Member states reach agreement on major EU migration deal
After years of negotiations, European Union member states agreed on a new asylum and migration management system on Thursday night. There will be a mandatory but flexible solidarity mechanism to better distribute asylum seekers across the EU, and a new procedure at the bloc's external borders to speed up the return of rejected asylum seekers.
The deal was hanging by a thread as Italy wanted more room for manoeuvre to return migrants to safe third countries. In the vote on the final compromise proposal, which was hotly debated in the final hours, the Italian minister finally gave his approval.
Only Hungary and Poland voted against, while Malta, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Lithuania abstained. The Czech Republic wants to opt out of the solidarity mechanism because of the large number of Ukrainian refugees already on its territory.
Although the agreement was not adopted unanimously, the qualified majority required to adopt the two regulations was achieved. However, the member states still need to reach an agreement with the European Parliament on the two pieces of legislation. These negotiations may not be concluded until the Belgian presidency of the EU in the first half of 2024.
Migrants aboard the Sea-Watch 4 civil maritime rescue vessel off the coast of Sicily, Italy in 2020 © THOMAS LOHNES / AFP