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The 27 want to choose their immigrants

(B2) Financial crisis obliges, one of the priorities of the French presidency of the EU, should go almost unnoticed by the European summit. However, the 27 heads of state and government, meeting in Brussels, yesterday and today, will ratify – without firing a shot – the “European pact for immigration and asylum”. The document is certainly less ambitious than the presidency initially hoped. It looks more like a succession of principles than a real work plan. But it undeniably constitutes a turning point in European immigration and asylum policy. A turning point that can be criticized...

The end of the open door

Until now - in the plans endorsed under the Finnish presidencies in 1999 and the Dutch in 2004, for example - Europe has sought a certain balance between the reception or integration of asylum seekers and immigrants and the expulsion of illegal. Here the watchword is clear. “The European Union does not have the means to welcome all migrants with dignity. The political line is drawn. It is a question of “organizing immigration (…) taking into account the priorities, needs and reception capacities determined by each Member State”.

The reign of chosen immigration

Selected immigration becomes the keystone of the system. The aim is to strengthen the attractiveness of the Union for highly qualified workers, students or researchers; to have "a professional immigration policy", which takes into account the "needs of the labor market of each State". In other words, in a context of global competition for brains, Europe must position itself as a better offer.

Fight against regular immigration

The fight against irregular immigration occupies a lot of space in this Pact, whether it is a question of securing borders or encouraging States to cooperate in expulsions.

Stop regularizations

Regularizations are framed: “on a case-by-case basis and not be general” and for “humanitarian or economic” reasons. A statement that implicitly targets the regularization processes that have taken place in Spain or Belgium.

Seamless integration

The objective of “harmonious” integration of immigrants remains unclear. The determination of the rights (access to education, work, public and social services), as well as the duties (learning the language, etc.), of immigrants is left to the good care of each State. Even the draft integration contract – dear to President Sarkozy – imposing on migrants the obligation to learn the national language, has thus fallen by the wayside, becoming a simple option.

A common right of asylum: later

In terms of asylum law, we are mainly planning to see each other later. A common, single asylum procedure must be established if possible in 2010, otherwise before 2012. A European support office will also be set up in order to promote an identical approach to asylum requests and exchange information and experiences (in particular it is thought ).

A crisis management system

Finally, a crisis management system, to come to the aid of the State which has to deal with a massive influx of asylum seekers – in the event of a close conflict – or of immigrants, is planned. One thinks in particular of the Mediterranean States, regularly confronted with such influxes.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Other topics

• The discussion on the future of the Treaty of Lisbon has been postponed to December. The Irish Prime Minister will then have to present his ideas for resolving the crisis.

• The discussion of the climate package turns out to be more difficult than expected. Several Eastern European countries, on the initiative of Poland and the Czech Republic, met at the start of the summit to express their demands more strongly. In particular, they do not want to be forced to close their coal-fired power stations, which are their independent energy resource.

• Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister made a grand entrance at the summit. Organizing a press conference at the start of the summit to which the international press was invited, he made a point of appearing as the inspiration for the European plan developed by the Eurogroup, believing that it was necessary to go further and seek a solution “ global", at the international level, because "it is at the international level" that this is settled.

(article published in Ouest-France in a first version – completed)

The Pact on Immigration and Asylum


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).