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The Brief – Outsourcing EU hypocrisy

8 months ago 48

Last week’s agreement between the UK and Austria to work together on ‘third country’ asylum schemes is the latest confirmation that the EU’s southern borders extend well beyond the Mediterranean Sea. 

The link up with London makes Austria the first EU country to commit to outsourcing asylum claims.

Austria’s scheme will differ from the UK’s £100 million arrangement to fly asylum seekers to Kigali for their claims to be processed, as migrants deported to Rwanda will be allowed to return to Austria if their asylum applications are successful. 

But the idea is not new, nor did Brexit Britain mint it. Several EU countries, starting with Denmark, have been mulling over how to outsource asylum claims.

The European Commission, in striking multi-million euro ‘cash for migrant control’ deals with Turkey, Tunisia, and now Egypt, has also bought into the concept. Germany, long regarded as among the most progressive European governments on migration, has indicated that it will outsource the screening of asylum claims.

On Monday, Italy and Albania signed an agreement to process up to 36,000 asylum seekers a year, picked up by Italian vessels in the Mediterranean, in the EU candidate country, much to the shock of many politicians and the general public.

Consequently, reporters have every right to be bemused by the Commission’s insistence that the plans of Austria – or, indeed, any other EU member – to offshore asylum to a third country is not possible under EU law. 

“Currently, EU asylum law applies only to applications made on the territory of a member state but not outside,” a Commission spokesperson told reporters on Monday (7 November). 

EU governments can take these words with a pinch of salt.  

It is a bit rich for the von der Leyen Commission, which has spent recent months brokering agreements – and then loudly extolling their virtue – with Tunisia and Egypt that are specifically designed to prevent people from migrating to or seeking asylum in Europe, to claim that the bloc’s rules prevent the outsourcing of migration control.

The EU executive can claim that these North African countries will prevent would-be migrants from crossing the Mediterranean Sea rather than processing asylum claims, but this is an exercise in semantics.

With such double standards from Brussels, it is hardly surprising that Austria, and potentially others, feel confident enough to press ahead with their own plans. 

The link-up between London and Vienna is vindication for UK Home Affairs Minister Suella Braverman. Human rights lawyers and activists have traduced Rishi Sunak’s government, its political opponents and the EU over the deal. But it is not the end of the saga.  

The Sunak government is currently appealing against a UK court ruling that the scheme is illegal on human rights grounds. Those legal challenges have ensured that more than 18 months after London struck its £100 million agreement with Paul Kagame’s government, the first asylum seekers are still yet to depart for Kigali. 

The Supreme Court in London is expected to determine in December whether the Rwanda deal breaches the UK’s commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Should the court rule that it is illegal, Sunak’s government will be pressured to quit the ECHR. The question for Austria, other EU countries, and, potentially, the Commission itself is whether they would also be prepared to leave the ECHR. 

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The Roundup

The European Commission is expected to recommend formally opening Ukraine’s EU accession talks on Wednesday but is likely to insist on the need for Kyiv to fully meet the previously set conditions.

Portuguese Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa resigned on Tuesday after it was announced he was being investigated for corruption related to mining and energy concessions, following raids in his official residence and two ministries, as well as several high-profile detentions.

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that a remark by an Israeli junior minister who appeared to express openness to the idea of Israel carrying out a nuclear strike on Gaza had raised a huge number of questions.

Large pharmaceutical organisations focus on business development for sustainability, skills, and digitalisation to speed up the transition to the Pharma 4.0 era, a new Global Benchmark report by Ireland’s Unispace Life Sciences found.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) sent a letter – obtained exclusively by Euractiv – to MEPs ahead of a crucial European Parliament vote, expressing increasing concern on the state of play of the EU’s flagship Beating Cancer plan due to “scientifically inaccurate and worrisome” wording on alcohol use.

Even though companies are increasingly committed to green programmes, only 1% have aligned their future spending with their decarbonisation objectives, according to a report published by the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) centre at the London School of Economics.

The Spanish presidency of the EU Council of Ministers has drafted a series of obligations for foundation models and General Purpose AI as part of the negotiations on the AI Act.

Members of the European Parliament on Tuesday agreed their position on a proposed EU regulation to ensure parental rights are recognised across the Union independently from how a child is born.

The European Commission is not negotiating the release of EU funds for Hungary but is assessing the rule of law compliance, European Commissioner Johannes Hahn told EU lawmakers on Tuesday, responding to concerns that Budapest could use its stance on EU budget revision as leverage to unfreeze EU money.

Don’t miss this week’s Transport Brief: Has flying reached its limits?

Look out for…

  • International Artificial Intelligence Summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
  • Commission President Ursula von der Leyen participates in international humanitarian conference for Gaza’s civilian population in Paris on Thursday.
  • Parliament President Roberta Metsola delivers “State of Europe 2023” speech in Berlin on Thursday.
  • Economic and Financial Affairs Council holds budget meeting in Brussels on Friday.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Alice Taylor/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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