Northern Ireland-born British and Irish win EU citizenship rights

The UK government forced to change its position:

All British and Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland will be be treated as EU citizens for immigration purposes, the government has announced after a landmark court case involving a Derry woman over the residency rights of her US-born husband.

The move is a major victory for Emma de Souza ending a three-year battle to be recognised by the Home Office as Irish, a right enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).

De Souza said: “This is great news. To get a concession from the British government and a change in the immigration law is no small feat.

“It is incredibly satisfying to be considered as EU citizens and will be a great help to all the other families in my situation.”

Her husband, Jake, will now be allowed to remain in the UK indefinitely if he applies for the EU settlement scheme, an immigration status for all EU citizens wanting to remain in the UK post-Brexit.

The Home Office made its rule change in parliament on Thursday, finally bringing immigration law into line with the 1998 peace deal, which allows anyone born in Northern Ireland to be British, Irish or both.

Source: Northern Ireland-born British and Irish win EU citizenship rights

Sadiq Khan urges EU to offer Britons ‘associate citizenship’

Not sure how this would work or the likelihood of the EU agreeing:

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will use a trip to Brussels to implore EU negotiators to be open to continued free movement for Britons through “associate citizenship”.

With the backing of the former prime minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt, Khan said the offer of such rights to those who wish to retain them should be at “the heart” of the coming negotiations over the future relationship.

The idea of “associate citizenship was first raised in late 2016 by Verhofstadt, who was then the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator.

The offer would be of continued freedom of movement and residence around the bloc for those who wished to retain such rights. Such a status would also protect rights in healthcare, welfare and workplace conditions and likely the right to vote in European parliament elections.

The chances of such an initiative making headway in the negotiations are extremely limited as it would be unlawful under EU legislation.

There is unlikely to be appetite for any rewriting of treaties among the 27 member states, given the UK government’s hostile attitude to the free movement of EU nationals who wish to live and work in Britain.

Khan, who will also meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the European parliament’s president, David Sassoli, during his visit on Tuesday, said he believed the idea still had merit.

“Like so many Londoners, I am heartbroken that we are no longer a member of the European Union, but that doesn’t mean our country’s future can’t be closely linked with the rest of Europe,” he said.

“The prime minister says his job is to bring the country together and move us forward and I cannot think of a better way of reconciling the differences between British voters who wanted to leave, and the millions of Londoners and British nationals who still feel and want to be European.”

Khan added: “There would be support from millions of Londoners and British nationals who are devastated they are losing their rights as EU citizens. As the UK and EU start their next phase of negotiations, I want this issue of associate citizenship to be at the heart of talks about our future relationship.”

Attempts by UK nationals in EU member states to argue in the courts that the loss of citizenship and its associated rights was a disproportionate and unjust consequence of Brexit have all failed.

Verhofstadt, who has the backing of the European parliament to be chair of a new conference on the future of Europe involving all the EU institutions, said he believed that Brussels should be open to the concept.

“The Maastricht treaty created the concept of ‘European citizenship’ and I am in favour of using this now as a basis for people who want to keep their link with Europe,” he said. “It is the first time in the history of our union that a member state leaves, but it is not because the UK government wanted exit that individual citizens have to lose their connection with the continent.”

Source: Sadiq Khan urges EU to offer Britons ‘associate citizenship’

From UK ex-pat to EU citizen: A huge rise in Brits getting another EU passport

Good summary of the numbers. Would be interesting to see the percentages of UK citizens applying for EU member citizenship:

A new study conducted by Oxford in Berlin and the WZB – Berlin Social Science Center has revealed that the number of Brits receiving German citizenship has risen by over 1000% since the Brexit referendum in 2016: While 622 British citizens received German citizenship in 2015, numbers jumped dramatically to 7,493 ‘naturalisations’ in 2017 and predictions for 2019 are higher than all previous years.

