The president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen opens up the possibility of using funds from the EU budget to build anti-migrant walls. The turning point, as reported by La Stampa, is confirmed by the European letter that Von der Leyen sent to all European leaders in view of the extraordinary summit of 9-10 February. In the annex, the president presents a 15-point plan, the first of which envisages “strengthening the external borders through targeted measures by the Union”. Among these, there is the “mobilization of EU funds to help Member States strengthen infrastructure for border control”. The word “infrastructure” was not present in the previous draft, but was inserted after a long day of negotiations and in the light of the confrontation between the 27 interior ministers who met in Stockholm.
With this step, the Commission decisively changes its position with respect to an issue on which it had always seemed intransigent. Just over a year ago, when some states had asked for the possibility of using EU budget funds for anti-migrant barriers, the Commission had denied this possibility.
To counter the flows along the Balkan route, Austria has asked to finance the construction of a barrier between Bulgaria and Turkey with European funds. A frontier that according to von der Leyen “must be a priority”. Commissioner Ylva Johansson explained that “there are not enough resources in the budget to finance the walls”, but she hinted that if states had to redefine their priorities, then it would be possible. Orientation confirmed by Von der Leyen’s letter.
In addition to strengthening external border controls, the president of the Commission also proposes to increase “support for equipment and training” for Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, which will have to “strengthen their search and rescue capabilities” in the Mediterranean. Then more patrol boats to monitor their territorial waters and bring intercepted migrants back to land. There is also the idea of starting partnerships with Tunisia and Egypt to combat human trafficking through joint patrols made up of European policemen and magistrates.
In the Balkans, the presence of Frontex will be strengthened and a pilot project will be launched “in the first half of 2023” to set up hotspots in which to carry out the so-called “border procedures” which provide for an accelerated examination of asylum applications at the EU borders, with related rapid repatriation for those who are not entitled. Von der Leyen also wants to make agreements with the countries of origin for repatriations. But at the same time you say that humanitarian corridors need to be intensified and projects launched “to attract skilled workers”.
At the Stockholm summit, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi proposed introducing a third way between forced and assisted voluntary repatriations: “accompanied forced repatriations”, i.e. “a return operation” of migrants “associated with of reintegration”.
One of the four chapters of the plan is also dedicated to the question of redistribution, a topic of conflict between the countries of first arrival and those of the North. Von der Leyen asks to speed up the plan for the relocation of asylum seekers, in order to help states that, like Italy, suffer more than the others from the pressure of the landings. But in parallel you will start monitoring on secondary movements.