Rome (dpa) – There are four things the European Union needs to do on migration, according the bloc’s former Home Affairs commissioner Franco Frattini, who is pessimistic about the chances of progress due to a hostile political environment.
As commissioner, Frattini was the EU’s top migration official from 2004 to 2008. He has also served as a foreign minister in conservative governments led by former premier Silvio Berlusconi, with whom he broke ranks in late 2012.
In an interview with dpa, the 57-year-old says the “mother of all problems” is the so-called Dublin regulation, which stipulates that incoming migrants can only claim asylum in the first EU country they enter.
He describes the rule as “the biggest obstacle to the application of the solidarity principle that everybody invokes, at least in words,” adding that “people who have been granted asylum should be free to move anywhere in the EU.”
Southern countries like Italy, which are the first port of call for boat migrants, complain that the Dublin system places undue stress on them. Northern EU states with more generous asylum regimes, like Sweden, fear they would be swamped if the rules were changed.
Secondly, Frattini says people who come into the EU to seek work – so-called economic migrants – should be distributed across the bloc according to quotas, taking into account host nations’ “economic needs, size and reception capacity.”
“It would be an enormous step forward in the name of an equitable burden-sharing,” he insists, stressing that Germany would not be penalized from the reform, because “it already hosts many migrants from the East.”
Frattini suggests that Poland and other central European nations would have room to take in more people. He says the quota system is an idea initially put forward by European Parliament President Martin Schulz – a German Social Democrat.
Thirdly, Frontex, an EU agency that assists national border authorities, needs to be transformed into a full-on “European border police corps,” according to Frattini, who says he pushed the idea as EU commissioner in 2006, but it did not get anywhere due to “widespread opposition.”
Lastly, Italy’s former top diplomat says his country – facing a record influx of boat migrants from North Africa – deserves more help from Brussels, adding that the current EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, should be more forceful.
“When I was EU commissioner, I managed to mobilize 12 member states for a Frontex mission in the Canary Islands,” he says, hinting that Malmstrom could do more to convince EU governments to contribute to Italy’s search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
Frattini acknowledges the difficulty of pushing the issue with anti-migration parties riding high in countries like Britain and France. “But Europe needs leadership, and leaders should have the courage to tell citizens that this situation cannot continue,” he concludes.