Figures released by the OECD for the whole continent show a similar trend of Brits acquiring another EU citizenship with a rise of 600% in ‘naturalisations’. With Brexit, deal or no–deal, all British citizens living in the UK or elsewhere stand to lose their European citizenship rights such as freedom of movement or recognition of qualifications. Obtaining the nationality of an EU member state is a way for British citizens to guarantee maintaining EU citizenship rights that many peoples professional and personal livelihoods over the years have come to depend on.Rachel from Loughborough who gained dual citizenship in 2018 and now lives in Berlin says:

Getting German citizenship has given me a whole new confidence and security that I had lost.

The study conducted by Oxford in Berlin and the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) interviewed British citizens who have arrived in Germany over the last decade with a wide sample in social background, age and profession. The huge spike in post-2015 naturalisations (both UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK) is marked by the survey data as almost entirely motivated by the Brexit referendum.

According to migration researcher and co-author of the study Dr. Daniel Auer:

These dramatic jumps tell us we’re onto a significant social phenomenon here whose implications are yet to be understood.

If there were to be a no-deal Brexit at the end of this month, new applications for German citizenship from British citizens would require them to give up their UK citizenship because German law stipulates that only EU citizens can acquire dual-nationality.    Therefore, those Brits that want to maintain their European citizenship rights will have to give up their British citizenship, a heart-breaking and impossible prospect for many.

Alex, a start-up business owner who moved with his wife and two children from the UK to Germany in 2013 said:

We are being hung out to dry by the politicians from both sides. With my German language level, I’d have no chance of securing German citizenship and even if I could in the future, I wouldn’t want to give up my British passport. I just have to trust the German Government to keep their word and not kick us out.

While the legal consequences of Brexit remain so uncertain, people like Alex and Rachel – along with more than 5 million other EU or UK migrants on both sides of the channel – are taking often large risks to do whatever they can to mitigate the pending impact of Brexit on their lives.

Source: From UK ex-pat to EU citizen: A huge rise in Brits getting another EU passport

Boris Johnson’s dramatic immigration u-turn leaves 2.5m uncertain of their future

Ongoing train wreck:

Less than a month after Boris Johnson officially became the UK’s prime minister, his government has announced changes to the status of EU citizens after the current deadline for UK withdrawal from the EU – October 31, 2019.

The new home secretary, Priti Patel, has said that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on that day, then free movement will end immediately for all EU citizens in the UK.

This has caused much anxiety and confusion among the almost 3.5m EU citizens in the UK – 2.5m of whom have not yet registered for settled status, having been given a deadline of 2020 to get it done.

The previous government, led by Theresa May, made very different promises to these people. They were told that the UK wanted to “guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain … as early as we can.”. It appears that the new government has gone back on this promise.

EU citizens are still welcome to visit the UK for short trips without a visa. However, anyone planning to stay long-term after October 31 will be subject to proposed new rules if the UK leaves without a deal. So what is being planned by the new government in case of a no-deal for EU citizens?

Change of plan

Ending free movement on October 31 means that there would be no grace period for anyone who arrived after this date. A previous transition period was set to last until December 31, 2020. During this time, EU citizens arriving after Brexit day would enjoy the same rights as those who were there before.

Now, EU citizens would be subject to the planned new immigration system immediately.

The Department of Health has also said that after October 31, 2019, without a deal, NHS trusts will have to start to charge EU citizens for previously free treatment. This would mean NHS trusts would need to check the immigration status of EU citizens seeking treatment. This proposal has already been criticised by the British Medical Association. It would add more work to an NHS already under great strain.

Aside from anything else, the plan has been criticised for being impractical. The previous government admitted in January 2019 there needed to be some time between the end of freedom of movement and a new immigration system coming into force. This is because it would be difficult for employers, universities, landlords and others to distinguish between pre-exit residents and post-withdrawal arrivals. In particular, businesses have said it will make it difficult for them to recruit workers.

What do EU citizens need to do now?

The advice from the Home Office to EU citizens wanting to stay in the UK beyond October 31 is to apply for settled or pre-settled status under its EU Settlement Scheme. This has been officially open since March 30, 2019. However, there are some concerns about this, too.

Just over 1m applicants have already been granted settlement under this scheme. That’s approximately 30% of the eligible population.

