De Croo and Von der Leyen call for more European cooperation on asylum procedures

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called for more and better European cooperation on asylum procedures on Wednesday. They spoke at a press conference with Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson, who was in Belgium to pay tribute to the victims of Monday's shooting in Brussels.

According to De Croo, there must be better control at the external borders, and those who have exhausted all legal remedies must also be able to be effectively expelled. This also requires better agreements with countries of origin and transit. "There is no doubt that simply asking people to leave the territory is not enough," he stressed.

The press conference focused on what European asylum policy lacks: tools and levers to effectively deport people who have been ordered to leave a country. According to De Croo, this requires better agreements with third countries, with more conditionality. "We invest most in our neighbours, but this is not unconditional. We have to take our responsibilities, but only if the other side does the same," De Croo said.

Negotiating as a bloc

Von der Leyen added that Europe needed to throw more of its weight around on this front by negotiating as a bloc. "Together we have much more clout," she stressed. "We have to define who comes to the EU and under what conditions." European countries should also organise more joint deportation operations, whether under the banner of Frontex or not, Von der Leyen said.

Kristersson made it clear in advance that he was not blaming Belgium for the attack. "We have exactly the same problem in Sweden, where many people are denied asylum and refuse to leave the country," he said. He also stressed that it was not up to the Swedes to change. "But being strict about democracy also means being strict about security."

As president of the European Council, the issue of asylum and migration will land on Belgium's plate early next year. De Croo argued that the negotiations on the European migration pact will finalised then.






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