After Dublin
A Quota by Any Other Name

In 2014-15, as the immigration crisis hit Europe, the EU rules for handling refugees, known as the Dublin system, slowly broke down. Refugees that were supposed to be hosted by their first safe country overfilled Greece and Italy, made their way north, and Germany made it clear it would not send them back. Other EU member states, caught in between, fumed. Something new is clearly needed, and after one failed attempt at setting up a redistribution quota, Brussels is taking another stab. Reuters reports:

The European Union executive published legislative proposals to reform the so-called Dublin system of EU asylum rules that includes a “fairness mechanism” under which each of the 28 states would be assigned a percentage quota of all asylum seekers in the bloc that it would be expected to handle.

The quotas would reflect national population and wealth and, if a country found itself handling 50 percent more than its due share, it could relocate people elsewhere in the bloc. States could refuse to take people for a year — but only if they paid another country 250,000 euros per person to accommodate them.

“There is no a la carte solidarity in this Union,” First Vice President Frans Timmermans told reporters. “This is a way to be able to show solidarity in a situation where … you are not able to take the refugees which were allocated to you.”

The proposal is already facing swift push-back from the governments of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. (Slovakia, in particular, has also been rather strident in saying its opposition.) The Eastern Europeans managed to grind the last attempt at redistribution to a halt (Reuters: “only 1,441 asylum seekers have been relocated out of the 160,000 allowed for under the current temporary scheme.”) They look set to try to do the same thing again.

Europe’s technocrats have many tools at their disposal to advance measures they feel are needed, and clearly they are trying to hit the easterners right where it hurts: the pocketbook. And there is a sort of logic to their argument: Eastern European countries still are net beneficiaries of European-wide aid programs and subsidies, after all. If they don’t want to play along with Brussels’ diktat, well then it will cost them.

But in the absence of a long-term solution for policing Europe’s external borders—and no, the Turkey deal isn’t sufficient, certainly not on its own—the Eastern countries will continue to feel they are both paying for Germany’s moralistic follies and also exacerbating the moral hazard. This has the potential to become (yet another) running source of intra-European tension on one of most controversial issues of our day.

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