1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Juncker's revolution

Bernd Riegert
Bernd Riegert
September 9, 2015

Dublin is dead, long live…? The European Commission wants a new asylum system. Getting it passed will be difficult according to Bernd Riegert.

EU Rede Juncker vor dem Europaparlament
Image: Reuters/. Kessler

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker used European passion and emotional appeals in his attempt to convince the 28 members of the European Union to embark on a change of course on refugee and asylum policy.

In his dark description of today's Europe, he said that things cannot continue as they are. He is right, but whether or not his proposals for jettisoning the old rules can actually be established is questionable. Juncker's proposal calls for the permanent, compulsory distribution of refugees and asylum seekers among all states. That is no less than revolutionary, considering that today, just five states take in some 90 percent of all refugees and asylum seekers.

In May, due to the acuteness of the overall situation, the Commission was pushing for the distribution of 40,000 refugees; now they have raised that number to 160,000. Back then, a majority of member states were against the plan, so why should they be for it now? The establishment of an entirely new asylum system – and that means a permanent distribution plan beyond the previously mentioned 160,000 – is a long way off. Despite knowing that he can count on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Juncker has a long slog ahead of him.

As is so often the case, Juncker intends to break resistance with the purse. Member states that do not take in their quota of refugees or asylum seekers will pay a penalty of 6,000 euros per person missing from that quota. Those states that take in more than their share will be rewarded 6,000 for each extra refugee or asylum seeker that they accept.

Deutsche Welle Bernd Riegert
DW's Bernd Riegert

Whether the reluctancy of mainly Eastern European member states can be overcome with this system remains to be seen. Juncker also wants to relieve "front line states" Italy, Greece and Hungary of the burden of first registration and asylum processing by distributing these procedures across all 28 states as well.

Thus far, other members have balked at this form of solidarity. That change would mean the end of the dysfunctional Dublin System, which Greece and Italy have been ignoring for years – and which Germany has also essentially done away with following its decision to allow refugees to travel directly from Hungary, across Austria, to Germany.

Other elements of the new system would include reception centers, fast track deportations for economic migrants and those denied asylum, as well as tightened security along the EU's external borders. Beyond that, a comprehensive list of countries of safe origin is intended to keep the numbers of those people coming to Europe in check. Jean-Claude Juncker knows that his proposals will not mean that less people will be coming to Europe, but he also knows that the flow of refugees and asylum seekers needs to be more efficiently managed, and a humanitarian handling thereof guaranteed.

The president admits that Europe is not generally overwhelmed, and that the overall number of refugees that Europe is taking in is "modest" compared to that of Syria's neighbors. It should become clear whether or not this new course of action has a future when the interior ministers of Europe's 28 member states meet next Monday to discuss Juncker's proposals.

If all else fails, some measures could be forced upon unwilling member states by a simple majority. But what good will come of sending refugees to a country that doesn't want them? And the question of how one forces refugees to go to a country that doesn't want them, and that they themselves do not want to go to, also remains unanswered. Syrian refugees cry, "Germany, Germany!" and are willing to fight their way here on their own. Juncker's proposals won't change that any time soon.

Have something to say? Add your comments below.

Bernd Riegert
Bernd Riegert Senior European correspondent in Brussels with a focus on people and politics in the European Union