The reform of the European Union’s migration policy means that no country will be “left alone” to cope with irregular arrivals, says Ylva Johansson.


Johansson spoke with Euronews after member states and the European Parliament reached a provisional deal on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, a holistic overhaul that foresees predictable, clear-cut rules to receive and relocate asylum seekers.

The five-pronged initiative aims to turn the page on years of bitter debates that saw governments take unilateral and uncoordinated measures, creating an ad-hoc crisis response that often led to chaotic, disturbing scenes at the borders.

The agreement was hailed as “historic” by the leaders of the EU institutions, who seek to establish collective decision-making in an area crucial for the bloc’s security. Humanitarian organisations were quick to denounce the compromise, warning it will degrade the asylum process and risk normalising arbitrary detention.

“In many aspects, all of them mostly, this is the first time that we have a comprehensive Europeanised migration and asylum policy that has been agreed with such a broad majority,” the European Commissioner for Home Affairs told Euronews.

“This will mean that we are protecting the right to apply for asylum better, that we are protecting individuals and their living conditions for asylum seekers better, that we will have swifter processes not leaving people in limbo for a long time,” she added.

“We will also have a mandatory solidarity mechanism that makes sure that no member state under pressure will be left alone.”

The agreement on the New Pact materialised on Wednesday morning after marathon talks that stretched for three days, in which Johansson personally participated. The amended text still needs to undergo formal ratification by the Parliament and the Council before becoming enforceable.

Not long ago, the breakthrough seemed unattainable. After its presentation in September 2020, the New Pact was subject to extensive criticism and scepticism, with many in Brussels wondering if the legislation would ever make it through.

But a fresh political momentum, which began earlier this year and steadily grew, allowed the negotiations to gather pace and reach a successful conclusion.

“We have rebuilt trust between member states. We have seen a lot of much more cooperation and much more mutual trust,” Johansson said.

“Member states realise that working alone (and)trying to tackle the migration challenge alone is a lose-lose situation. But when we work close together, supporting each other, then there is a win-win situation and all member states are stronger and the whole European Union is stronger.”

One of the most important novelties under the New Pact is a system of “mandatory solidarity” that will offer governments three options to manage migration flows: relocate a certain number of asylum seekers, pay a contribution for each claimant they refuse to relocate, and finance operational support, such as facilities and technical equipment.

The provisional deal foresees a target of 30,000 relocations per year.

Johansson said the system would help countries “under pressure,” mainly frontline nations like Italy, Greece and Spain, and insisted it would never impose forced relocation. 

But, she added, the road to tackle migration does not end with the New Pact. The bloc still needs to do more to fight human smuggling in the Mediterranean Sea and ensure third countries take back the asylum seekers whose applications have been refused.

In the third quarter of this year, over 107,000 non-EU nationals were asked to leave but only 27,000 were successfully returned. 

“We need to work with countries of origin and countries of transit along the routes to prevent these dangerous journeys from taking part in the first place,” Johansson said.

“And then I would like to add, we need to step up legal pathways to come to the European Union. We are an aging society. We also need migrants, but they have to come in an orderly and safe way.”