MEPs 'astonished' at new asylum rules
A group of MEPs have declared themselves "astonished" that the European Commission has revived a proposal to allow asylum seekers the same social welfare assistance as own nationals.
The suggestion is just one of series of modifications proposed by the commission today in an effort to make its Common Asylum Policy faster, more efficient and fairer.
The centre-right European People's Party, the largest group of MEPs in the European Parliament, said in a statement that they noted the development with "astonishment" and that the idea had previously been "clearly rejected by both parliament and Council".
Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström said asylum was one of her "top priorities," adding that the treatment of asylum seekers currently varies greatly between EU member states. "The standards we agree at the European level should be simple, clear, and cost-efficient. The EU must stand up for its values and provide protection for those coming here to seek refuge from persecution and conflict.
"Today's proposals offer high level standards for people genuinely in need of protection, and will help to reduce unnecessary burdens on national authorities. They will also contribute to building more trust between the member states," she said.
But Simon Busuttil, an EPP MEP, said changes were needed before an agreement could be reached. "The new rules should be more realistic and easier to follow than the previous ones. The EU has been lacking an effective asylum system for far too long, it is time to get this fixed," he said. His colleague Monika Hohlmeier MEP added that "there will be difficult negotiations ahead of us".
The policy has been the subject of years of debate and negotiations between the EU's institutions. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats today insisted that member states should not use political unrest in North Africa – and the subsequent influx of migrants to southern Europe – as a pretext for further delaying the adoption of the new proposals. Nadja Hirsch MEP said: "The parliament will not back down on its requirements for a common approach in receiving and handling migrants in a dignified, fair and efficient way. Now time is ticking and the ball is clearly in the council's camp with no more time to waste."
Fellow ALDE member Renate Weber said the council no longer had any excuse to delay. "The proposals keep the financial and administrative burden at low levels and minimise any abuse of the asylum system. Parliament's position has already been adopted," she said.
The proposals will be discussed at the justice and home affairs council on June 9 and will require the support of the parliament and member states before they become law. The system is expected to be in place by 2012.