Austria records highest number of asylum applications per capita in the EU

Brussels/Luxembourg (APA) – In September 2023, 98,240 people applied for asylum in one of the 27 EU countries for the first time. This is ten per cent more than in September 2022 (89,370), as the European statistics authority Eurostat stated on Thursday. Austria recorded the highest number of first-time applications per capita in September 2023 (87.6 applicants per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 72.4 in August), followed by Cyprus (79.3). Austria ranked third in the EU for unaccompanied minors.

Across the EU, the number of first-time asylum applicants was 21.9 per 100,000 inhabitants. The lowest rate was observed in Hungary (0.03). In addition, there were 5,265 repeat applicants across the EU, a decrease of 20 per cent compared to September 2022 (6,555).

As in the previous months, the highest number of first-time asylum applications in September 2023 were made in Germany (27,885), Spain (13,395), France (13,100) and Italy (11,930), accounting for 67 per cent of all first-time applications in the EU. Across the EU, Syrians made up the largest group of asylum seekers (19,220 first-time applicants). They were followed by Turks (10,200), Afghans (9,215), Venezuelans (5,290) and Colombians (5,230).

4,055 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the EU for the first time in September 2023, most of them from Syria (1,575) and Afghanistan (980). The EU countries which received the most asylum applications from unaccompanied minors were the Netherlands (910), followed by Germany (775), Austria (705), Bulgaria (490) and Greece (380). (21 December 2023)

EU reaches agreement on asylum and migration reform

Brussels (Belga) – Following a final night of negotiations, the European Parliament and member states reached an agreement on a sweeping reform of the European Union’s asylum and migration policy on Wednesday. The reform aims to tighten existing rules and curb illegal migration. This was announced by European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas.

After years of discussions and a final sprint with two days and two nights of negotiations, member state representatives and the European Parliament have finally agreed on the legal texts that make up the reform. The reform still needs to be approved by the Parliament’s plenary, but that is usually a formality. The text has the support of “a majority around the centre, with socialists, centrists and conservatives,” negotiator Fabienne Keller (Renew) explained at a press conference.

The agreement has the support of “a majority around the centre, with socialists, centrists and conservatives.”

MEP Fabienne Keller (Renew Europe)

The reform includes tighter controls on the arrival of migrants in the European Union. This will include standardised procedures at external borders. People coming from countries considered relatively safe will be dealt with more harshly. Until a decision is taken on their asylum application, they will have to wait in detention-like reception centres. A so-called solidarity mechanism should distribute people seeking protection among member states. If countries do not want to take in refugees, they should offer support, for instance in the form of payments.

“We finally have a binding solidarity mechanism. This means that all member states are finally taking responsibility, not just some,” said negotiator Tomas Tobé (EPP). “I strongly believe that this will restore trust between member states, as well as that of citizens.”

“We finally have a binding solidarity mechanism. […] I strongly believe this will restore trust between member states, as well as that of citizens.”

MEP Tomas Tobé (EPP)

Specifically, the solidarity mechanism to which member states have committed should consist of a minimum of 30,000 redeployments, as well as €600 million in financial support. “If there is not enough in the solidarity pot, the European Commission can ask for additional solidarity,” explained negotiator Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D). “If that is still not enough, we can move on to mandatory measures.”

The agreement must now be developed into conclusive legal texts. The aim is to get them through the European Parliament before the European elections in June. Member states will then also have to formally give the green light, and this should happen under the presidency of Belgium, which takes over the torch from Spain in January.

“I wish the Belgian Presidency every success in finalising the work and getting these texts across the finish line,” said European Parliament president Roberta Metsola. “Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo assured me last week that he is ready to take up the dossier.” (12 December 2023)

The 27 EU Member States agreed to relax European budgetary rules to ensure that public finances can be restored without jeopardising investment. Photo: Eduardo Sanz / Europa Press

The 27 Member States agree to relax EU budgetary rules

Brussels (AFP) – On Wednesday, the 27 EU Member States agreed to relax European budgetary rules to ensure that public finances can be restored without jeopardising investment.

The finance ministers approved “a new economic governance framework that guarantees stability and growth,” the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU was pleased to announce on X.

The reform aims to modernise the Stability Pact, a “budgetary corset” created at the end of the 1990s, which limits the general government deficit to 3% of GDP and debt to 60%.

While confirming these emblematic thresholds, the new text should make the adjustment required of member countries in the event of excessive deficits more flexible and realistic. Deemed too drastic, the framework had never really been respected.

“For the first time in thirty years, this stability pact recognises the importance of investment and structural reforms,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on X. (20 December 2023)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Tuesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.