For those who have already applied or who are in the UK before October 31, there should be no problem. However, there will probably be disruption for those who arrive after November 1. They will not be eligible to apply for settlement.

There will also be disruption for those who do not apply for EU settlement in time (and there is not much time left) and want to change jobs or move house after Brexit. Employers and landlords would be required to check these individuals’ immigration statuses, and it could be difficult to distinguish if they arrived before or after withdrawal.

There are serious concerns around certain groups of vulnerable individuals who will have most difficulty applying successfully for EU settlement, such as children without a passport, women in abusive relationships or those who simply cannot read English.

Of the approximately 3.5m EU citizens in the UK, there are still 2.5 million who have yet to apply for EU Settlement. It is unclear how many of them are vulnerable. I have previously highlighted that if large numbers of individuals become illegally resident after a certain cut-off date (for example, if free movement ends on October 31) anyone who does not have settled status but is still in the UK then could be illegal, and expelled automatically.

Furthermore, this could affect British citizens in the EU. The current arrangement for this group of approximately 1.3m people is based on reciprocity. But ending free movement on October 31 would mean British citizens in the EU would also lose their rights to stay in the EU. In the rush to end free movement as soon as possible, rights of British citizens in the EU seem to have been forgotten.

Another Windrush?

A leaked Home Office discussion document has already noted that it would be practically difficult to enforce an immediate end to free movement because of various complexities in establishing the system. In particular, it warned of a repeat of the Windrush scandal.

While the end to free movement will only become reality if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on the newest deadline of October 31, the deadlock between the EU and the UK suggests a growing likelihood of no-deal – especially under Boris Johnson’s new government. It is cold comfort for EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU that once again citizens appear to be the bargaining chips for negotiations between the EU and the UK.

Source: Boris Johnson’s dramatic immigration u-turn leaves 2.5m uncertain of their future

Citizenship [by investment] scheme risks are flagged in EU terror report

Not surprising:

A report about EU-wide money-laundering and terrorism financing risks has again zeroed in on citizenship schemes like the one operated in Malta.

The controversial scheme, introduced by the Labour government after sweeping to power in 2013, allows passport buyers access to an EU passport against payments and investments totalling over €1 million.

Misuse of such schemes, which the European Commission notes are deliberately marketed as a means of acquiring EU citizenship, together with all the rights and privileges associated with it, create a range of risks for the EU.

The Commission’s report was highlighted on the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit’s website this month.

Among the risks identified by the Commission are the possible infiltration of non-EU organised crime groups, as well as money-laundering, corruption and tax evasion possibilities.

Just last week, Identity Malta, the government agency that runs the scheme, confirmed it had initiated the process to withdraw the Maltese citizenship of Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, who has pleaded guilty to fraud and money-laundering in the US.

Another passport recipient, Chinese national Liu Zhongtian, was recently indicted in the United States amid allegations he avoided paying $1.8 billion in aluminium tariffs.

Concern about lack of transparency and governance of the schemes

The Commission says risks associated with citizenship schemes are exacerbated by cross-border rights associated with EU citizenship or residence in a member state. There is also a concern about lack of transparency and governance of the schemes.

Malta’s scheme has been criticised by the Opposition and international bodies for failing to clearly identify who has bought their passport.

Another problem with EU citizenship schemes identified by the Commission is that the procedure of screening applicants is often outsourced to private companies, where there is a permanent risk of conflict of interest and corruption.

It also raises fears that competition between European Union countries could result in a race to the bottom over standards of due diligence and transparency.

In a direct reference to Malta’s scheme, the Commission says Maltese citizenship is popular with wealthy Russians. Saudi Arabians have also invested in the scheme.

It says one Maltese passport buyer, Waleed al-Ibrahim, chairman of the Middle East Broadcasting Centre, was arrested in November 2017 as part of a corruption purge.

The government insists the scheme complies with the highest standards of due diligence.

