Minister joins EU counterparts in backing solidarity on migrant relocation

Lauri Läänemets at the JHA meeting in Luxembourg.
Lauri Läänemets at the JHA meeting in Luxembourg. Source: Ministry of the Interior

The recently concluded European Union agreement on migration and asylum has been hailed by Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) as real progress after eight years of virtual stalemate on the issue, and as a good result for Estonia.

The minister, in Luxembourg for the event, said Friday that: "Estonia has clearly stated from the outset that we do not support mandatory relocation, but rather each member state must be able to choose for itself how to provide assistance to any other member state which finds itself under migration pressure, in some regard or other. In doing this, the specific characteristics and real capabilities of each individual country at the relevant point in time must be taken into account."

"These can be relocation, financial contribution or alternative measures, such as sending experts and equipment. All measures are of equal weight. The method of alternative offers and the financial value of such contributions will be agreed upon bilaterally between the member states," he said.

The agreement supports border procedures which in turn link the international protection procedure to the returns procedure, and ensures flexibility, the ministry says.

The basis for reducing migration pressure must be the development of partnership with third countries, and this must function uniformly across the union, bearing in mind the key need to offer protection to people in need closer to their region of origin, Läänemets said.

The agreement had also ended eight years of "stalemate", Läänemets went on, hailing it as a "major victory" for officials, and his predecessors in the interior ministry role – all of whom, he said, had stood up for Estonia's positions through the process.

The minister had taken part in a meeting of the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council configuration (JHA) in Luxembourg, where the two drafts of the EU migration and asylum package were approved.

These must then progress to the European Parliament for debating and voting, to be complete next April.

According to the compromise proposals, contribution to the solidarity mechanism is mandatory, while relocation is voluntary. Each member state can choose which solidarity measures to offer to any other member state which finds itself under high migratory pressure.

The purpose of the asylum and return procedure at the border is to quickly assess at the EU's external border whether applications are unfounded or inadmissible, and to quickly return those persons who do not have the right to stay in the country.

The EU has concluded readmission agreements with 18 countries and in addition there are six non-legally binding agreements, negotiations are ongoing with another six countries.

The agreement does not take in refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, though the experience of the region in recent years, notably the forced migration crisis created by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko as a form of hybrid aggression, have been a major factor in the rethink.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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