The European Parliament agreed a plan on Thursday that could see 120,000 refugees relocated to different Member States to ease the pressure on countries which have borne the brunt of the migrant crisis, such as Greece, Hungary and Italy. More than half a million migrants have arrived in the EU in recent months, with Germany saying it expects to process 800,000 asylum claims this year – more than the amount taken by all 28 Member States in 2014. The scale of the crisis was illustrated by footage of the police in Hungary using water cannons to force refugees back from the border with Serbia, while clashes erupted in Croatia after hundreds of people broke through police lines and marched towards Zagreb.
Under the proposals agreed by MEPs, Member States will accept a quota based on their GDP, record of accepting previous asylum applications, and unemployment rate. Each Member State will receive €6,000 per person, while countries from which refugees are being transferred will be given €500 for each migrant to cover transportation costs.
The scheme was approved by 372 votes to 124 during an emergency debate after EU Ministers refused to endorse a similar plan on Monday. Questions remain about whether it will be accepted when the European Council convenes next Tuesday, with Denmark, Slovakia, Lithuania and Estonia expressing reservations.
Some countries, including Slovenia, have announced that they will be reintroducing temporarily border controls with other Member States in response to the crisis.
Commission clarifies position on data protection
On Wednesday the European Commission published a statement clarifying its position on the EU Data Retention Directive, which was annulled by the European Court of Justice in 2014. Speculation had been building that the Commission might bring forward a new legislative initiative on the rules surrounding the use and retention of personal data, with rumours also circulating that they intended to take Germany to court over draft national legislation on data protection.
In a strongly worded communication, the Commission said it had no intention of reopening discussion on the Directive and reiterated that the decision on whether to maintain data retention systems or set up new ones was a matter for Member States.
Azerbaijan to withdraw from Euronest
Azerbaijan’s national parliament, the Milli Majils, announced at the start of the week that it is to withdraw from the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. Euronest is the inter-parliamentary forum through which MEPs engage in dialogue with representatives from the Eastern Partnership nations of Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Ogtay Asadov, the Speaker of the Milli Majils, said the decision was taken due to the “biased” stance of the European Parliament against Azerbaijan, including a resolution adopted last week expressing concern about the human rights situation in the country.
Baku has come under criticism following last month’s arrest and detention of prominent journalist Khadija Ismayilova. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has also said it will no longer monitor Azerbaijan’s parliamentary elections in November due to restrictions imposed by the Government.