Home Affairs Minister Mariusz Błaszczak responds to the European Commission charges concerning Emergency Relocation Mechanism
I have just signed a document which constitutes a response to the European Commission charges - said Mariusz Błaszczak, the Minister of the Interior and Administration during a press conference dedicated to the document.
‘I have just signed a document which constitutes a response to the European Commission charges. I believe the document presents very strong arguments supporting our position, namely that Poland does not have to accept economic migrants called refugees from North Africa and Middle East’, said Mariusz Błaszczak, the Minister of the Interior and Administration during a press conference dedicated to the document. ‘My argumentation is based on the safeguarding principle. Safeguarding is a national policy and not a common EU policy’, he added.
In its Letter of Response to the European Commission, Poland moves for discontinuing EU law infringement proceedings in reference of the 2015 EU Decisions on relocation. The Letter, which was prepared by the Ministry of the Interior and Administration, points i.a. to systemic shortcomings in the Relocation Enforcement Mechanism, as a result of which it is impossible to guarantee appropriate security level.
‘The relocation mechanism which was forced upon the consent of the PO-PSL government coalition, is ineffective. This mechanism attracts new waves of migration’, said Minister Mariusz Błaszczak.’Safety of Polish citizens is a top priority of the Polish government’, he concluded.
In the Letter of Response to the European Commission, the Ministry of the Interior and Administration has pointed out firmly that Poland does not reject the EU principle of solidarity and the need to provide humanitarian aid. However, in the discussion on the EU forum Poland sustains its position and expresses absolute objection only to the proposed mandatory and automatic relocation actions. In Poland’s opinion those actions are ineffective and they encourage subsequent inflows of migrants to Europe.
Poland has underlined that in order to solve migration problems one has to address the root of the problems, i.e. one has to start actions in the countries where migration originates. Thus, in our opinion, actions taken by the European Union should be based on collaboration with third countries situated along migration routes, in order to build their capacities in the scope of providing asylum and managing migration and in the scope of providing humanitarian aid for refugees near their countries of origin. Other vital tasks include stepping up security on external EU borders and fighting against human traffickers and migrant smugglers.
According to Poland, Council Decision (EU) 2015/1523 of 14 September 2015 and Council Decision (EU) 2015/1601 of 22 September 2015 were based on wrong legislative assumptions. As a consequence, they were not considered by the European Council which is the right body to make decisions in such cases and a decision to adopt them should have been unanimous.
In its Letter of Response to the European Commission, the Ministry of the Interior and Administration also drew attention to the legal action concerning the validity of Council Decision (EU) 2015/1601. In December 2015 Hungary and Slovakia started legal action at the European Court of Justice for annulment of the Decision. Poland joined the action as intervenor. Procedural complaints as well as charges based on material law were invoked during the proceedings. It was argued i.a. that during the Decision adoption process the unanimity requirement was not observed in a situation where original proposal concerning the Decision was amended in the course of work in the Council.
The Emergency Relocation Mechanism is wrong and poses safety risks
It must be underlined that Poland made attempts at implementing Council Decision (EU) 2015/1523 of 14 September 2015 and Council Decision (EU) 2015/1601 of 22 September 2015 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece. However, as a result of those attempts it turned out that the mechanism for the refugees’ verification and admission makes it difficult for Poland to fulfil its obligations concerning law and order and home security.
The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) confirms unequivocally that national security remains exclusive responsibility of each Member State. European Court of Justice has also held multiple times that it is the obligation of the Member States to take measures to safeguard their security internally and externally, and that the Member States are the only ones competent in the scope of keeping law and order and safeguarding home security. Thus, security policy belongs to particular Member States and not to the European Community.
Effective verification of individuals subject to relocation is impossible
It was pointed out in the Letter of Response that the way the Council Decisions are implemented regrettably makes it impossible for Poland to fulfil its obligations in the field of safeguarding national security. Neither Italy nor Greece have worked out any methods of verifying individuals subject to relocation, which would be effective from the point of view of security. Moreover, it is impossible to quickly identify people who require international protection and to separate them from economic migrants.