Source: Citizenship scheme risks are flagged in EU terror report

Despite falling numbers, immigration remains divisive EU issue

Easier to continue campaigning even if the numbers are falling, than address more substantial and complex issues:

Migrant arrivals to Italy have almost dried up, new asylum requests across the European Union have more than halved in three years and at the end of 2018, Hungary’s reception centers housed just three refugees.

On the face of it, Europe’s migrant crisis appears over, but the shockwaves still resound around the continent ahead of this month’s European Parliament election, and nationalist politicians are looking to capitalize on the continued tumult.

“The most important thing is that leaders are elected who oppose immigration so that Europe will be in a position to defend itself,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on the sidelines of an EU summit in Romania last week.

Opponents accuse far-right and populist parties of grossly exaggerating the problem, but the issue still resonates, with a YouGov poll published on Monday showing that immigration was currently the voters’ top concern, followed by climate change.

The survey, carried out in eight EU states, showed just 3% of respondents thought “all is well” on the migration front, YouGov said. Only 14% believed the European Union had done a good job handling the emergency.

Once consigned to the fringes of European politics, anti-immigrant parties saw support surge in 2015 when more than a million refugees and migrants flowed out of the Middle East and Africa in search of a safer, better life in Europe.

The influx caught EU governments by surprise, stretching both social and security services, and revealing the inability of Brussels to find a way of sharing the immigration burden in the face of wildly conflicting national interests.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, nationalist and eurosceptic parties are expected to chalk up their best ever result in the May 23-26 EU vote, putting them in a strong position to shape policy in the 28-nation bloc over the coming five years.

LOSING MOMENTUM

In all, some 4.57 million people have requested asylum here in the European Union since the last EU vote in 2014, a threefold increase over the prior five-year period, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat. But the numbers are receding.

Thanks partly to much tighter controls, often put in place by newly empowered anti-immigrant parties such as the League in Italy, new arrivals to Europe fell to under 150,000 last year here, U.N. data shows, with even fewer expected in 2019.

Headed by Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, the League looks set to emerge as Italy’s largest party in the May ballot, with polls suggesting it will win around 30% against 6% at the last EU election in 2014 and 17% at a 2018 national ballot.

Since taking office last June, Salvini has effectively closed ports to migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, helping cut new arrivals here to around 1,100 so far in 2019 here, down some 90% on 2018 levels and 98% on the same period in 2017.

But latest polls suggest momentum for the League might be slowing, with the focus on immigration starting to fade – at least in Italy, where concerns about the economy and corruption are pushing to the fore.

“Salvini hopes immigration will remain a central issue because it is one that generates most support for him,” said Lorenzo Pregliasco, head of political analysis firm YouTrend.

“But is hard for him to say ‘we have reduced migrant arrivals by 98 percent’ and then keep saying immigration is a threat. This is creating a problem for him,” Pregliasco told Reuters.

Looking to keep migration in the spotlight, the League and its political allies in Europe have been quick to portray the newcomers as a security threat, pointing to deadly jihadist attacks over the past five years, including assaults in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, London and Barcelona.

A poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations said there was a clear majority in every country for better protection of Europe’s borders, while Europeans saw Islamic radicalism as the biggest threat facing the continent.

“There is a creeping Islamisation, a population change, or a population displacement,” said Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of Austria’s far-right Freedom (FPO) party, a junior coalition partner.

PLAYING ON FEARS

Mainstream parties accuse the populists of playing on base emotions and say they are not interested in finding a comprehensive solution to the refugee question, which could include quotas for redistributing new arrivals around the bloc, and better integrating migrants into European society.

“The danger I see is that there are politicians in Europe who have a reason to keep this problem alive,” Manfred Weber, the German lead candidate for the EU center-right, told Reuters.

Germany took in more than a million asylum-seekers in 2015 – a decision welcomed by human rights groups, but that also stoked support for the anti-migrant, far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Tapping into discontent amongst part of the electorate, AfD entered the national parliament for the first time in 2017 and is the only German party that is putting an emphasis on immigration in campaigning for the EU vote.

“Refugees are bringing crime into our towns,” the AfD has said in Tweets and leaflets ahead of the ballot – an assertion rejected by its opponents.

