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Asylum and migration in the EU: Facts and figures

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The arrival of more than one million asylum seekers and migrants to Europe in 2015 exposed serious flaws in the EU’s asylum system. To respond to the migrant crisis, Parliament has been working on proposals to create a fairer, more effective European asylum policy.

Below you will find all the relevant data about the migrant crisis in Europe, who migrants are, what the EU is doing to get to grips with the situation, and what financial implications there have been.

Definitions: what is a refugee? What is an asylum seeker?

Asylum seekers are people who make a formal request for asylum in another country because they fear their life is at risk in their home country.

Refugees are people with a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, politics or membership of a particular social group who have been accepted and recognised as such in their host country. In the EU, the qualification directive sets guidelines for assigning international protection to those who need it.

Currently people from outside the EU must apply for protection in the first EU country they enter. Filing a claim means that they become asylum applicants (or asylum seekers). They receive refugee status or a different form of international protection only once a positive decision has been made by national authorities.

Asylum decisions in the EU

In 2018, there were 634,700 applications for international protection in the EU plus Norway and Switzerland. This compares with 728,470 applications in 2017 and almost 1.3 million in 2016.


Also in 2018, EU countries granted protection to almost 333,400 asylum seekers, down by almost 40% on 2017. Almost one in three (29%) of these were from Syria while Afghanistan (16%) and Iraq (7%) rounded up the top three. Of the 96,100 Syrian citizens granted international protection in the EU, almost 70% received it in Germany.

Situation in the Mediterranean

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency collects data on illegal crossings of the EU’s external borders registered by national authorities. In 2015 and 2016, more than 2.3 million illegal crossings were detected. In 2018, the total number of illegal border-crossings into the EU dropped to 150,114, its lowest level in five years and 92% below the peak of the migratory crisis in 2015.

One person can go through a border more than once, so the number of people coming to Europe is lower, nevertheless, member states have been under significant pressure.

In 2018, 471,155 people were denied entry at the EU’s external borders. As of 18 June, more than 24,000 people have risked their lives reaching Europe by sea so far in 2019, with more than 550 feared to have drowned. 116,647 people reached Europe by sea in 2018, compared to over one million in 2015. The Mediterranean crossing remained deadly however, with 2,277 dead or missing in 2018, compared to 3,139 a year earlier.


Migrants illegally present in the EU

In 2015, 2.2 million people were found to be illegally present in the EU. By 2018, the number had dropped to just over 600,000. “Being illegally present” can mean a person failed to register properly or left the member state responsible for processing their asylum claim. This is not, on its own, grounds for sending them away from the EU.

What Europeans are thinking

Migration has been an EU priority for years. Several measures have been taken to manage the crisis as well as to improve the asylum system. According to the results of a Eurobarometer poll released in May 2018, 72% of Europeans want the EU to do more when it comes to immigration.

The EU significantly increased its funding for migration, asylum and integration policies in the wake of the increased inflow of asylum seekers in 2015. In the forthcoming negotiations on the EU’s post-2020 budget, Parliament will call for additional funding for migration.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, an average of 37,000 people were forced to flee their homes every day in 2018. The countries hosting the largest number of refugees are Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Sudan and Germany. Only 16% of the world’s refugees are hosted by developed countries.

Around the world, the number of people fleeing persecution, conflict and violence has reached 70 million for the first time ever. That is equivalent to every man, woman and child in the UK and Ireland being forced from their homes. Children account for about half of the world’s refugee population.

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Parliament decides on new Commission President

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MEPs vote on the candidate for the president of the European Commission on Tuesday 16 July.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who was nominated for the post by the European Council, will outline her programme and discuss it with MEPs from 9.00 CET. MEPs will vote on her candidacy at 18.00 CET.

In order to become Commission President, von der Leyen must secure the support of an absolute majority of MEPs (as of today she must get at least 374 votes). The vote will be a secret paper ballot.

Although she has the backing of EU leaders and is a member of the political party that won most seats in the European elections, von der Leyen was not a lead candidate, a fact criticised by many MEPs.

Political groups have already subjected von der Leyen to tough questioning about her plans for the Commission.

