All I want for Christmas is (yet another) Asylum and Migration Pact…

But while one would provide actual ‘relief’, for any crisis-stricken territory… where would the other leave tiny islands like Lampedusa - or Malta, if it comes to it

Look: I’m well aware that this is traditionally the season for ‘merriment, festivity, celebration’, and all that. So up to a point, I do sort of understand that the EU would announce its (umpteenth) ‘New Asylum and Migration Pact’ – unveiled just five days before Christmas – with all the self-congratulatory fanfare, of a typical New Year’s Eve countdown.

But let’s face it, folks. Much as we all love receiving presents at Christmas-time… there’s a limit to how often you can unwrap what turns out to be the EXACT SAME GIFT, that you’d been given the previous year (and the one before that, etc.), before the Grinch finally steals all the ‘festive spirit’, from right under Rudolph’s Red Nose...

I mean, seriously? Yet another Asylum and Migration Pact, of the kind that the EU had already announced (with equal fanfare) back in September 2020; and then again, in June 2022 (when Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced ‘historical breakthroughs’ on two fronts: one, the inclusion of a ‘Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism’; and two, a proposed revision of the infamous ‘Dublin 2 Treaty’)?

Not to stress too fine a point on it, but… that’s almost as bad as when an elderly (now long-deceased) relative of mine, used to give me the same old pair of ‘hand-knitted woollen socks’, Christmas after Christmas, for well over three decades…

With one significant difference, I suppose. While hardly ‘exciting’, as a gift: those socks did at least serve an entirely practical purpose, in their day. They kept my feet warm. Another ‘Migration Pact’, on the other hand? What practical purpose could something like that possibly serve… after so many previous attempts (using, as shall be seen, exactly the same methods) have all manifestly failed, over the past four years alone?

Ah, but let’s not be too hasty! After all: we haven’t even unwrapped the damn thing yet, have we? (Even if there’s hardly any need to, in the end. Like a ‘bicycle’, or a ‘bottle of wine’: the shape of the wrapping more or less gives the whole game away, at a glance…)

And, yup! Just like I’d figured. Once all the glossy paper is duly cast aside… what emerges turns out to be an EXACT REPLICA of the previous ‘Migration Pact’, unveiled in June 2022: unchanged in any detail.

Then as now, it proposes a ‘Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism’, whereby ‘member states can choose between between hosting asylum applicants, and making financial contributions [to a common EU migration fund]’; and it also manages to actually STRENGTHEN the more problematic aspects of Dublin II, instead of ‘revising’ them (to the extent that one MEP – Cornelia Ernst, of Germany’s Left Party – even described the new pact as ‘Dublin on Steroids’)…

As things stand, the only tangible difference between this new agreement, and the one which preceded it, is that…. this time round, the negotiations were between the European Parliament, and ‘representatives of the Council of Ministers’ (as opposed to ‘Commission representatives’, in 2022). As such, the same pact has now been ‘accepted’ – on paper, at least – by a consultative body representing all 27 member states.

But – as with all previous occasions, where similar ‘breakthroughs’ were announced somewhat prematurely – the finer details still have to be re-negotiated, and agreed upon, by each member state individually.

There is, in brief, still no confirmation that this new pact WILL, in fact, be accepted by every EU country: especially, when it comes to the all-important stage of ratifying it, in their own respective national parliaments.

But no matter. This being Christmas-time, and all – a season also associated with ‘magic’, and ‘fireside myths’ – I’m perfectly happy to suspend my own disbelief, on that score, for the rest of this article. Let us suppose, then, that this ‘New’ Asylum and Migration Pact’ really DOES get implemented, in all 27 member states (unlike, it must be said, all those other previous efforts).

What then? What makes the European Parliament so very ‘confident’, that – to quote its president, Roberta Metsola – this latest agreement will succeed in ‘providing solutions’ to Europe’s migration issues… and above all, that it will live up to its self-avowed objective, ‘to FUNCTION [my emphasis], and protect’?

One quick way to answer that, I suppose, is to just look at what happened after the last time this exact same agreement had been reached, in June 2022. On September 13 this year – barely 14 months after that ‘historical breakthrough’ - the Financial Times reported that:

“The German government has suspended a voluntary agreement with Italy to take in migrants, accusing Rome of failing to live up to its obligations under the EU’s Dublin rules on asylum.

“As part of an EU scheme known as the voluntary solidarity mechanism, Germany pledged to take in 3,500 asylum seekers from countries on the bloc’s external borders that have been hardest hit by the most recent wave of migration […]

“But Berlin has now stopped the transfers, citing Italy’s failure to honour its obligations under the EU’s Dublin rules...”

Got that, folks? So Germany first AGREED to ‘take in 3,500 asylum seekers’ – just like those Council of Ministers negotiators have now AGREED to adopt an identical ‘Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism’, across the entire EU – only to later backtrack on that agreement, when faced with the stark reality of what it actually entailed.

So what guarantee is there, might I ask, that all 27 EU members states will not decide to do exactly the same thing, as Germany has only just done: and simply renege on a previous agreement, which they suddenly – each citing their own, invariably different, national interests - find less ‘acceptable’, than before?

But hey! Let’s not let the Grinch win again so easily, shall we? Instead, let’s do the unthinkable… and simply ‘assume’ that the EU’s plan will indeed go off without a hitch, this time round. In other words: that all 27 EU member states will not only ‘ratify’ this New Asylum and Migration Pact, when it comes to the crunch… but also ‘implement’ it, to the letter.

And let’s also assume that – once a tiny Mediterranean island like Lampedusa (or who knows? Maybe Malta, one day) is yet again inundated, by several thousand more asylum seekers, than its entire population combined - the rest of Europe simply decides to take ‘Option B’, instead of Option A (by merely ‘contributing to a common EU migration fund’… instead of physically ‘taking in all those thousands of asylum seekers, themselves’).

Both courses of action are entirely ‘legitimate’, according to the terms of this pact. But while one would provide actual ‘relief’, for any crisis-stricken territory… where would the other leave tiny islands like Lampedusa - or Malta, if it comes to it – if not exactly where they had always been, before?: (I.e., with a real, logistical and humanitarian crisis on their hands: and not so much as the ghost of ‘European solidarity’, anywhere in sight?)

For the last time, however: it IS ‘the season of good cheer’, after all. So who knows? Maybe I’m being too much of a ‘Grinch’ myself, all things considered…

In any case: Happy Christmas, folks! (And let’s just hope that miracles really DO happen, because…. this pact could certainly use one, if it ever hopes to succeed).