Mainstream German parties are focusing on other issues and hoping immigration will fall off the radar screen. It is a similar story in France, where President Emmanuel Macron’s party has listed immigration as only its number 5 priority, with the environment in the top spot.

Gerald Knaus, chairman of the Berlin-based European Stability Initiative think-tank, believes that by relegating the question, moderate parties will allow extremist rivals to frame the debate and let the anti-immigrant narrative predominate.

“What is lacking from mainstream parties is a coherent, convincing message that they can control arrivals without violating human rights,” he told Reuters.

“The majority of people want migration control but they also have empathy for refugees. As things stand, these voters have no-one to turn to (in this election).”

Britons most positive in Europe on benefits of immigration

Seems counter-intuitive given the role that anti-immigration attitudes played in the Brexit referendum but compared to other European countries…. Of course, compared to Canadian numbers, support is low:

British people are more persuaded of the benefits of immigration than any other major European nation, according to a global survey, which has also found that almost half of Britons think immigrants are either positive or neutral for the country.

The YouGov–Cambridge Globalism survey found that 28% of Britons believed the benefits of immigration outweighed the costs, compared with 24% in Germany, 21% in France and 19% in Denmark. A further 20% of British people believed the costs and benefits were about equal, while 16% were not sure.

The findings contradict the assumption that Britain is more hostile to immigration than its European neighbours are. Britain was seen as taking a hardline and less compassionate response to the 2015 European migration crisis, while many argue concerns over immigration were the key driving force behind the Brexit vote.

But experts have detected a softening in attitudes towards immigration since that vote, which could in part be influenced by the prospect of the end of freedom of movement and the dramatic drop in net migration to the UK from EU countries, which in the last figures dropped to its lowest level since 2009.

In all, only 37% of Britons feel the costs of immigration outweigh the benefits – lower than in any other big European country apart from Poland. By comparison, 50% of Italians believe the net impact of immigration is negative, as well as 49% of Swedes and 42% of French and 40% of Germans.

The findings come weeks before the European parliament elections, where populist, anti-immigrant forces are projected to perform well across Europe.

Nigel Farage, whose anti-migrant “breaking point” poster came to symbolise the leave message in the 2016 EU referendum, is returning to politics with his Brexit party, while his former party, Ukip, continues to campaign on immigration issues.

However, the UK portion of the global YouGov survey suggests anti-immigrant messaging is unlikely to work across the party divide. While only 3% of Ukip voters thought benefits outweighed costs, this compared with 15% of Conservative voters and 42% who voted Labour.

The survey also suggested men were most open to the benefits of immigration, with 32% saying the overall the impact was positive, compared with 24% of women.

Sunder Katwala, the director of the identity and integration thinktank British Future, which last year published The National Conversation, a report on immigration in the UK, said studies were showing Britain was on the “glass half full” end of the debate.

“There’s an increasing body of evidence that attitudes, having been very sceptical, are becoming softer,” he said. “The salience of immigration has dropped significantly and there’s also been a warming up of attitudes.”

Katwala said a softening of attitudes had been noticed by politicians and as a result the likes of Farage had changed tone ahead of the European elections.

“There’s a lot of nuance in British attitudes. The nuance was missing in the last 10 years because we were having a debate about ‘are we able to talk about immigration or not?’,” he added.

“It’s now a debate about what we should do now. Some people accept changes are coming. Some people are more empathetic because they see stories like Windrush, they see that the 3 million Europeans in the UK aren’t just a statistic but the people we see on television worried about whether they’re allowed to stay.”

The survey shows Britons are particularly supportive of migrants, either unskilled or qualified professionals, if they have a job offer in advance.

Forty-one per cent of Britons agreed that unskilled labourers arriving in the UK with a job offer were good for the country, a higher proportion than in all other major EU nations apart from Spain.

Similarly, Britons showed the highest level of support than any country surveyed for qualified professionals coming to the UK with a job offer, with 80% agreeing they were good for the country – compared, for example, with just 56% of French respondents.

