In a discussion paper for EU member states representatives published by Statewatch, the Finnish presidency of the Council proposed concrete options to enhance the leverage of the EU to bring third countries to cooperate on readmission of their nationals. The punitive mechanism integrated in the visa code shall serve as a model for other policy areas.

The document with the subject “Policies and tools to enhance readmission cooperation” was sent to the Council’s High-Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration/ Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) on November 8, to serve as a basis for discussions among member state representatives.

Based on a broad consensus among Commission, the European Council and Member States to make migration-related issues an integral part of relations with other countries, it states that finding new ways to enhance readmission cooperation with third countries has been one of the priorities of the Finnish Presidency.

As concrete procedures for situations in which a third country systematically refuses to cooperate on returns and readmission the paper suggests using the amendment of the visa code, in effect by February 2020, as a model that could be extended to other policy areas. Under the new visa code the Commission conducts an assessment of a country’s willingness to cooperate on readmission and, accordingly, can propose the Council to adopt a decision to apply visa restrictions or visa facilitation for a particular country as a punitive or incentivising measure to achieve better cooperation. A new, more generally applicable “informal readmission leverage mechanism” could be based on the same assessment. The Council could then invite the Commission and the Member States to identify measures at EU and national level that are appropriate and could be used as a leverage to enhance cooperation on readmission, taking into account the overall relations of the EU and the third country in question.

On the short-term such a mechanism could be included in the recast Return Directive and, in the long-term, the presidency suggests the possibility of an autonomous regulation consolidating an EU readmission leverage mechanism across various policy areas.

In a recent policy note on returns, ECRE warns of using a punitive approach to achieve cooperation by third countries, which is not based on coherent evidence. Moreover, ECRE stresses that the current focus on return is disproportionate and unrealistic when many of those arriving irregularly in the EU are from countries where there are conflicts and serious human rights violations. Forcing cooperation the EU and Member States are in danger of inflicting considerable harm on individuals and on the reputation of the EU as an international actor.

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Photo: (CC) Got Credit, March 2015

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.