Justice and Home Affairs
Sarkozy aims to discourage migrants to EU ‘Eldorado’
By Radek Honzak | Wednesday 02 July 2008
Few priorities of the French Presidency of the European Union are expected with so much interest as the plan for tougher control over the flow of immigrants into Europe. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial proposal could now sow the seeds of future EU immigration policy for decades ahead. Apart from the eagerly expected ‘European pact on immigration and asylum’, other French priorities in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) also largely focus on migration.
The pact could be presented to EU interior ministers at the July informal JHA Council in Cannes, and France hopes to receive a political agreement on it at the October European Council. The draft, recently leaked to the press, makes clear that while Europe’s economy does need migrants, it should agree on a tough common immigration policy. Echoing Sarkozy’s words from the presidential campaign, the text says: “Europe does not have the means to welcome with dignity all those who see it as an Eldorado”.
The pact is built on five main pillars. The first is
better protection of EU borders to the outside world. Among the measures proposed is the decision that member states should only issue biometric visas from 2011 onwards, and that traffickers of illegal migrants should face charges equal to those for drug smugglers.
The second area concerns
legal migration, based on the ability of member states to accept migrants according to the needs of their labour market. The proposal suggests that immigrants be assessed on a case-by-case basis and insists that member states do not regularise the stay of large numbers of persons residing illegally, as has been the case for example in Spain and Italy. France also proposes that the EU forces immigrants to integrate by the means of an “integration contract”, which would oblige them to learn the language of the country they are staying in, as well as European values such as gender equality, tolerance and the need for compulsory education.
The third part focuses on
returning illegally staying migrants. It calls on member states to pool resources (such as flights) to deport illegals. It also says that re-admission deals with non-EU countries should be toughened. The fourth pillar aims to change the EU’s
asylum policy and proposes, for example, the creation of mechanisms forcing asylum seekers to apply for EU protection outside the Union’s territory. Finally, the fifth area of the pact is aimed at boosting
aid to poor countries, so as to promote their development and prevent their citizens from migrating to Europe.
Sarkozy’s plan has apparently won support from some member states, such as Italy. Others, like Spain, are more sceptical. But most EU members are cautiously waiting to see how the proposals will complement, or contradict, legislation that has already been in the pipeline for some time. “For now, we see the pact as a political document, rather than a binding legal instrument,” explains an EU diplomat.