2020.02.10 09:32

EU commissioner pledges ‘compromise’ on distributing asylum seekers

BNS2020.02.10 09:32

Mandatory distribution of asylum seekers among European Union member states is still on the table, although the European commissioner for migration and home affairs said in Vilnius she would seek a compromise between opposing positions.

The Swedish politician Ylva Johansson visited Lithuania last Friday and praised the country's “constructive” approach after her meeting with Interior Minister Rita Tamašunienė.

“It was a really constructive approach from the Lithuanian minister and we had a very open and frank discussion on how, from the Lithuanian perspective but also from the European perspective, a good deal on migration and asylum could be [reached],” the European commissioner told BNS.

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Asked whether a mandatory quota mechanism was still on the table, the European commissioner said she would try to coordinate different opinions on the issue.

“It is one of the things that is being discussed when I talk to the different members states. As you probably know, [there are] different approaches. Some member states are very much in favour of that, others are very much against. My task now is to find a compromise that can be accepted by all member states,” Johansson said.

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Tamašunienė meanwhile reiterated Lithuania's position that the relocation of asylum seekers within the EU should be done voluntarily.

“Only people who need international protection should be relocated,” Tamašunienė was quoted in a statement.

“Security is our priority, therefore, we are in favour of relocating only those people who do not pose a threat to national security,” she added.

Lithuania opposes a proposal from some Southern and Western European countries to introduce a mandatory mechanism for relocating asylum seekers.

The European commissioner spent only several hours in Vilnius and arrived later than planned due to flight delays. Her scheduled meetings with President Gitanas Nausėda and Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius were cancelled.

The European commissioner and the Lithuanian minister also discussed issues related to the protection of the EU's external border and the implementation and funding of the special transit scheme for Kaliningrad.

The European commissioner was also introduced to the possibility of setting up a regional rescEU civil safety capability centre in Lithuania, according to the Ministry of the Interior. It would be a regional branch of the main rescEU centre and, in case of an emergency, provide assistance not only to Lithuania, but other EU member states as well.

Johhanson did not comment on the possibility to establish such a centre in Lithuania.

“Yes, the minister mentioned that, but there was nothing really to discuss and I have no answers to give to that,” the European commissioner told BNS.