20 May 2015

France and Spain criticise EU refugee quota plan

The European Commission’s plan to introduce binding quotas for the relocation of refugees among EU member states was always unlikely to fly (as we argued on this blog several times) due to domestic political constraints. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the proposal has already hit a roadblock in the shape of France and Spain after both came out criticising the plan in the past couple of days.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said over the weekend,

I’m against the introduction of [EU] migrant quotas. This has never corresponded to French proposals…Asylum is a right, granted according to international criteria. It’s also for this reason that the number of its beneficiaries cannot be subject to quotas.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, 16 May 2015

French President François Hollande yesterday reiterated that quotas are “out of the question”, although he said France is in favour of a “more equitable” distribution of asylum seekers among EU countries.

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said on Monday,

We’re absolutely willing to make the effort of solidarity that we’re asked…but this effort has to be proportional, fair and realistic. And in my opinion, the criteria used by the [European] Commission are not.

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, 18 May 2015

The Spanish government is not opposed to the idea of quotas, but believes the Commission should take Spain’s high unemployment rate into greater account when working out the share of refugees that each EU member state is supposed to take in.

This graph is worth another look:

150513AsylumGraph itemprop=

France believes it already takes in too many asylum seekers, and it probably doesn’t like the fact that it would be the second-largest recipient under the Commission’s proposed relocation scheme. Spain is currently one of the EU countries with the lowest number of asylum seekers per thousand inhabitants – and it is probably keen on things staying the same. The Commission’s proposed relocation plan would make Spain the fourth-largest recipient of asylum seekers.

As I have written here and here, an EU-wide system of binding and permanent refugee quotas amounts to a significant transfer of power from national capitals to Brussels in a hugely sensitive policy area – hence why it will remain a no-go for some time.

So much for another ‘UK isolated in Europe’ story.