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Relancer l'Europe : Retrouver l'esprit de Rome - version anglaise

22 février 2017 : Relancer l'Europe : Retrouver l'esprit de Rome - version anglaise ( rapport d'information )


Faced with the migratory crisis, there is an urgent need to renew the governance of the Schengen area and to reinforce the protection of external borders. Cooperation with third countries should in parallel be further developed. The European Asylum System must be renovated.

1. Renewing the governance of the Schengen area

The exceptional migration flow recorded in 2015 - more than a million illegal entries in Europe - and at the beginning of 2016 certainly had a broadly cyclical dimension associated with the Syrian conflict. This episode must not however conceal the existence of a sustainable phenomenon of migration to Europe, linked to several factors: the unstable situation prevailing in various countries in the outskirts of Europe (Afghanistan, Horn of Africa), the economic disparities that induce people to search for better living conditions, growing demographic pressure, in particular in Africa as well as the existence of structured and internationalised networks of smugglers thriving in "the economics of migration".

This growing and sustainable migratory pressure calls for a strong response from Europe, for political, social, humanitarian reasons, as well as security reasons, bearing in mind the risk of terrorist infiltration.

This is all the more necessary since these "uncontrolled flows" - to use the wording of the Bratislava Declaration - call into question one of the more concrete and symbolic achievements of European integration, freedom of movement in the Schengen area. In fact, for the past year and a half, this has led to the reestablishment by a certain number of member states of controls at their internal borders.

Moreover, the migratory factor played a key role in the British vote on Brexit. Europe may succumb to the migratory crisis. Controlling the migratory pressure therefore appears to be a top priority issue for reviving Europe.

2. Reinforcing the protection of the external borders of the European Union

This crisis has allowed for significant progress: the adoption - in a record period - of a renewed statute of the FRONTEX agency, established in 2004 and whose role was up until then limited to a coordination role. Later referred to as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, FRONTEX will be equipped with greater resources and new responsibilities, particularly in the support of a failed state or the implementation of a policy on the return of irregular migrants, which should allow them to play a more active role in the governance of the Schengen area borders.

It is now necessary to implement this renewed mandate and to take full advantage of all of the possibilities that it offers for the control of migratory flows. This requires in particular that the agency addresses the recruitment and training challengeof jobs under tight deadlines. This also implies that the Member states comply effectively with their obligations within the framework of the rapid intervention reserve, while continuing to ensure the provision of the national personnel (guest officers) for current operations, in a context where their resources in this area are very limited or under pressure.

Further steps will however be necessary to equip the European border guards deployed under FRONTEX with the same capacities and powers as the national border guards, particularly as regards access to the European databases. The objective to be addressed, in the long term, is to move towards a real European border service.

Moreover, the checks made at the external borders must be reinforced: it is necessary to carry out more in-depth checks, involving the routine consultation of the police databases and the verification of travel documents, both on entry and exit, and both in respect of third-country nationals and European citizens. A current process of amending article 8.2 of the Schengen Borders Code should make this possible in the near future. This strengthened control measure is not in itself sufficient: it should be accompanied with a personal status registration - third-country nationals or EU citizens - that cross external borders, in order to ensure the traceability of the flows.

For third country nationals, this is the very purpose of the future entry-exit system (SES), which enables real-time monitoring of the validity of short-stay visas, replacing the current passport stamping system. This mechanism is aimed at addressing the phenomenon of "overstayers", i.e. migrants that legally enter the EU and remain there until their visas expire, constituting a significant source of illegal immigration. It is therefore desirable to quickly adopt this project, currently under discussion.

Nevertheless, to ensure that these "smart borders" 3(*) are effective, the registration of EU citizen data should also be incorporated (in the context of the SES or in that of the SIS II), the latter now representing three quarters of EU external border crossings. Indeed, this is not currently provided for.

