Magazine article European Social Policy

Justice and Home Affairs : Council Deal on Return Directive Comes with Strings Attached

Magazine article European Social Policy

Justice and Home Affairs : Council Deal on Return Directive Comes with Strings Attached

Article excerpt

The Slovenian EU Presidency has managed to bring the member states to an agreement on the controversial Return Directive(1). EU ambassadors adopted the draft set of new EU-wide rules on the treatment of illegal migrants at the Coreper meeting, on 22 May.

The agreement comes with a price. At the insistence of several EU members, one important provision of the draft, concerning legal aid to third-country nationals, was changed substantially. The Council then adopted a statement intended to mitigate the change. However, the step throws in further doubt a successful adoption of the text by the European Parliament at first reading. In an apparent attempt to secure more support for the text, the first-reading vote has been postponed from the originally intended Brussels mini-plenary, on 4 or 5 June, to the Strasbourg plenary, on 17 or 18 June.

The original compromise, agreed by the Presidency and the Parliament's rapporteur on the dossier, Manfred Weber (EPP-ED, Germany), on 23 April (see Europolitics 3518), listed in Article 12 the conditions for illegal immigrants' appeal against a decision related to return (ie deportation or re-entry ban). The draft stated that third-country nationals "shall" be given free legal aid, if they cannot pay for it, as well as linguistic assistance. Four countries - Germany, Austria, Greece and Lithuania - raised concerns about the costs incurred at a previous Coreper discussion on the directive, on 7 May (3526).

Diplomats said that this passage has now been changed to say that EU member states "may" provide free legal aid to illegal immigrants, according to their national rules. …

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