The number of refugees in the EU is rising rapidly again. But there is no common solution. While cities are demanding a say, the possible traffic light coalition is discussing a new strategy.
Thousands of people cross the Belarusian border into Poland and Lithuania. In the past five days alone, sea rescuers have rescued hundreds of castaways in the Mediterranean. And the refugee camps in Cyprus are overcrowded because many people are translating from Turkey.
The question of how Europe deals with refugees is becoming more pressing again. As recently as last year, only comparatively few refugees arrived in the EU, mainly because of the Corona crisis. But now the number is increasing rapidly – also in Germany.
Against instead of with each other
The outgoing Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants to focus on more border controls – on the border with Poland, but also at airports. His ministry is currently examining the possibility of controlling flights from Greece. “That would be a very effective measure, which I will also take if we do not come to a joint approach with Greece,” said Seehofer on Wednesday.
Seehofer’s course, if it comes to that, would again be against each other instead of with each other. This is not surprising: the search for a common solution in the EU has been bogged down for a long time. There is still no mechanism by which, for example, asylum seekers can be redistributed from the countries of arrival to all Member States. And the so-called Dublin procedure, according to which people have to stay where they first arrived, no longer works in large parts.
Displeasure is growing in many cities
A solution has so far been blocked mainly by Poles and Hungarians, who do not want to be obliged to accept membership. In the meantime, their circle has grown. The Czech Republic and Slovakia are also included, while Austria and Denmark have been critical in the past. The position of the German government so far has been that there must be a fair distribution mechanism for all states.
In many cities there has long been great resentment about European and national refugee policy. Berlin, for example, is currently suing the federal government in order to be able to take in refugees independently. Interior Minister Seehofer has so far rejected such demands.
“The situation at the borders is getting worse and worse”
How big this movement is across Europe is now shown by a new platform that was published on Thursday. “Moving cities” (roughly translated: cities in motion) connects almost 750 European communities that also want to take in refugees. A large part is within the EU, but places in Great Britain or a city from Albania are also included.
The initiators of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the aid organization Seebrücke agree that the EU and its member states have so far been unwilling to actually solve the problem. “The situation at the borders is getting worse and worse,” said Liza Pflaum from the pier at the platform’s opening conference.
Mayor calls for more support from the federal government
Katja Dörner, mayor of Bonn and Green politician, was also there. Your city is ready to take in people beyond the Königstein key, she said. This key regulates the distribution of asylum seekers in Germany.
However, more support from the federal government is needed for this. The city is already having problems providing enough affordable housing, she says. She is hoping for more help from the coming federal government.
Traffic light coalition could bring a change of direction
In fact, there are signs of a change of direction under a possible traffic light coalition. The FDP and the Greens demand that Germany go ahead with a “coalition of the willing”. The Liberals’ plan: states that do not participate should have money cut from the EU budget. The Greens are in favor of an EU fund from which the states willing to accept will be supported. In its election manifesto, the SPD calls for a “division of labor model” that does not demand the same from all member states. That means: some take in more people, others create a balance.
Above all, however, the FDP and the Greens disagree on the role that cities should play in the future. The liberals demand a strict separation of powers: the federal government decides on the political direction, the lower levels take care of integration. The Greens, on the other hand, want the municipalities to have a greater say, including when it comes to admission.
Whether it is a “coalition of the willing” or a “model based on the division of labor”: All three parties rely on a system in which some states take in more people and are compensated for them by the other states. Should this regulation prevail in the EU, it would be a novelty – and also a departure from the idea that the member states are growing closer and closer together.