The Schengen agreement and the current migrant-sharing mechanism are deeply flawed and need urgent fixing, French President Emmanuel Macron has said. Europe must “have borders” even if it means a smaller Schengen zone, he said.
In the first major press conference since the Yellow Vest movement took off in November, Macron unveiled a range of policy measures to placate the protesters, including a proposed overhaul of the European-wide migration policy and the Schengen agreement.
The embattled French leader argued that the agreement that guarantees free movement across the Schengen area, while “wonderful,” does not work anymore.
The same, he said, applies to the Dublin Regulation that determines which EU member-state is responsible for accepting asylum seekers. Under the current version of the agreement, which came into force in 2013 and applies to all EU member-states except Denmark, the main criteria for determining responsibility is the first point of entry.
“The common borders, Schengen, Dublin agreements do not work anymore,” Macron said, adding that it is essential for Europe to make “profound” changes in its way of handling migrant arrivals.
Macron called for reinforced border security, which might entail having a Schengen “with fewer states.”
The Schengen area comprises 26 states, including 22 EU member-states and four non-EU countries: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It is named after the 1985 agreement that abolished internal borders allowing people within the zone to travel freely from one country to another.
The French leader said that he envisions “a Europe that keeps its borders, protects them, has a well-founded and common right of asylum where responsibility goes with solidarity.”
There have been calls to revise the Dublin Regulation since the 2015 European migrant and refugee crisis that led to major processing backlogs and placed a disproportionate burden on the southern EU states.
The Dublin Regulation gives an EU member-state the right to send back asylum seekers to the first country of entry to the EU. The law was upheld by the European Court of Justice in 2017.
While it is still technically in force, the European Commission believes the regulation to be outdated. In 2016, it proposed a reform of the Dublin System that would have included a “corrective allocation mechanism” aimed at making sure all countries take in their fair share of migrants. The forth version of the Dublin Regulation would have allowed a member-state to opt out of the migrant-sharing scheme by paying €250,000 for each asylum seeker it was supposed to accommodate.
While there has been a renewed push for the revision of the Dublin framework, a bloc of countries within the EU that includes Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia vehemently oppose the mandatory relocation scheme proposed by the EU as a way to resolve the crisis and show solidarity. They argue that although a reform of the Dublin rules is needed, the mandatory system of migrant redistribution will not “work in reality” and cannot be enforced since it does not enjoy the support of all the EU members.
Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orban, specifically called out Macron as a “leader of the pro-immigrant forces,” vowing to fight his agenda.