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Jun 10, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

No, this is not the “new normal”

The Commission’s latest proposal on how to manage the migration crisis includes a plan that made our jaws drop.

In the announcement on Tuesday of a New Migration Partnership Framework, the Commission casually labels the crisis the “new normal” and lays out a scheme to create opportunities for legal migration by reforming the European blue card system and more effective integration. The wave of migrants reaching Europe – that is, the “new normal” – compels the EU to create the conditions for legal migration for all those who want to find work on the continent, European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

That approach is fundamentally misguided, has little if any popular support and, as the Orbán Government has been saying for months, sends the wrong message. Hungary opposes in no uncertain terms any plan that calls for a compulsory resettlement quota. “Both migrants and people traffickers interpret such proposals as an invitation,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó.

“Accordingly, Hungary rejects the European Commission’s proposal in the strongest possible terms,” the minister said.

Sometimes one has to look hard to find any common sense in these ideas emanating from Brussels. But beyond the astounding plan to accept their so-called “new normal” and create opportunities for migration, buried deep in the details of this latest proposal, we’re perhaps beginning to see signs that somebody is listening.

The new partnership framework says that migration management should be moved outward, extending the EU’s external management operations to proposed partners Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal as well as Jordan and Lebanon. To do so, it will “mobilise and focus EU action and resources” through the efforts of Member States.

To the extent that that is a call to work with the first safe countries that receive migrants and asylum seekers, that sounds familiar. That’s what the Orbán Government has been saying for months. The partnership framework also aims to increase returns and enable migrants and refugees to stay closer to home, echoing much of what Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán emphasized in mid-April with his Schengen 2.0 plan.

In fact, from his ten points to restore order along Europe’s borders, announced April 15, six points from the prime minister’s plan have been integrated into the partnership. Ideas about identification, external processing, readmission and returns, financial assistance, safe countries and repatriation all appear in this latest EU proposal, albeit decorated in the jargon of the EU.

The government of Italy has been arguing similar points. It’s no accident that our two countries hold similar positions on this topic. We’re both frontline states in this crisis. The Prime Minister’s Schengen 2.0 plan shored up the argument that Europe’s response cannot simply be about distribution of migrants through compulsory quotas – a much more resolute response to border security is required – and made it patently clear that “new” Member States would not be bullied by Brussels.

The Commission must accommodate the concerns of frontline EU Member States regarding irregular migration. Common sense must prevail, and that common sense should serve the interests of Europe’s citizens. That should be the ‘new normal.’