Historic EU Migration Pact Adopted Amid Divisions

The building of the European Parliament in Srtasbourg (Photo: European Parliament / Flickr.com)

The European Parliament (EP) agreed on adopting the new migration pact on Wednesday, albeit by a margin smaller than initially expected owing to unexpected dissent. The five bills received, on average, 300 votes in favor and 270 against. The reform should come into force in 2026, after the European Commission sets out in coming months how it would be implemented.

The votes were slightly delayed by a few minutes as protesters threw paper planes at the sitting MEPs and chanted “This pact kills, vote no.”

The result allows mainstream parties to breathe a sigh of relief, as they are keen to flaunt the reform in their campaign for June’s EU parliament elections, believing it can show citizens that “the EU delivers.” But whether it lives up to the high expectations is a question that will take time to be answered: the laws will take about two years to enter into full force.

Crucially, the reform does not alter the long-standing “Dublin principle,” which says the responsibility for an asylum application lies first with the first country of arrival.

The Changes of the Pact

Under the new system, migrants illegally entering the EU will undergo identity, health and security checks, including biometric readings of faces and fingerprints, within seven days. The procedure aims to determine which migrants should receive an accelerated or normal asylum application process, and which ones should be sent back to their country of origin or transit.

Children are to receive special treatment, with countries obliged to install independent monitoring mechanisms to ensure rights are upheld.
Asylum-seekers from countries whose nationals’ applications are generally rejected — such as Tunisia, Morocco and Bangladesh, for example — are to be fast-tracked in detention centers close to the EU’s external borders, enabling them to be deported quicker.

The controversial centers, located at land borders, ports and airports, will be able to house up to 30000 people at any period, with the EU expecting up to 120,000 migrants to pass through them annually.

Roberta Metsola, the European parliament president, wrote on X: “History made. We have delivered a robust legislative framework on how to deal with migration and asylum in the EU. It has been more than 10 years in the making. But we kept our word. A balance between solidarity and responsibility. This is the European way.”
Speaking by her side, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the reform would make a “real difference for all Europeans” by improving border security, speeding up asylum procedures and cracking down on abusive practices.

While the deal was hailed as historic sharply criticized by others, including NGOs. Migrant charities and non-governmental organizations have also come out against the pact, seeing it as a bid to buttress “Fortress Europe” and make it much harder for refugees to seek protection.

“After years of negotiations, EU institutions are now shamefully co-signing an agreement that they know will lead to greater human suffering,” Amnesty International said in a statement in reaction to Wednesday’s vote.”

Diverse Reception Between the Lawmakers

Despite general support from the socialists (S&D), centre-right (EPP), and liberals (Renew), some members and national delegations still rebelled and voted against parts of the pact. Furthermore, both the far right and the left groups voted against it; the latter protested and called it the death of asylum.

The Greens, the radical left, and some socialists such as French candidate Raphaël Glucksmann have denounced what they consider to be an “externalization of our borders,” with applicants being sent back to “safe” third countries.

According to Renew Europe, the European response aimed at strengthening the protection of our external borders and harmonising the rules of entry into the countries of the European Union.

“It’s a vote that is not a given,” acknowledged Fabienne Keller, a French lawmaker who shepherded one of the texts through. The failure of one text could sink the entire package, she said, even though “a democratic majority in the European Parliament supports it. The EP made sure measures were in place to ensure compliance with the Convention on Human Rights,” the MEP concluded.

Other lawmakers on the left voiced their concern that the pact is giving too many concessions to centre-right and far-right forces, “You are about to give in to the far right, this pact does not give any answers to better managing the inflows, the pact is the opposite, it is fortress Europe,” said Green MEP Saskia Bricmont. Group President Iratxe García Pérez proudly celebrated the adoption of the pact, highlighting their party family’s contribution. “Thanks to the unity of the S&D Group, we finally put a real European solution in place. This moves us away from ad-hoc crisis responses to a permanent and sustainable procedure that governments can rely on. Populist emergency decrees are no way to deal with migration in an orderly way. Nationalist solutions are not the answer to pan-European challenges.”

However, not surprisingly, Italian members of the S&D (Italy is the most affected country by migration) were determined to vote down the New Pact, according to Brando Benifei, who leads the delegation. He said: “for us as Italians in the PD (there) is really too little and that is why we will vote against.”

The statement of the European People’s Party pointed out that the adoption of the Migration and Asylum Pact by the EP is a milestone in the EU’s efforts to protect our external borders and manage illegal migration. “We are proud of EPP’s leadership in reaching this deal, sending a clear message to smugglers that states decide who enters the EU.” Assita Kanko from the ECR side stated the contrary: “The Asylum Migration Pact doesn’t do enough to stop the uncontrolled surge of human traffickers.”

ID and the Others

The opposition to the New Pact comes from some familiar corners, such as the lawmakers from Hungary’s Fidesz, who are non-attached, and the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group, which encompasses Italy’s Lega, France’s National Rally and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

“Mass immigration will continue and permanently change Europe – not for the better, as we can see every day. The truth is that around two thirds of people who apply for asylum in the EU are not entitled to protection. They are not persecuted, which would make them refugees under the Geneva Convention We are not the welfare office of the whole world – and we cannot sustain this economically. That is why we need to restrict the right to asylum,” – Harald Vilimsky (FPÖ) said earlier in a EP plenary.

Unlikely Coalitions Were Formed

Not just the far-left and far-right have a common ground on the issue, but Poland and Hungary briefly agreed on Wednesday to publicly reject the EU’s migration deal, following the European Parliament’s long-awaited approval of the legislation. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk strongly opposed the proposal for a relocation mechanism to move migrants from frontline countries to other EU member nations, falling onto the same platform as Hungary’s Viktor Orban, a most unusual ally. Tusk even pledged to seek a way to exclude Poland from this plan.

“We will find … ways so that even if this pact enters into force in more or less the shape in which it was voted on today in the Parliament, we will protect Poland from the relocation mechanism, Tusk told to journalists.

Orban write on his X account. “Unity is dead, secure borders are no more. Hungary will never give in to the mass migration frenzy!”


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