In addition to the Entry-Exit System, it is worth stressing the importance of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) for third-party nationals exempt from the visa requirement. This involves obtaining authorisation prior to entry into the Schengen area of around 30 million people each year in order to ensure that they do not present any particular risk from a migratory or security point of view. The verification carried out will consist of cross-checking the personal data of travellers with that of the SIS II and the Interpol and Europol files, as the authorisation given does not exempt these individuals from the obligation to comply with border control procedures. This project, for which discussions have just begun, must also be concluded swiftly, so that it may be put into operation no later than 2020.

3. Cooperating more extensively with third countries

The strengthening of the borders cannot be the only response to migratory pressure. We must also ensure that departures are restricted, by cooperating with the countries of transit and with the countries of origin.

As regards the countries of transit, the agreement signed in 2016 with Turkey, combined with the closure of the Balkan route, has stemmed the flow on the Eastern Mediterranean road, increasing the numbers from several thousand arrivals per day to around fifty today. Cooperation appears to continue, despite a difficult political context. However, the agreement remains fragile and its application subject to the goodwill of Turkey, which puts pressure on the European Union.

Moreover, the problem still needs to be addressed on the Central Mediterranean route, via which arrivals increased by 20% last year. Indeed, 90% of some 180,000 migrants arrived in Italy in 2016 came from Libya, a country in which it is now difficult, bearing in mind the situation in this country, to consider entering into an agreement on the Turkish model, despite some European countries demonstrating a desire to go in that direction. Meanwhile, European directors decided at the Malta Summit on 3 February 2017 to strengthen support in Libya, particularly in respect of the training of coast guards and the improvement of the living conditions of migrants on the territory.

Although broader cooperation with other transit countries such as Egypt may offer a solution, it is essential for action to also be taken on the migratory routes upstream, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa by encouraging and helping the source countries to better control their borders and to fight against smugglers, by contributing to the stabilisation of conflict-ridden areas and the prevention of crises and by promoting economic development in order to open up opportunities for populations likely to emigrate. In this respect, the idea of linking development aid and the management of migratory flows should not be overlooked.

The implementation of these different key areas arises through the conclusion of close partnerships with the countries of origin. This idea is not new. It serves as a basis for "The Global Approach to Migration and Mobility", which, since 2005 has constituted the external dimension of the European migratory policy. The objective was to obtain the cooperation of the source countries in the management of migratory flows, particularly the signature of readmission agreements, in return for benefits such as financial assistance and liberalisation agreements or visa facilitation agreements.

Until now, this approach has not yielded the anticipated results, as a result of the meagre resources allocated, but also as a result of the reluctance of the countries of origin, in particular Africans, for whom migration is both an economic challenge and a very sensitive societal issue. This was demonstrated by the ongoing difficulties (to establish the identity of people to be returned, to obtain consular travel documents) encountered by the European countries in the implementation of their return policy.

The success of the approach led by Spain with several African countries demonstrate that it is possible to obtain the results, by simultaneously mobilising several instruments and levers (development assistance, selective immigration, police cooperation, training and border control material support etc.).

This is what the process initiated at the La Valette summit of November 2015 seeks to do and the new migration pacts launched during the European Council of June 2016. On that day, the "migration pacts" were signed with five priority countries (Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal). An initial assessment was drafted on the occasion of the European Council of December 2016 showed contrasting results, encouraging for Niger, but more mitigated with other partners.

This partnership approach needs to be pursued and broadened, by releasing adequate resources to enable the funding of actions, which, if we want to act on the "root causes of migration", should not only concern the security aspects and the control of migration flows, but also intends to promote economic development.

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) may also be mobilised with a view to cooperating with third countries. Of course, the unstable political situation in Libya is currently paralysing the Sophia operation for combating smuggling in the central Mediterranean and the EU Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM), but the hope is that they may soon move in the right direction.

It is, moreover, strategic that the initiative conducted in Niger by the EUCAP Sahel Niger civilian mission, which assists this country through which 90% of West African migrants transit, is continued in order to strengthen the control over its borders and to prevent irregular immigration flows.

