Migration management: a joint effort by the EU and its partners

The volume of global migration flows has been growing throughout the current century, and this trend is expected to continue. Managing migration flows calls for measures within the EU and at its external borders, and also beyond its territory. The EU must engage in systematic cooperation with its partner countries.

The EU is determined to help tackle the root causes of uncontrolled migration that persist in third countries. The required measures include improving future prospects in the local context, combating climate change and eradicating youth unemployment. We should invest in education for girls and women to help keep population growth under control.

During Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, means of addressing the root causes of migration have been on the agenda of the High-Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration, among other forums. The HLWG is also responsible for promoting EU cooperation with important partners such as African countries and the African Union.

Effective protection for those in need, smooth return and repatriation policy

The reform of the Common European Asylum System was not finalised during the legislative cycle that ended, so this vital work will continue under the leadership of the new Commission. During the Finnish Presidency, the reform has been taken forward through thematic and practical discussions aimed at finding common goals and increasing understanding of national practices.

Not all countries of origin of asylum seekers are today willing to take back their own nationals who have been refused asylum in Europe and who do not return voluntarily. In efforts to solve this problem, the bilateral foreign relations of individual member states, the readmission agreements signed by the EU and various other cooperation arrangements are equally important.

The EU seeks to settle return-related problems by offering incentives for cooperation, for example in the field of visa policy. During the Presidency, Finland launched a debate on how trade policy could serve to improve cooperation on migration, without compromising on the principles of free trade cherished by the EU.

It is also important to facilitate the reintegration of returnees and, in this way, step up voluntary return and make it more durable. Closer cooperation between member states would be beneficial, because the practices of reintegration support today vary considerably, and the support provided by different actors often does not constitute a workable solution.

Resettlement of refugees, or reception of quota refugees, could be envisaged as a more widely used means of providing protection in the EU member states. This would result in the need for protection being assessed closer to the countries of origin, making it more difficult for human smugglers to operate. It would also facilitate return and reintegration for those who are not in need of protection.

Resettlement could also serve as a tool in EU neighbourhood partnerships, as showcased by its current cooperation arrangement with Turkey. During Finland’s Presidency, discussions have been held on intensifying cooperation between the member states and on means to sustainably increase resettlement numbers at EU level.

Migration management requires comprehensive action

Managing migration was one of the political priorities of the Juncker Commission. The main objective has been to approach the migration issue comprehensively, a perspective that has featured strongly in EU discussions over the past few years.

According to President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, the new Commission will approach the unresolved issues in the past legislative cycle in a new way as part of a wider package, the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

Katri Niskanen, Chief Specialist, Ministry of the Interior, tel. +358 295 488 672, katri.niskanen(at)intermin.fi