EU's new migration pact will change little for Estonia

Vao in Lääne-Viru County is the location of one of Estonia's main refugee centers.
Vao in Lääne-Viru County is the location of one of Estonia's main refugee centers. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

On Wednesday, an agreement was reached on the main components of reforms to the European Union's migration and asylum policy, which are expected to be adopted before the next European Parliament elections. The migration pact will bring little in the way of changes to Estonia.

"Actually, the migration pact will change very little for Estonia in terms of substantive work. However, it is a fundamental change for the European Union (EU) and for those countries in particular, which are under migratory pressure. What will change is that while until now assisting other countries has been voluntary, it will become obligatory for everyone to help a country that is under migratory pressure," said Janek Mägi, head of the Estonian Ministry of the Interior's border guard and migration policy department.

Countries will be able to choose the way in which they provide assistance to other EU Member States subject to high levels of migration, with three available options.

"One option is to take the people who have arrived [in that Member State] away from there and deal with them ourselves. The second option is to provide financial assistance to help [that Member State] to cope better on the ground. And the third option is to send in technical equipment or experts. It will be up to each Member State, [to decide], but you have to help," said Mägi.

Mägi pointed out that Estonia's population is  0.26 percent of the entire EU, which means that when the European Commission determines how much aid is to be provided, Estonia will only have to contribute 0.26 percent.

"For the first time in history, procedures have also been combined. Previously, the asylum and return and procedures were separate legal provisions, but they have now been put together and logically move from one format to another. This will make the procedure simpler and quicker," said Mägi.

Mägi explained that various appeal processes, including the exchange of people caught illegally migrating between Member States, would also be expediated.

"If, for example, a person has entered Latvia and applied for asylum in Latvia, but we then discover them in Estonia, transferring them back to Latvia will become much faster and easier.

There is no possibility that any EU member state will not agree to the migration and asylum reforms. "It has been agreed at the level of a regulation and all Member States will have to contribute. You can choose how you want to contribute. Figuratively speaking, you either take ten people into your country or you pay [for example] €100,000," Mägi said.

The exact form of contributions as well as the general expectations for each individual country are still to be decided. This will also be determined more precisely on a case-by-case basis for each specific crisis, which emerges.

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Editor: Michael Cole

Source: ERR

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