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Commission confident of migration deal but divides among ministers persist

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Ministers will reach a deal on a key migration law “in a few days”, EU Commissioner for migration Ylva Johansson told journalists following a meeting of EU home affairs ministers on Thursday (27 September), despite significant disagreements persisting on key parts of the file.

The Crisis Management Regulation is a key part of the so-called Pact for Migration and Asylum, a package of ten legislative files that the EU institutions aim to approve before the end of the legislative mandate in June 2024.

The pact is the second attempt in ten years by the European institutions to create a common framework for EU migration management. According to a roadmap EU institutions agreed last year, the package has to be approved before mid-February 2024 to be adopted in time.

The Crisis Management Regulation would create a common EU approach when the continent deals with large numbers of people reaching the European border in a short period of time.

Disagreements

However, significant disagreements remain. Euractiv has learned from a diplomatic source that at the beginning of the week strong opposition to the bill came from Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany and The Netherlands.

While most of the Eastern countries oppose the proposal as a whole. Germany and The Netherland disagreed on two issues, so-called ‘instrumentalisation’ and the removal of an exemption for children under 12 years old from standard asylum procedures.

Instrumentalisation describes cases where non-EU countries, such as Russia and Belarus, encourage and facilitate the arrival at EU borders of a large number of people in a short period of time, as happened in early 2022 with Belarus and in June the same year with Morocco.

On Monday evening (25 September), EU governments appeared to have added an exemption for such cases to the Crisis Management Regulation, a diplomatic source told Euractiv, and on Wednesday the German government told journalists that it would now support the law.

On Thursday, Italy expressed doubts about the legislation.

A diplomatic source told Euractiv that Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi disagreed on exempting NGOs from being accused of ‘instrumentalisation’.

In the meantime, Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Antonio Tajani confirmed to the German government that Italy also intends to approve the legislation, but that “more time” is needed.

Tension escalating

The situation has become particularly delicate since last week, when the European Parliament decided to block the trilogue negotiations on two key files of the migration pact (the amendment of Eurodac and Screening regulation), until EU ministers adopt their position on the Crisis Management regulation.

After the announcement, Euractiv learned from a diplomatic source that EU ministers wanted to commit then to solve the situation and bring back on track negotiations.

On Monday the European Parliament rapporteur on the Crisis Management Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar went further, threatening to block the entire pact if EU ministers do not take significant steps forward.

Next steps

The Crisis Management Regulation has to be adopted by a qualified majority by the 27 member states. Afterwards, the ministers will start negotiations with the European Parliament to find a final agreement.

According to a diplomatic source consulted by Euractiv, the Crisis Regulation could be adopted with a qualified majority “even without the vote of Italy”.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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