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France wins EU support on immigration pact

Latest update : 2008-07-08

European interior ministers agreed to throw their weight behind a French proposal to harmonize immigration policies throughout the EU. Specialists interviewed on France 24 agreed that it is a significant move.

The 27 interior ministers of the European Union unanimously agreed Monday on new guidelines for controlling immigration. The road map plans for a formal pact to be signed in October to help EU members jointly manage migration and fight illegal immigration.

“Today it seems at least that we have reached a political consensus on the necessity to have common attitudes and rules to try to manage the immigration flux,” said Jacques Myard, a conservative French MP interviewed on 'The France 24 Debate'.

The agreement organises legal immigration based on a state's needs and ability to welcome people, and combat illegal immigration by expelling foreigners who do not have papers.

Crystal Fleming, a Harvard University graduate and fellow at the Paris Institute for Political Science, stressed the importance of balancing the focus on security with the need to safeguard the dignity and the rights of migrants.

France, who as the current EU president led the negotiations, is adamant that the agreement does as much to boost migrants’ rights as it does to crack down on illegal immigrants.

“But when you start to get into emphasizing immigrants who have a certain level of education or backgrounds you start to wonder to what extent does it become a proxy for place of origin,” Fleming warned.

Under the agreement, interior ministers from the 27 Union members also committed to avoiding mass regularizations of illegal workers like the ones which took place in Spain or Italy in recent years.

To keep countries from falling back into old habits is one of the challenges going forward, Fleming said. “We need to ask: what kind of loopholes were left in this pact that will allow countries to go back to the position that they had anyway?”

But, Myard responded, “we are a system of 27 states and each state holds a share of the other one. We have a common necessity to achieve [the harmonization of our policies].”

Date created : 2008-07-08