Portugal assumed the rotating EU Presidency in January 2021 and has prioritized progress on the Migration and Asylum Pact proposed by the European Commission last September. The pact tackles many of the most intractable issues in the management and governance of international migration, including how to manage mixed migration flows that have presented a near-existential challenge for the European Union. With the pact generating a great deal of interest across sending and receiving countries alike, all eyes will be on Portugal as it tries to make progress on issues ranging from managing external borders better, offering protection to asylum seekers with legitimate claims, relocating refugees and asylum seekers, and returns.
Borrowing from U.S. debates on immigration about “comprehensive” versus “piecemeal” reforms, the key questions are how much Portugal can achieve over the next six months, what it should prioritize, and where the Portuguese Presidency can find support for its ambitions. How can Europe manage the external, EU-wide, and even domestic aspects of this policy area more effectively and avoid the policy and political minefields set over the past six years? Will Europe be able to come together on this issue and give meaning to the often-used notions of “solidarity” and “responsibility sharing”? Or will the centrifugal forces on this issue grow and imperil the bloc’s ability to speak and act with one voice on difficult issues?
This MPI-MPI Europe webinar brings together senior officials from the European Union, Germany (the last holder of the presidency) and Portugal to take stock of where the conversations on the pact stand as Germany passes the baton on this issue to Portugal, and Portugal’s plans for taking forward the negotiations. The discussion focuses on two questions: (1) what lessons can be learned from the German Presidency’s work last fall on the pact and what are Portugal’s priorities for making progress on it, and (2) how can European policymakers make the case for greater solidarity on migration and asylum issues?