In the 2018 Annual Forecast, Stratfor said that the European Union would look for ways to reduce the arrival of economic migrants and asylum seekers. Stratfor said the bloc would work with the countries of origin and transit of migrants, as well as announce measures to disrupt human trafficking organizations. The forecast also said the European Union would fail to implement a mechanism to more proportionally distribute asylum seekers across the Continent. The migration deal reached on June 29 is a confirmation of these forecasts.
After a marathon summit in Brussels lasting more than 12 hours, European Union leaders agreed on a plan to deal with migration in the early hours of June 29. The deal is a compromise between the conflicting interests of southern, northern and eastern EU members, who all have very different approaches to immigration. And while the agreement answers some questions, it leaves many others open, because some parts of the plan will be hard to implement.
The plan calls for stronger controls at the European Union's external borders; for more cooperation, funds and resources for the countries of origin and transit of migrants; and for a more decisive fight against human trafficking organizations. None of these policies is controversial, as the 28 members of the bloc agree that more has to be done to prevent people from reaching the European Union.
The controversial question is how to deal with migrants once they have reached Europe. Italy, located in the center of the Mediterranean, wants more solidarity from other EU members in dealing with migrants. But this is unacceptable for many countries, particularly those in Central and Eastern Europe, who are against any proposals to distribute migrants across the bloc. The German government, in the meantime, is under significant domestic pressure to put an end to so-called secondary movements, where people come to Germany after having entered Europe through another country. Against this political backdrop, the members of the European Union ultimately established a plan that makes three main proposals, each with its own set of challenges.
The first is to create "regional disembarkation platforms" outside of the European Union, to take people who are rescued at sea. The problem is that this requires cooperation from non-EU countries, mostly in Northern Africa, who must be willing to open such reception centers. And while the European Union says these platforms will be handled in cooperation with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration, European media reported that these organizations have already warned the union against trying to open migration centers in places that are unsafe for migrants.
The second proposal is to open "controlled centers" within the European Union, to distinguish between economic migrants (whom Europe will then repatriate) and asylum seekers (who have the right to apply for asylum). But there is a catch: These controlled centers will be voluntary, which means that every EU government will get to decide whether they want to open one.
Finally, the agreement calls for more cooperation to prevent secondary movements within the European Union. This was added to please German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose political allies in the Christian Social Union party want her to introduce tougher measures on immigration. In addition to the bloc-wide agreement, Merkel also negotiated bilateral agreements with countries that are willing to receive some migrants who do not have the right to apply for asylum in Germany. While Greece already has expressed interest in a bilateral agreement with Germany, other key countries, such as Austria and Italy, will be harder to convince.
The June 29 agreement is also notable for what it omits. Despite Italy's requests, the group did not reform the controversial Dublin system, which dictates that the country where a migrant first enters the European Union is the one responsible for them. Italy and other Southern European countries argue that this system puts excessive pressure on the Mediterranean countries, and they have demanded more participation from other members of the union. But opinions about reforming the Dublin system are so divided that, once again, the European Union has kicked the can down the road and promised to discuss the issue again in the future.