Justice and Home Affairs : Austria imposes asylum cap to ‘shake up’ Europe (EuObserver)
Austria has said it will place a cap on the number of asylum claims it will process. The German president, the same day, said it may be “morally and politically” necessary to limit numbers. The Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann, announced that the number of claims will be limited to 1.5 percent of the Austrian population over the next four years. The cap means it will limit claims to 37,500 this year, 35,000 in 2017, 30,000 in 2018, and 25,000 in 2019. By comparison, it handled 90,000 claims last year, more than 1 percent of the population. Faymann said the “emergency measure,” the first of its type in Europe, is designed to “shake up” the EU, which remains divided on refugee-sharing plans “We cannot take in all asylum seekers in Austria, or in Germany, or in Sweden,” he said, referring to the EU states taking in the most migrants. “We must also step up controls at our borders massively,” he added […]

See also: Austria introduces cap on refugees, will deport ‘surplus’ (EurActiv)
The Austrian government announced yesterday (20 January) that it would cap the number of people allowed to claim asylum this year, and that it would send excess refugees back, or deport them to the neighbouring countries through which they came. Austria is the first member of the EU’s borderless space having “temporarily” suspended the Schengen agreement. Several other countries have reintroduced controls at some of their internal borders[…]

Justice and Home Affairs: Polish premier tells MEPs Warsaw breached no laws (EurActiv)
Poland’s prime minister told MEPs yesterday (19 January) that her government had not breached European or Polish laws, after the EU began an investigation into charges that Warsaw was undermining democratic principles.
After bitter exchanges between Polish and EU officials, the EU’s executive asked Warsaw to explain laws that have all but paralysed the work of the top constitutional court and put public media under direct government control.
Both Warsaw and Brussels have since sought to tone down the rhetoric. On Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło said during a European Parliament debate that Poles were firmly part of Europe.
“There have been no violations of the constitution in Poland recently,” Szydło said. “The Constitutional Tribunal is doing fine in Poland these days. It works. Nothing bad is going on[…]

Justice and Home Affairs: EU criminal database to include non-EU citizens (EuObserver)
An EU-wide database on people who committed a crime will be expanded to include non-EU nationals. EU commissioner for justice Vera Jourova said in Strasbourg on Tuesday (19 January) the change would be introduced as part of a broader security response to the Paris attacks last November. “Judges, prosecutors or the police will be better equipped for EU-wide cooperation that will guarantee the security of all citizens throughout the EU,” she said. Jourova said the update would also include fingerprints to better identify suspects, who may use fraudulent documents.
The European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) was set up in 2012 to inform authorities in one member state if a suspect had also committed a crime in another.
Without ECRIS, a judge would have to ask to receive the data from the other 27[…]

Justice and Home Affairs: Macedonia ‘temporarily’ closes its Greek border to migrants (EurActiv)
Macedonia has closed its border with Greece to migrants, police in Skopje said yesterday (20 January), blocking the path of hundreds trying to reach northern Europe. “The border is closed,” a senior Macedonian police official told AFP, while a police spokesman in northern Greece said it had been closed since Tuesday evening, leaving about 600 migrants stranded at the frontier. There were contradictory reasons for the move, which the Macedonian official said was “temporary,” along the so-called Balkans route that migrants follow in a bid to reach European Union territory. Since November, Macedonia has been filtering migrants before allowing them to cross from Greece to its territory. It granted passage onwards towards western Europe only to those fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, who are seen as genuine asylum seekers rather than “economic migrants”[…]

Refugee crisis: Juncker calls for in-depth discussion of refugee crisis at next EU summit (NewEurope)
The head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, called today for an in-depth discussion of refugee crisis at the next summit of EU leaders to deal with the refugee emergency amid criticism that the bloc’s migrant strategy is unraveling fast.
“I’m rather worried that we won’t have enough time to tackle the refugee question in sufficient depth,” Juncker told reporters.
He recommended holding a new summit because the next meeting of EU government leaders in February will be too focused on keeping Britain in the European Union.
European Council President Donald Tusk, who chairs EU summits, warned on Wednesday that the EU’s passport-free travel area could break apart if the migrant strategy is not sorted out within two months[…]

Migration: EU’s Tusk warns Europe has two months to tackle migration crisis (NewEurope)
The European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone will collapse if the 28 member states do not tackle the migration crisis, warned European Council President Donald Tusk. Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Tusk said: “We have no more than two months to get things under control. The March European Council [summit] will be the last moment to see if our strategy works. If it doesn’t, we will face grave consequences such as the collapse of Schengen.” As reported by the Reuters news agency, the European Council summit on March 17-18 will focus mainly on the migrant crisis. The Schengen system has already been suspended in some countries like Denmark, Germany and Sweden, which have introduced controls at their borders in order to stem the flow of migrant and refugee arrivals[…]

Global Europe: Dutch Presidency priorities outlined at Strasbourg (NewEurope)
The prime minister of the Netherlands launched a debate of the Dutch EU Presidency at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on January 20. “We must achieve concrete results and make sure they are visible to counter growing scepticism throughout Europe… Keeping promises and sticking to agreements should be the new normal in Europe. A deal is a deal”, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte. According to a European Parliament press release, Rutte painted a world in which younger people see the EU primarily as a source of unwarrented interference in their lives, with benefits far removed from everyday life. “Europe must be relevant to people’s daily lives. And over the next few months, the Netherlands wants to help make that happen,” he said […]

Global Europe: German border controls could cost economy billions (EurActiv)
As the refugee crisis continues, Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière wants to extend border controls through February and beyond. However, the move could cost the country €10 billion a year. EurActiv Germany reports.
Leading representatives of the German economy have warned that intensive controls of internal European borders could lead to huge costs. Chief executive of the German Chamber of Commerce (DIHK), Martin Wansleben, told the Rheinische Post that “congestion, waiting times and additional bureaucracy” could quickly lead to the German economy haemorrhaging €10 billion.
“Europe needs free borders and movement of goods,” Chamber of Trade president Hans Peter Wollseifer told the same newspaper today (21 January). He added that the measures could have an “unthinkable” effect […]

UK & Europe: Berlin ‘ready to find solutions’ on Brexit benefits question (EurActiv)
Germany is ready to help Britain win reforms on welfare benefits paid to migrants from other European Union countries and would itself like to see these rules tightened, the country’s Labour Minister Andrea Nahles said in a newspaper interview on Wednesday (20 January). British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to reform the UK’s relationship with the EU ahead of an ‘in-out’ referendum he has promised to hold by the end of 2017. Welfare benefits for EU migrants to Britain are the thorniest issue in the negotiations.
“We want Britain to remain in the EU. That is our joint conviction,” Nahles told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) daily in a joint interview with French Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri.
“We are ready to find solutions to the Britons’ questions that address the issue of social benefits for foreign EU citizens,” Nahles said[…]

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