If she fails to win a majority, the European Council would have to put forward another candidate.

Following May’s elections, one of the first tasks of the new, directly-elected European Parliament is the election of the next European Commission President.

Once this new president has been approved, work starts on setting up the new Commission. Parliament’s committees will hold hearings with each of the commissioners-designate to assess their suitability for the portfolio to which they are assigned, before MEPs vote on the Commission as a whole.

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European Institute of Innovation and Technology: Strategy for 2021-2027

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Today, the European Commission has proposed an update of the legal base of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) as well as its new Strategic Innovation Agenda for 2021-2027.

The EIT is an independent EU body created in 2008 that is strengthening Europe’s ability to innovate. The proposals adopted today will align the EIT with the EU’s next research and innovation programme Horizon Europe (2021-2027) delivering on the Commission’s commitment to further boost Europe’s innovation potential. With a proposed budget of €3 billion, which represents an increase of €600 million or 25% compared to the current Strategic Innovation Agenda (2014-2020), the EIT will fund activities of existing and new Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) and support the innovation capacity of 750 higher education institutions.

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the EIT, said: “Since 2008, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology has been nurturing talent and creativity through a unique focus on education and entrepreneurship. The strategy we are now putting in place for 2021-2027 will help ensure that all of Europe’s regions benefit from the Institute’s potential and will further boost the innovation capacity of our higher education sector. And I am particularly proud to announce today the launch of a new Knowledge and Innovation Community to support innovation in the cultural and creative industries, planned for 2022.”

The EIT currently supports eight KICs which bring together companies, universities and research centres to form cross-border partnerships. The Strategic Innovation Agenda proposed for 2021-2027 is designed to achieve the following goals:

Increasing the regional impact of Knowledge and Innovation Communities: In the future, the EIT will strengthen its networks, involving more higher education institutions, businesses and research organisations by developing regional outreach strategies. The selection of cooperation partners and the preparation of KIC activities will be more inclusive. KICs will also develop links to Smart Specialisation Strategies, an EU initiative to spur economic growth and job creation by enabling each region to identify and develop its own competitive advantages.

Boosting the innovation capacity of higher education: The EIT will support 750 higher education institutions with funding, expertise and coaching, enabling them to develop economic activities within their area of interest. The Institute will design and launch activities particularly in countries with a lower innovation capacity. In doing so, the EIT will build on successful policy initiatives such as HEInnovate, a free self-assessment tool for all types of higher education institutions, or the Regional Innovation Impact Assessment Framework,which allows universities to assesshow they are fostering innovation in the regions they are based in.

Launch of new KICs: The EIT will launch two new KICs, selected in fields most relevant to Horizon Europe policy priorities. The first new KIC is set to focus on the cultural and creative industries and is planned to start in 2022. This sector has a high growth potential, many local grassroots initiatives and strong citizen appeal and is complementary to the existing eight KICs. The priority field of a second new KIC will be decided at a later stage; it is due to be launched in 2025.

The revised EIT Regulation ensures greater legal clarity and alignment with the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The new legal base also introduces a lean and simplified funding model for the EIT designed to more effectively encourage additional private and public investment. Finally, it reinforces the EIT’s governing structure.

Next steps

Both therevised EIT Regulation and the Commission Decision on the Strategic Innovation Agenda for 2021-2027 will be presented to the European Parliament and the Council for discussion and adoption.

Background

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology was established in 2008 by Regulation (EC) No 294/2008 amended by Regulation (EC) No 1292/2013and is based in Budapest. Its purpose is to address major societal challenges by improving the innovation capacity and performance of the EU through the integration of the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation.

The EIT is a central part of the Commission proposal establishing Horizon Europe, the next EU research and innovation programme (2021-2027) with a proposed budget of €100 billion. The EIT is one of the three components of its “Innovative Europe” pillar. The Horizon Europe proposal sets out the funding for the EIT under the next long-term budget as well as its rationale, added value, areas of intervention and broad lines of activity. However, the Horizon Europe proposal itself does not provide the legal basis for continuing the EIT operations as from 2021. The legal base of the EIT remains the EIT Regulation that sets out its mission, its key tasks and the framework for its functioning.

