No EU migration deal until at least 2024

Sweden, current holder of the EU presidency, says no deal on the table under its watch

Migrants near a border line between Serbia and Hungary, at the heart of the so-called Balkan route to European countries. AP Photo
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Swedish officials have ruled out the adoption of Brussels' proposed new migration pact under its six-month leadership of the EU, which means it is not likely to come into force until spring 2024 at the earliest.

“We will definitely advance the work … with full force. [But] you will not see a completed migration pact during the Swedish presidency,” Lars Danielsson, Sweden’s ambassador to the EU, told the Financial Times on Wednesday.

The EU’s migration pact has been under discussion for more than two years. In September 2020, the European Commission made several proposals aimed at addressing imbalances across the European Union.

They include reforms to the EU’s so-called Dublin system, which has overburdened certain countries on popular migration routes such as Greece and Italy, and a renewed attempt to increase the repatriation of failed asylum seekers.

Figures from the EU’s statistics office Eurostat show an increase in first-time asylum seekers in 2022, despite their number remaining lower than 2015 records. There were nearly 90,000 first-time asylum applicants across the EU, according to the latest figures from September. The highest numbers were registered in Germany, Austria and France. Asylum seekers were mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey.

Austria and India on Monday struck a migration deal, with India agreeing to take in failed asylum seekers. In return, Austria said it will make legal migration easier for Indian students and workers. Austrian politicians have described tens of thousands of unregistered migrants at its borders as a security risk.

Mr Danielsson also said that the war in Ukraine would remain at the top of the EU’s agenda under Sweden’s presidency. Consensus is likely to prevail regarding ongoing delivery of humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, but discussing new sanctions packages against Russia, as well as how to hold Moscow accountable for alleged war crimes, may prove more difficult.

“Swedes are known to love preparations … But I think we have to test our ability to improvise,” said Mr Danielsson.

Updated: January 04, 2023, 10:06 AM