journey through the Mediterranean, and if EU wants to be worthy of its Nobel Prize, we should open doors to people who want to find protection out of Syria, we have to look closely to what we can do to prevent crisis. There is a big amount of refugees in Lebanon (1 million), Turkey, Jordan, whereas Europe has only let in around 12,500 refugees. The Europe needs to be more welcoming towards Syrian refugees.




     1. Legal economic migration policy

 »Immigration policy must be legally framed at European level » – he calls for immigration  » better managed and coordinated « ,  » orderly and legalized . » He said that the freedom of movement, within the Community, is one of the essential principles and basic of the European Union.  »Europe needs more political determination when it comes to legal migration.

But we will only be able to cope with immigration if Europe adopts a sound policy that allows migrants to come to Europe legally and in a controlled manner, instead of by stealth, or by crossing the Mediterranean in unstable boats organised by shady human traffickers » – he said.

 »Organising legal migration is also in Europe’s own long-term interest ».

2. Integration

 »Europe is a rich continent, but even a rich continent cannot afford to host everybody in need or distress. However, Europe also cannot afford to let people drown who are trying desperately to reach our shores ». Jean-Claude Juncker affirmed that Europe must to combine elements of solidarity with clear rules of the game, and asylum seekers and political refugees must always find a place to stay in Europe.  »But the inevitable cost of this must be shouldered by all Europeans, and not only by those who are geographically exposed ».

3. Common European Asylum System

On his EPP Manifesto J.C. Juncker said that it exists the need to implement the Common European Asylum System, adopted in June last year, « without delay ». He affirmed that currently, one and the same applicant for asylum can have a 70-75% chance of being granted asylum in one country of the European Union and less than 1%, with the same reasons, in another country. It’s necessary – according to him – create new European rules in place swiftly to ensure an asylum seeker will have the same chances of being granted asylum in any of the Member States; deepen risk assessments to spot problem areas before they become overloaded. « All Member States must to work very closely together with the European Asylum Support Office, which can only execute its tasks if national authorities team up with it ».

 4. Illegal migration

“I believe that we need more Europe and a stronger Europe when it comes to addressing irregular migration, organising legal migration and strengthening our external borders “ – Jean-Claude Juncker. European common Asylum and Legal Migration policies will only work if we can also prevent a uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants. We therefore need step up the operational capacities of the European border agency FRONTEX. We need to pool more resources amongst Member States to reinforce the work of FRONTEX and put into action European Border Guard Teams for quick deployment in FRONTEX joint operations and rapid border interventions.

 5. Syrien and Central African refugees

On the EPP Manifesto, J.C. Juncker has affirmed that it exists the need for the EU to step up cooperation with third countries, particularly North African countries. « To cope with the challenge of immigration, it would be naïve if Europe were only open and hospitable. Even Europe, as the richest continent in the world, will not be able to accommodate the distress and pain of the whole globe. We must not only deal with the symptoms but go to the root of the problem and help bring about change in the countries of origin. Nobody wants to leave their home country – unless the political or economic situation there forces them to go elsewhere ». This is why – according to him – European partnerships with North African countries to strengthen democracy and pluralism, the rule of law, religious freedoms and support the building up of stable economies are the best investment we can make to cope with the challenge of immigration.



Alexis_Tsipras_die_16_Ianuarii_2012  1. Legal economic migration policy

“I believe that Europe has the historical duty to immediately shape an overall immigration policy, which would ensure human rights and serve European values.” Tsipras proposes a European immigration policy based on a « double European solidarity »: externally through an increased support to growth in the countries of origin; internally through an equitable distribution of all economic immigrants and refugees in the EU and their smooth integration. “We want to change Europe. Instead of a Europe constrained by the fear of unemployment, sickness, old age, poverty, instead of Europe serving banks, we support Europe serving human beings.” The European Left puts a focus on workers’ rights and the need to resist the current climate of austerity, which increases unemployment and poverty for more disadvantaged social classes (and immigrants).

2. Common European Asylum System

Concerning asylum, Tsipras says: “I ask you to immediately take the initiative, according to article 15, para. 3 of the Treaty on European Union and convene a special meeting of the European Council as soon as possible, with the subject of having Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003 (Dublin II) revised, according to article 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that EU policies on immigration shall be governed “by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including its financial implications, between the Member States”.

3. Illegal migration

GUE/NGL opposes the conclusion of readmission agreements, the development of border surveillance technologies and the detention of migrants, fighting the expansion of Fortress Europe: “Border walls stop human rights – not human beings”. “No Frontex force and no fence could stop a phenomenon which is partly a result of the crisis in the countries of origin. Nor shall we achieve it by adopting in the South ever more repressive policies against immigrants under the pressure of the governments of the North of Europe.”

4. Syrien and Central African refugees

Concerning the crisis in Syria, GUE/NGL calls for strengthening the international level, support and assistance to refugees and sounds the alarm about the growing number of refugees who risk their lives in open vessels to flee to Europe, and calls granted them asylum and assistance

5. Cooperation with third countries

 About cooperation with third countries, Tsipras says: “the programmes designed to support the Barcelona Declaration were effectively abandoned, without having assisted the countries of North Africa and Middle East in order to improve their economies and decrease unemployment. Had it been attained, it would have decreased the number of citizens who emigrate to the European Union in any legal or illegal way”. Hence, he supports cooperation for the economic development of third countries instead of readmission agreements.



1. Legal economic migration policy:

The manifesto stresses the importance of opening Europe to talents from abroad while at the same time enforcing measure to prevent irregular immigration. In the Leaders’ debate held on April 28th in Maastricht, he advocated for a common system of legal economic migration that would enable a “burden-sharing” among member States, notably citing the examples of Australia, Canada and the USA.

 2. Common European Asylum System:

ALDE’s electoral manifesto does not dedicate any specific chapter on the issue but instead addressed the question in a paragraph called “Stronger abroad and safer at home”. It welcomes the new Common European Asylum System, calls for the establishment of legal safe routes for asylum seekers through resettlements and humanitarian visas to prevent human trafficking and tragedies at sea.

3. Free movemet of citizens :

Verhofstadt is well known for his pro-European integration standing and always defended the free movement of citizens within the Schengen area in the face of right-wing parties’ positions on this regard. (see the controversy with the UKIP. “Free movement of citizens is a two ways street” he stated in several interviews, underlying that the number of UK citizens in the EU almost equals that of EU citizens in the UK. Moreover, he considers the free movement of citizens a fair counterpart for the free movement of goods and capitals in the EU.

Nevertheless, Verhofstadt repeatedly asserted that the EU needs what he calls a “mobility scheme”, a system that would prevent “welfare shopping” by granting EU citizens the social welfare standards of their country of origin no matter where they work in the EU.

4. Illegal immigration and Border Control

Verhofstadt aims at tackling illegal immigration mainly through the establishment of a legal system of economic migration: “We have to develop a legal migration policy in Europe. We need migration, but we need legal migration and for the moment we have the opposite: illegal migration and human trafficking”

Adeline Silva Pereira

Après avoir effectué la deuxième année du master Sécurité Globale analyste politique trilingue à l'Université de Bordeaux, j'effectue un stage au sein d'EU Logos afin de pouvoir mettre en pratique mes compétences d'analyste concernant l'actualité européenne sur la défense, la sécurité et plus largement la coopération judiciaire et policière.

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