EU migration reforms approved after final vote on the issue

The European Union has completed a reform of its migration and asylum policy after nearly a decade of deliberation. 

Earlier this week, the decision was made to approve the five regulations that constitute the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, an overhaul aimed at ensuring all member countries share the responsibility, regardless of their location. The initial target is to achieve 30,000 relocations per year.

The New Pact introduces stricter rules for screening applicants, including health and security checks, examination procedures, and providing free counselling. 

A key feature of the pact is a system of “mandatory solidarity,” which offers governments three options for managing asylum seekers: relocate a certain number, pay €20,000 for each one they reject, or finance operational support.

Poland and Hungary, the most vocal critics, voted against the entire legislative package. Since the reform was proposed in 2020, they have consistently opposed the “mandatory solidarity” system and claiming it would compel them to accept migrants against their will. 

The Czech Republic and Slovakia abstained from most of the regulations, while Austria voted against the Crisis Regulation.

Despite these objections, the New Pact required only a qualified majority to pass and was formally ratified. The concept of a common, predictable rulebook to manage the irregular arrival of asylum seekers has been under discussion since the 2015-2016 migration crisis.

Southern member states had complained about being overwhelmed and left to handle the burden alone. Western and northern countries demanded stronger accountability and enforcement at external borders, while eastern states resisted any initiative resembling a relocation quota.

In the midst of these debates, far-right forces capitalised on the issue to gain relevance and electoral success. The political impact of this shift continues to be felt, with polls ahead of the June elections predicting a swing to the right.

The European Commission will present an implementation plan in June to outline the legal and operational steps necessary to put the New Pact into practice. Member states will then have until January to submit their national plans.

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