EU: Tracking the Pact: Secret documents on reception conditions and qualification for international protection


Last week the European Commission published its Pact on Migration and Asylum. While it includes some new measures, it also calls for the adoption of previous proposals that were the subject of significant disagreement between the Council and the European Parliament. Today we are publishing Council documents that have until now remained secret, including blocked provisional agreements on the rules on reception conditions and the criteria for qualification for international protection.

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Two measures that are supposed to form part of the alleged Common European Asylum System (CEAS) are the Reception Conditions Directive and the Qualification Regulation. The former concerns the regulation of reception conditions for applicants for international protection, covering issues such as place of residence, the use of detention, education and employment. The latter sets out the criteria under which individuals may benefit from international protection and the rights of those who are granted such status.

Both measures were proposed in 2016 when, in response to the large-scale arrival of migrants and refugees, the previous Commission made an effort to further harmonise the different rules in place across the member states. At the time, Steve Peers, Professor of Law at the University of Essex, referred to the plans as the "Orbanisation of EU asylum law", because they would:

"...entrench across the EU the key elements of the Hungarian government’s policy, which was initially criticized: refusing essentially all asylum-seekers at the external border and treating them as harshly as possible so as to maintain the Schengen open borders system."

As initial analysis of the new plans has highlighted, these goals also underpin the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.

As part of the Pact, the Commission is urging (pdf) "quick adoption" of both the Reception Conditions Directive and the Qualification Regulation by "Q2 2021" - that is, by the end of June next year. However, the texts remain in limbo following political disagreements.

In 2018, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament reached provisional agreeements on both measures. Progress was eventually blocked after it turned out that the member states' political representatives (sitting in COREPER) could not agree with them. In the words of the Romanian Council Presidency (see below): "Certain Member States expressed concerns regarding the substance of the text that had been negotiated with the European Parliament." The Council thus proposed amendments to the texts, but the Parliament's negotiators were not willing to renege on the provisional agreements.

The provisional agreements - which Statewatch is making publicly available for the first time - are here:

To accompany the provisional texts, the Council also produced two documents explaining the history of the procedure and the main elements of both measures - they are also being made public here for the first time:

Two further previously-unpublished documents from January 2019 provide the then-Council Presidency's take on where things stood (Romania held the Presidency at the time the documents were written):

These documents also include an outline of what the Council views as the necessary changes to the provisional agreements, and includes the proposed text of what the Council considers should be changed in the provisional agreements.

On reception conditions, the Council aimed to emphasise the possibility for member states to "reduce or withdraw material reception conditions" in order to encourage compliance from applicants for international protection. The Council also wished to alter wording regarding the allocation of applicants to a particular geographical area, the detention of children and unaccompanied minors.

On qualification, the Council's proposed changes concern grounds for excluding applicants from subsidiary protection measures, residence permits and freedom of movement within the member state for an applicant.

Further reading

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