Tuesday 28 March 2023

France and the Netherlands agree on tougher line on asylum

Rutte and Macron after their talks. Photo: Lex van Lieshout ANP

The Netherlands and France agree on how to tackle migration and limit the number of asylum seekers, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and French president  Emmanuel Macron said after talks in The Hague in the run-up to next week’s European summit.

Rutte, under pressure at home from the far right ahead of the provincial elections, is trying to build up support for a package of measures to tackle immigration and plans put forward by him will be up for discussion in Brussels on February 9 and 10.

In particular, Rutte wants to see better use of the Dublin rules for new refugees, improved border controls and the speedier deportation of asylum seekers who fail to secure residency rights. The Dublin agreement states that asylum seekers must apply for refugee status in the first safe country they reach.

‘We are very much in agreement,’ Rutte told reporters at a joint press conference after the meeting. Macron said that the EU had to stop the current asylum system being abused. ‘We have to improve the system if we want to keep it,’ he said.

RTL Nieuws commentator Fons Lambie said there was nothing new in the proposals but said next week’s summit will result in a list of ideas.

‘But you do not reduce the flow [of new arrivals] by discussing previous agreements,’ he said. ‘Everything comes down to how you put them into practice, and that has been failing for years.’


Rutte told the VVD party congress earlier that he would ensure ‘migration’ is brought down considerably. More than 35,000 people claimed asylum in the Netherlands in 2022, the biggest number in seven years, according to the statistics agency CBS on Monday.

Macron was also keen to win Dutch backing for his plan for a €380 billion fund to develop innovative and greener industry, similar to the IRA fund set up by US president Joe Biden.

Rutte has so far expressed scepticism about the project and is supported in that by Finland, Denmark, Estonia and Austria.

Nevertheless, Macron told reporters he felt there were ‘convergences’ between himself and the Dutch prime minister, while Rutte said European leaders would ‘work towards an agreement’, Politico reported.

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