Conversely, Britons are less supportive than other western nations in the survey of migrants arriving without a job in search for work.

Only 14% of Britons thought unskilled labourers coming to the UK to search for work were good for the country, with only Sweden and Germany showing lower levels of support for this kind of migrant.

Britons also appeared relatively hostile to refugees. Only 29% of Britons thought people fleeing war or persecution were good for the country, less than any other EU or anglophone country in the survey. Almost half of Canadians (45%) and French (44%), in contrast, expressed support for refugees.

UK respondents also showed the lowest level of support of all countries surveyed for migrants coming to join family members who already live here, with just 22% of respondents thinking this was good for the country, compared with 56% of Polish respondents who, among the EU and anglophone countries, showed the highest level of support.

Source: Britons most positive in Europe on benefits of immigration

Europe’s south and east worry more about emigration than immigration – poll

Interesting results but understandable given the demographics:

Southern and eastern European countries are more concerned about emigration than immigration, according to a wide-ranging survey of attitudes in 14 EU countries.

In Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary and Romania, six countries where population levels are either flatlining or falling sharply, more citizens said emigration was a worry than immigration, according to the poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

The steepest falls are in Romania, where the population has decreased by almost 10% over the past decade as an exodus of mostly young people move to work in western Europe.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2019/03/popuation-change-zip/giv-3902leY08K5RYnIs/

However, in northern and western nations, concerns over immigration far outstripped those over emigration.

The survey was conducted to establish the principal issues of concern ahead of the European parliamentary elections in May. The 14 nations polled will occupy 80% of the seats in the new parliament.

The poll discovered that Europeans are concerned about far more than migration, even though it has dominated EU politics and discourse over the five year term of the outgoing parliament. Corruption, nationalism, terrorism and climate change are also uppermost in minds.

In the survey as a whole, 20% were worried about emigration and 32% about immigration. The poll was conducted by YouGov and questioned almost 50,000 people.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/mar/2019-03-25T13:41:59/embed.html

In some countries, the fear of emigration was so great that large numbers of people believed compatriots should not be allowed to leave their country for long periods of time.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/mar/2019-03-25T15:48:16/embed.html

“The EU elections have been sold as a battleground over the heart of Europe,” said Mark Leonard, the director of the ECFR, adding that nationalists were trying to turn the vote into a referendum on migration.

“The findings from this poll should give heart to pro-Europeans, and show that there are still votes to be won on major issues such as climate change, healthcare, housing, and living standards,” Leonard said. “They will be making a strategic blunder if they accept the framing of the anti-European parties that this election will be won or lost on migration alone.”

Populist leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Italy’s Matteo Salvini are seeking to put migration front and centre of the 23-26 May polls, in which 374 million people are eligible to vote in a new parliament for a five-year term. The Orbán government recently deployed a scare poster warning about migration policy in Brussels.

Hungary has refused to take refugees under an EU quota system and continues to block an EU law that proposes a permanent redistribution system for asylum seekers. The poster referred to this theme, stating: “They want to introduce compulsory relocation quotas.”

Orbán, who is under pressure to quit the main centre-right European parliament group, has called for migration policy to be “withdrawn from the commission and returned to the member states”. EU member states already play the decisive role in migration policy.

While Orbán has scaled back his media attacks, following pressure from allies in the European People’s party, he has indicated that he could resume his anti-EU campaign. “Our job now is to continually inform the people about what Brussels is up to.”

But immigration numbers have fallen sharply over the past two years: in 2018, the number who crossed the Mediterranean was put at just over 116,000 by UNHCR, down almost 90% from those who made the journey in 2015.

The survey found that Islamic radicalism was the top area of concern, worrying about one in five Europeans, though fears were much higher in countries like Belgium, France and the Netherlands than in eastern Europe.

In almost all countries, a majority of people agreed that the environment should be made a priority even if it damaged economic growth.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/mar/2019-03-25T15:47:08/embed.html

But the data also showed a wide range of concerns cropping up in different countries, meaning that the election will be fought on different issues across the continent.