Lastly, FRONTEX also has a role to play, its new status offers greater flexibility for cooperating with third countries, particularly thanks to the deployment of liaison officers, and with the possibility that it now has to conduct operations outside of the European Union, this should be of interest to certain Balkan countries.

4. Renewing the functioning of the Schengen area and the European asylum system

Undoubtedly, the objective must be the restoration of freedom of movement within the Schengen area. Beyond the strengthening of the external borders, it is essential in this respect that the country by country assessments conducted by the European Commission are ongoing and shall be supported by corrective measures.

At the same time, it may be useful to consider a flexible legal framework, allowing the temporary reintroduction of targeted controls at the internal borders, particularly in respect of their duration, which cannot currently exceed two years. Indeed, we must not rule out that the context that we currently face, particularly in terms of security, is a long-term process.

Moreover, the governance of the Schengen area, which now lacks visibility, should be improved; a strategic steering should be established within the framework of specific meetings of the interior ministers, separate from those of the Justice and Home Affairs Council.

Futhermore, the migration crisis requires adaptations to the European asylum system to be made.

It highlights, first and foremost, the need for a greater harmonisation of the asylum systems of the member states to reduce the attractiveness of some of these systems and the "asylum shopping" phenomenon, which induces secondary migratory movements within the EU. Similarly, it also calls for a more harmonised treatment of asylum applications, particularly through the adoption of a common list of safe third countries.

It also raises the issue of the implementation of the principle of accountability of the first entry country for the examination of applications for asylum, which is on the basis of the Dublin regulation. In fact, countries in the front line of arrivals (Italy, Greece) are calling for a fairer share of the burden. Although front-line countries continue to carry the burden of commitment in respect of the management of the external borders of the European Union, it does not appear necessary to incorporate a correcting mechanism into this system allowing for solidarity on a European scale in the case of exceptional migratory pressure, as with the relocation mechanism.

This is a difficult subject, which meets with the opposition of the Visegrad Group countries (Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland), which are reluctant to host in their respective countries populations of non-European origin. This is why the idea of a "flexible solidarity" allowing these countries to participate in the solidarity effort, whether through a financial contribution or through an enhanced participation in the securing of borders, deserves to be explored.

Lastly, the conversion of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) into a European agency and the substantial strengthening of its resources will be desirable to fully ensure the operational support mission in the front-line states.

Recommendations on the management of the migratory crisis

1. Ensuring effective control of the external borders

- Implementing the renewed Frontex mandate and making use of the possibilities provided by it for the control over migration flows, in particular in respect of the return of irregular migrants to their country of origin;

- Guaranteeing the agents deployed by Frontex sufficient access to the European databases;

- Adopting and implementing the entry/exit system (SES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS);

- Organising a registration in the database of external border crossings, including those made by European citizens.

2. Strengthening cooperation with the countries of origin and transit

- Strengthening police cooperation with the countries of origin and transit, with a view to controlling illegal immigration, facilitating readmission operations and combatting smuggling;

- Contributing to the stabilisation of conflict areas and the prevention of crises;

- Encouraging the economic development of source countries by means of a substantial aid, without excluding making development aid conditional on the control of flows;

- To do so, maintaining and amplifying the partnership process launched via the migratory pacts and mobilising the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

3. Renewing the functioning of the Schengen area and the European asylum system

- Considering a possible relaxation of the duration during which the targeted internal border controls can be temporarily restored;

- Improving the political governance of the Schengen area;

- Harmonising the asylum systems of the member states and the processing by the latter of asylum applications, in particular through the adoption of a European list of safe third countries;

- Introducing into the Dublin regulation a correcting mechanism allowing for solidarity between member States in the event of exceptional migratory pressure, without undermining the principle of accountability of the first entry country.

* 3 The European "smart borders" project.