A document leaked ahead of this week’s EU Council Summit reveals an effort by eight EU leaders to lobby for stricter border control to combat a surge in illegal migration. EU leaders are meeting in Brussels today, February 9th, to discuss migration as part of a two-day special sitting of the EU Council, prompted in part by a spike in illegal migration.
The document, released by the transparency group Statewatch, features the signatures of leaders from eight countries: Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Latvia, and Slovakia lobbying the EU Commission and Council Presidents for better border security. It argues the need for a harmonised EU system on migration, streamlined deportation process, and better liaising with non-EU nations in the fight against human trafficking.
The lack of deportations is described as creating a major “pull factor” for illegal migration, with leaders asking for better advertising to dissuade migrants from making perilous journeys to EU countries. The cosigners also call on EU applicant nations to alter their visa policies with priority to be given to genuine asylum seekers from Ukraine rather than socio-economic migrants.
The leak comes just before an EU summit where the issue of migration is expected to feature heavily, alongside Ukraine and economic matters. The gathering, which involves leaders from all 27 EU nations, occurs after Frontext reported that illegal migration to the EU reached 330,000 in 2022, the highest figure since 2016. EU leaders are under intense political pressure at home to clamp down on illegal migration with both Italian and Hungarian governments looking to fulfil their nationalist mandates on better border security for the entire bloc.
A prewritten media release for the summit, also made public by Statewatch, reveals that the Council will call for better support for Frontex to negotiate with non-EU nations, and for new arrangements for the data collection on migration. This is largely in line with demands made in the initial letter.
EU Council President Charles Michel has spent the month before the summit liaising with individual nation-states to create consensus ahead of the summit.
Previous attempts to control migration at the EU level have been criticised by conservative politicians as lacking resolve. Speaking to The European Conservative, AfD MEP Markus Buchheit outlined his hope that the EU would begin to tackle “welfare tourism,” which he says is driving illegal migration.
The EU talks about the importance of EU law [and] then completely ignores regulations that its members have already agreed to. We urgently need to stop welfare tourism and asylum shopping, because unless countries are allowed to reduce draw factors and keep out what are simply economic migrants, there will be endless and increasing threats to the safety and security of Europeans.
The summit begins Thursday in Brussels and is expected to continue until Friday, February 10th, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky potentially attending to advance his nation’s application to join the EU.