The economy was the single biggest concern in Italy, Romania and Greece. In seven countries – Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, Greece and Slovakia – more than 50% of people surveyed said corruption was a major issue.

Some experts have warned centrist and traditional parties against accepting a pro-EU versus anti-EU narrative, fearing it will only bolster populists by setting up straw-man arguments.

The European elections are the second-largest electoral contest in the world, behind the Indian elections. Voters in 27 countries are due to elect 705 MEPs, who will take office on 2 July. The UK is not scheduled to take part in the vote and will have to inform the EU by 12 April if it wishes to elect MEPs, meaning a long Brexit delay.

Source: Europe’s south and east worry more about emigration than immigration – poll

La droite européenne suspend le parti de Viktor Orbán

Overdue:

La droite européenne a décidé mercredi de suspendre le parti du dirigeant populiste hongrois Viktor Orbán de ses rangs, pour une durée indéterminée, à la suite de ses dérapages contre Bruxelles ou l’immigration, deux mois avant le renouvellement du Parlement de Strasbourg.

Le Parti populaire européen (PPE), qui réunit les formations de droite et du centre-droit de l’UE, comme la CDU de la chancelière allemande Angela Merkel ou les Républicains en France, a pris cette décision à une écrasante majorité (190 pour, 3 contre), lors d’une assemblée politique du parti à Bruxelles.

Concrètement, cette suspension signifie que le Fidesz n’aura — jusqu’à nouvel ordre — plus le droit de participer aux réunions du PPE, sera privé de ses droits de vote et ne pourra pas présenter de candidats à des postes, a précisé le président du PPE, le Français Joseph Daul, dans un tweet.

« La présidence du PPE et le Fidesz ont convenu d’un commun accord la suspension du Fidesz jusqu’à la publication d’un rapport par un comité d’évaluation [de ce parti] », selon le texte de compromis adopté.

Aucune durée de suspension n’est mentionnée dans le compromis. Selon l’eurodéputé français Franck Proust qui participait au vote, « une décision sera prise à la remise du rapport des experts, à l’automne ». Ce comité indépendant d’évaluation doit notamment être présidé par Herman Van Rompuy, ancien premier ministre belge et ancien président du Conseil européen.

Avant la réunion, la tension était montée d’un cran. Le gouvernement hongrois avait averti qu’en cas de suspension, le Fidesz « quitterait immédiatement le PPE ».

Mais un compromis a finalement été trouvé, avec la précision que cette suspension avait lieu « d’un commun accord », selon plusieurs sources.

Dans un entretien mercredi à la radio allemande Deutschlandfunk, le président de la Commission européenne Jean-Claude Juncker avait réclamé une fois de plus une exclusion du Fidesz.

« Sa place est hors du PPE », avait affirmé M. Juncker, membre de ce parti mais qui ne participait pas à cette réunion, affirmant que « depuis des années », le Fidesz « s’éloignait des valeurs démocrates-chrétiennes ».

Certains craignaient qu’exclure l’enfant terrible du PPE, une première dans l’histoire de cette formation, la plus importante du Parlement européen, n’ouvre la voie à une scission entre l’Est et l’Ouest du continent.

Risque d’une alliance avec Salvini

Ils s’inquiétaient également de le voir se jeter dans les bras du vice-premier ministre italien et ministre de l’Intérieur, Matteo Salvini, le chef de la Ligue, parti d’extrême droite.

Cela fait des mois que la droite conservatrice se divise sur le cas Orbán.

Mais, en lançant une campagne d’affichage le 19 février contre M. Juncker, le premier ministre national-conservateur hongrois avait dépassé les bornes pour ses détracteurs.

Sous le slogan : « Vous avez aussi le droit de savoir ce que Bruxelles prépare », ces affiches montraient Juncker, ricanant aux côtés du milliardaire américain juif d’origine hongroise, George Soros, et l’accusaient de soutenir l’immigration sur le Vieux continent.

Furieux, treize partis membres du PPE originaires de dix pays différents, réunis autour d’un noyau dur constitué par les pays du Benelux et de la Scandinavie, avaient réclamé début mars « l’exclusion ou la suspension » du Fidesz.