With its proposed budget of €3 billion for 2021-2027 the Institute will boost innovation by supporting more than 10 000 graduates from its KICs’ Master and PhDs, around 600 new start-ups and more than 7000 existing ones.

The proposals presented today build on the external evaluation of the EIT carried out in 2017 which confirmed that the rationale behind the establishment of the EIT is valid.

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Central Asia: European Union matches political commitment with further concrete support

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To underpin the European Union’s political commitment and kick-start the implementation of the new EU Central Asia Strategy, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, at the EU-Central Asia Ministerial meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, today presented a set of EU funded regional programmes. These programmes will support the environment, climate action, sustainable consumption and production, energy, gender equality, counter-terrorism, and education. 

Coming on top of over €1 billion of bilateral and regional assistance for the period 2014-2020, these programmes, worth €72 million, will benefit all countries of the region – Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

“The positive regional dynamics in Central Asia and a demand for closer cooperation with the European Union presents a significant opportunity for a closer, stronger partnership”, said High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini. “Our new Strategy for the region will enable us to cooperate more closely with the countries of Central Asia in tackling the challenges they face: from sustainable development to economic diversification, strengthening civil society and human rights to providing expertise and financial support for reform processes. We are ready to build on the enormous momentum gained over the last five years, as a consistent and reliable partner, to foster resilience, prosperity and regional cooperation.”

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica added: “The EU’s contribution worth €72 million boosts our strong partnership with Central Asia, for the benefit of our citizens. Together with national governments, civil society and the private sector we will work to create opportunities and shared prosperity, while protecting our planet for future generations.”

The new programmes announced today cover:

Sustainable energy: The EU will invest €20 million in a new hydropower plant in Tajikistan, with additional support from Germany. This hydropower plant will create new opportunities for Tajikistan to meet increasing demand, and to export excess electricity to neighbouring countries, including to northern Afghanistan.

Economic empowerment: The EU will invest €2 million in the economic empowerment of women in the region. This project will be implemented together with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It will provide Afghan women with the skills they need to participate in the economic development of Afghanistan, and contribute to closer peaceful ties with Central Asia. 

Education: The EU also launched a new €36 million programme in support of the education sector in Kyrgyzstan. This financing agreement will support Kyrgyzstan’s education development strategy, in order to better formulate, implement and monitor education policy. It will help to improve resource allocation, ensure equitable access across gender, ethnicity and linguistic background, and enhance the synergy between skills and labour market needs. 

Inclusive sustainable growth: The EU has extended the activities of the SWITCH Asia Programme, with an amount of €14 million. The programme will support sustainable consumption and production and promote inclusive sustainable growth. It aims to reduce poverty and contribute to economic prosperity in Central Asia.

In addition to those programmes announced today, several others are in preparation: 

Sustainable development: The EU is preparing a contribution in support of the initiative of the Government of Uzbekistan to establish the Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea Region, under the auspices of the United Nations. The initiative will reduce vulnerability of the people living around the lake and advance sustainable development in the Aral Sea region. 

Intra-regional trade: The EU will launch an upgraded phase of the Border Management in Central Asia programme. With this new phase, the EU aims to increase security and facilitate intra-regional trade in Central Asia and Afghanistan through integrated border management. 

Health: The EU will furthermore launch the next phase of the Central Asia Drugs Action Programme. The goal is to work on integrated, balanced and evidence-based drug policies.

Counter-terrorism: New technical assistance to support law enforcement capacities and regional cooperation in countering terrorism.

Background 

The High Representative and the European Commission set out a vision for a renewed partnership with Central Asia in May 2019. This Joint Communication was endorsed by EU Foreign Ministers at the June Foreign Affairs Council. The new strategy comes at a key moment of fast-developing Euro-Asian connectivity, reform and opening up in some of the countries of Central Asia, and new momentum for regional cooperation.

The Strategy focuses the EU’s engagement on strengthening resilience and enhancing prosperity, as well as investing in regional cooperation in Central Asia.

EU cooperation with Central Asia amounts to over €1 billion, including both bilateral and regional assistance, for the period 2014-2020.

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