KEDISA & Εuroatlantic Center co-organized with great success a webinar on the topic: «Towards a common EU immigration policy? Slovak and Greek perspectives»-Thursday 16 November 2023

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The Center for International Strategic Analyses (KEDISA) and the Slovakian think tank Euroatlantic Centre co-organized with great success a webinar on the topic: «Towards a common EU immigration policy? Slovak and Greek perspectives» on Thursday 16 November 2023.

The moderator of the webinar was Mr. Peter Atalovic (Euroatlantic Center Program Coordinator). Speakers were: Dr. Panagiotis Sfaelos (Vice President of the Board & Director of Research KEDISA – Secretary General of the Greek Section of the Association of European Journalists), Dr. Tomas Benuska (Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Security Studies, Faculty of Political Science and International Relations, Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica).

The Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Security Studies, Faculty of Political Science and International Relations, Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica, Dr. Tomas Benuska analyzed the main legislative provisions of the proposed EU Immigration Pact. The Immigration Pact retains the same basic principle of the Dublin Regulation, i.e. that the first EU Member State of entry remains responsible for providing asylum. The difference is that under the new rules of the Pact, the entry conditions in a Member State become stricter with the new Screening Regulation which excludes those immigrants suspicious of committing offences. In his view, the most controversial part of the Immigration Pact is the solidarity principle which operates in three ways: 1) relocation of a certain number of refugees from the country under pressure to another Member State, 2) paying a contribution (fine) of 20,000 Euros for every asylum seeker a Member State refuses to take, and 3) financing operational support to the Member States under migratory pressure.

Slovakia does not have many migrants due to its geographical position. Although Slovakia is at the external borders of the EU, it is not on the main migration route. Slovakia is rather a transit country for migrants. Further, Slovakia is not a target country for refugees and migrants. So far, Slovakia has given asylum to less than 400 people since 2010. During the migration crisis, Slovakia took some refugees to avoid disappointing the EU or getting a fine. In 2015, 8 migrants were taken on Slovakia and in 2017, 29 immigrants were taken. Slovakia also has 107.000 Ukrainian refugees since it is a neighboring country to Ukraine.

As Dr. Benuska explained, political parties in Slovakia have an anti-migration rhetoric and anti-immigration campaigns. The politicians in Slovakia talk a lot about the illegal immigration from Hungary. Indeed, Slovakia abstained from voting for the the contribution (fine) provision of the Immigration Pact for a Member State which is refusing to take refugees in its territory. This is a large amount of money for Slovakia. The fine is disproportionate because it is the same for all Member States. Another controversial issue is the meaning of the “migratory pressure”, because, in his view, Member States could abuse it and declare a state of “migratory pressure” while they still have the capacity of keeping migrants. He believes that the Immigration Pact will still be unfair to Member States located at the external EU borders like Greece since it maintains the Dublin principle of asylum. In conclusion Dr. Beniska underlined that solidarity is necessary in a political union such as the EU. Participating in the EU not only poses benefits but also obligations.

The Vice President of the Board & Director of Research of KEDISA – Secretary General of the Greek Section of the Association of European Journalists Dr. Panagiotis Sfaelos pointed out that Greece has witnessed immigration crises in 2015 and 2020. He analyzed the evolution of EU immigration law since its creation by the Amsterdam and Lisbon Treaties. Then, he discussed the EU Immigration Pact which provides for very important changes in the implementation and management of EU immigration policy so as to act as a deterrent to the mass influx of new migrants into the EU while requiring solidarity from Member States in managing the asylum system. Especially, the proposed Regulation on migration crisis (force majeure) empowers a Member State under migratory pressure to apply special rules on asylum and return procedures. Thus, a Member State facing a crisis situation can request the solidarity assistance from other Member States. These contributions may take the form of relocating asylum seekers or beneficiaries of international protection from the Member State in crisis to the Member State which will take responsibility for examining asylum applications with a view to relieving the Member State in crisis.  Unfortunately, the Immigration Pact maintained the basic principle of the Dublin Regulation on asylum responsibility but, on the other hand, the Regulation on force majeure could compensate for the deficiencies of the Dublin asylum system as the entry in the EU will become stricter and in case of migratory pressure a Member State can seek the solidarity of member states in order to relocate refugees or get financial support for managing migration flows.

Dr. Sfaelos then analyzed the Greek perspective on migration. As he said, in Greece, migration flows began in the early 1990s with immigrants coming mainly from Albania to Greece after the collapse of the Communist regime. Since then, Greece has harmonized its national laws in accordance with EU immigration and asylum law. However, the main problem is that Greece is one of the main entry points to the EU while the extensive Greek coastline facilitates the entry of migrants. This makes the guarding of Greek borders very hard. Further, Turkey is using mass migration to achieve its geopolitical goals while, at the same time, other Member States are closing their borders trapping migrants in Greece. Turkey does not respect the EU-Turkey Re-admission Agreement of 2016 and continues to use migration flows as a diplomatic tool in a geopolitical game in the Eastern Mediterranean. In his view, Greece has to push for the adoption of the EU Immigration Pact which will be beneficial for Greece, since it will help the country to share immigration and asylum responsibility with other Member States. Greece, as a country of entry of migrants in the EU, has to guard the external EU borders and keep a disproportionate number of migrants in its territory.

After the end of the presentations, questions were posed to the speakers. A question was how the EU Immigration Pact will be accepted in Slovakian and Greek societies respectively. Dr Benuska answered that the Immigration Pact will not be received well as the political parties have anti-immigration agenda. They will probably reject the idea of paying 20,000 Euros for every migrant they refuse to take.  Dr Sfaelos said that in Greece, we do not talk so much about migration and migration is mainly used by political parties for getting more votes. Migration topic is politicized by far right populist parties which also have an anti-immigration rhetoric. Nevertheless, the Immigration Pact will be accepted because the government and the main opposition parties are in favour.

In a question relating to Italy’s decision to send migrants to Albania, both speakers answered that this is against EU rules and that Italy and Albania cannot alone decide for the destination of refugees. Also, it was emphasized that Albania does not have experience in receiving immigrants and refugees which can result in mistreatment of the migrants. In another question relating to the funding of Turkey for keeping the migrants, both speakers agreed that there must be a scrutiny as to how the funds are used by Turkey and whether they are used for the reception of migrants. Dr. Sfaelos emphasized that EU funding towards Turkey must be under supervision in order to make sure that these funds are allocated properly by the Turkish government.

In a question of the moderator Mr. Peter Atalovic as to why the Asylum Procedure and the Migration Management Regulations were rejected by the European Parliament, the speakers said that mainly Polish and Hungarian MEPs were responsible for this rejection. The anti-immigration Member States have enforced a restrictive agenda and the EU Immigration Pact will face strong resistance up until its final adoption.