Le chef de file pour les élections européennes du PPE, Manfred Weber, avait également accentué la pression la semaine dernière à Budapest sur Viktor Orbán, devenu une source d’embarras croissant pour l’Allemand qui brigue la succession de M. Juncker.

Le Bavarois avait posé trois conditions pour le maintien du dialogue : l’arrêt de la campagne anti-Bruxelles, des excuses auprès des autres partis membres du PPE et le maintien à Budapest de l’Université d’Europe centrale (CEU) fondée en 1991 par Georges Soros.

Depuis, Viktor Orbán, 55 ans, avait fait retirer les affiches controversées. Il avait présenté ses excuses au PPE, même si elles avaient été jugées insuffisantes.

Mais concernant l’Université d’Europe centrale, sa bête noire, M. Orbán n’avait pas bougé. Cet établissement de droit américain, s’estimant chassé par le premier ministre nationaliste, va déménager l’essentiel de ses activités à Vienne

Source: La droite européenne suspend le parti de Viktor Orbán

Opinion: EU immigration policy is grist to the far-right mill

Would appear to be a similar dynamic at play in the U.S.:

Seven different EU immigration policy reform bills have been on the table for the last three years. And for three years, the bloc’s interior ministers have been fighting over them. They have been unable to come to an agreement, and they end each negotiation with the same lament: Something has to happen. Yet, nothing ever does.

The old Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that the country of first arrival is responsible for an immigrant, is still the law. Although almost all of the EU’s 28 interior ministers agree that the rule no longer works —  although they give very different reasons for why they think this is — they have yet to come up with a better solution.

A joint immigration and asylum policy that is somehow carried by all has failed to materialize.

Italy and Greece insist that new arrivals be distributed across the bloc. Hungary and Poland don’t want to take anyone. France and Germany see the countries of first arrival as bearing responsibility.

Now, at the last meeting of interior ministers before May’s European parliamentary elections, national representatives have officially admitted that they cannot come to an agreement. And with that admission, they are giving right-wing populists highly welcome campaign ammunition.

Far right will exploit the EU’s weaknesses

These will happily exploit the emotionally charged topic of immigration when making their plea to voters, as well as pillorying the EU’s inability to find a solution to this so-called crisis ahead of the May ballot. Italy’s radical right-wing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, will use that inability to justify closing Italian ports to refugees rescued at sea.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will use the collapse of negotiations to prop up his abstruse theory that Brussels seeks to flood his country with Muslims to “replace the people.”

Far-right parties across Europe, from the AfD in Germany and the FPÖ in Austria to the EKRE in Estonia, will no doubt spew similar nonsense.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU), who last year used immigration policy to instigate a coalition crisis in Berlin and promised to deliver a European solution to the issue, also went down in flames — having achieved absolutely nothing.

His immigrant repatriation agreement with the populist government in Italy has yet to come about  in fact, the opposite is now the case. Contrary to Germany’s wishes, Italy is threatening to put an end to Operation Sophia, the EU’s naval rescue mission in the Mediterranean. And despite having happily shaken hands with far-right radical Salvini over a done deal in June, there is not a thing Seehofer can do about it.

Empty hands

Now it will be easy to make the case for closing oneself off entirely, for borders, higher fences, and walls. The utterly divided EU has nothing to offer on immigration policy. The migration crisis that the right is always talking about does not exist at the moment; the number of arrivals to Europe has dropped dramatically.

But the EU is woefully unprepared for another rush like that of 2015. Europeans are not prepared for the next civil war, the next famine, or for immigrants fleeing their homes due to climate change. It is a scandal that this is the case just 11 weeks before European parliamentary elections. And it should surprise no one if the populists and anti-EU parties gain seats.

The real test, however, will come at the end of the year, when the EU negotiates the distribution of grant money for the next decade. Will states that take more immigrants get more money? Will those that take none be penalized by receiving less? The showdown has the potential to paralyze the EU, or even worse, destroy it entirely.

Source: Opinion: EU immigration policy is grist to the far-right mill