Relocation mechanism was thought to cover only people who clearly needed international protection. However, in practice, among the individuals subject to relocation there are people who use fake identities and people who provide untrue particulars about their country of origin and age.
People qualified for relocation are going to be selected by Italy and Greece with the support of European Asylum Support Office (EASO). During the process of selection Italy and Greece may take account of preferences listed by Member States, but they are not obliged to do it. Then, each Member State may refuse to admit the selected people based - first and foremost - on safety reasons.
In the Letter of Response to the European Commission charges, the Ministry of the Interior and Administration has presented particulars concerning its attempts to fulfil the relocation decisions as regards migrants from Italy and Greece. In 2015 Poland expressed its readiness to relocate 100 individuals, having indicated its preferences, such as families, single women, people who have contacts with Poland, who have communicative competence of Polish, English, Russian, French, other EU languages, who have vocational skills, whose education is certified by any documents, or who belong to religious minorities in their countries of origin.
Liaison officers were appointed for the purpose of verifying individuals to be relocated. The liaison officer appointed for Italy was made unable to carry out direct interviews and to check candidates for relocation from Italy. Thus, Poland was deprived of a basic measure which enabled assessment of the applicants’ credibility.
As a result of Polish attempts to fulfil the obligations resulting from the Council Decisions concerned in respect of Greece it also turned out that the mechanism of relocation does not enable Poland to carry out properly its obligations in respect of law and order and internal security. Although the liaison officer participated in the interviews with applicants in Greece, the group subject to verification included individuals who could pose danger to the security of Poland (e.g. people using fake identities or individuals providing untrue information about their country of origin or age, as well as individuals alleged to be related with terrorist groups). Due to this fact in April 2016 the government of the Republic of Poland informed Greece that it was impossible to ensure appropriate level of security. Greece withdrew all the proposed applications.
It was underlined in the Letter of Response that by withholding from declaring how many applicants could be relocated to the Polish territory, Poland acted for the sake of ensuring its capability to fulfil its obligation of maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security. This is in accordance with Article 72 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE).
The Ministry of the Interior and Administration pointed out that no effective mechanisms and procedures of verifying migrants have been developed to-date within the EU framework in terms of security and effective and efficient verification of individuals who require international protection and those who migrate only for economic reasons.
Current implementation of the relocation Decisions approximates 14 per cent (as at July 2017). Thus, one can conclude that those Decisions are not implemented by all the Member States, and the mere fact of expressing readiness to accept refugees does not mean that they are indeed implemented.
Poland is engaged in humanitarian aid and protection of external EU borders
It is underlined in the Letter of Response to the European Commission that the Polish Government shows solidarity towards our partners i.a. by reinforcing the protection of EU external borders. Such support is possible e.g. under FRONTEX initiated actions, the aim of which is also to support the asylum systems of Italy and Greece. Poland renders support by delegating experts and officers to Greece and declares increased engagement in providing that type of support.
Since the beginning of 2016 Polish officers have been participating in numerous missions coordinated by FRONTEX. They have already completed dozens of missions to 17 countries. The biggest support was given to Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia and Macedonia. By 27 June 2017 the support of Border Guard to our partners amounted to 8693 men-days. Currently more than 100 individuals are on missions abroad.
In addition, Poland has been deeply engaged in providing humanitarian aid for third countries which have been the greatest victims of the crisis. Polish support has been provided to e.g. Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iraq or Lebanon. The support offered at the root of the problem is meaningful for migrants as well as for the countries of origin and transit states. In this way Poland also contributes to reducing the flow of migrants to the European Union.
The Ministry of the Interior and Administration also drew attention to the problem of so called ‘aftermovements’. As a result of ordering a refugee to be relocated to a particular Member State against his or her will, some refugees are going to move to other Member States. Such movement attempts are to be expected due to different living standards in particular Member States, concerning e.g. job market, access to accommodation or amount of social benefits.