This applies particularly to the key questions of distributing refugees and migrants more equitably, improving their return and enhancing the protection of Europe’s external borders.

Germany is pursuing the goal of an ambitious and sustainable reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). This reform is intended to update the regulations on responsibilities, comply with humanitarian standards, avoid overburdening individual member states by ensuring the just distribution of those seeking protection, and effectively tackle secondary migration (refugees moving from one European member state to another) in order to be better prepared for future challenges.

Which solutions is Germany pursuing during its Presidency of the Council of the EU?

The COVID‑19 pandemic is particularly affecting refugees and migrants severely as persons seeking protection. The causes of displacement and migration are set to intensify in the near future due to pandemic‑related socio‑economic consequences, making the expansion of partner‑based cooperation with countries of origin, receiving and transit states even more urgent. Germany is therefore pursuing a comprehensive approach during its Presidency of the Council of the EU to mitigate the causes of displacement and irregular migration and to stabilise regions of origin and transit and receiving countries. This includes:

  • tailored cooperation of the EU Member States with key partner countries in terms of migration policy;
  • expanding capabilities for European migration situation analyses;
  • sharing responsibility more equitably at the international level in order to safeguard refugee protection throughout the world and facilitate permanent solutions for refugees and returnees;
  • implementing and further developing the new Frontex mandate for effectively protecting the EU’s external borders;
  • enabling faster decision‑making about the need for protection.
Asylum seekers from non-EU member states 2013-2019 © Auswärtiges Amt

What will happen to the border‑free Schengen area?

The Schengen system is an indispensable pillar of European cooperation and integration. In response to the refugee crisis in 2015 and after terrorist attacks and the outbreak of the COVID‑19 pandemic in Europe, temporary controls were reintroduced at certain internal borders. These are transitory and exceptional measures put in place until normal operation of the Schengen area can be restored.

Germany is campaigning to improve further the collaboration between the security, border protection and migration authorities of the EU member states. Effective use is to be made of both existing and new EU information systems.

The Schengen Agreement is a pillar of European cooperation and integration © picture alliance

A functioning and crisis‑proof European asylum system also requires an efficient mechanism for the effective voluntary return, the repatriation and the long‑term reintegration of those persons who cannot be granted protection. In the context of cooperation on repatriation, the EU member states need to agree on common standards and effective procedures for the humane repatriation of those required to leave. Voluntary return continues to take priority here.

And last but not least, Europe needs improved opportunities for legal migration. In order to tackle the shortage of skilled workers, legal migration opportunities for workers from third countries should therefore be used and accessed more effectively in the future.

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