MEPs seek voting rights for immigrants
Ivan Camilleri, Brussels
The Times Of Malta
Wednesday, 1st April 2009
A report drafted by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil on a common EU immigration policy was yesterday adopted by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee after a marathon voting session on no less than 234 amendments.
The vote followed intense negotiations during the last few weeks, presided over by Dr Busuttil, between political groups in an effort to reach a compromise on some hotly contested issues.
However, yesterday's vote did not go according to Dr Busuttil's plans since a majority of MEPs on the committee – composed of Socialists, Greens, Communists and Liberals – voted together to support granting immigrants the opportunity to vote in local elections.
This led Dr Busuttil's group, the EPP, to withhold its support on all the compromises by abstaining on the final vote in Committee until the matter is redressed.
Speaking to The Times after the session, Dr Busuttil said the vote respected nearly all the compromises reached during the negotiations but consensus broke down when it came to granting political rights to immigrants.
“The Socialists, Greens, Communists and Liberals formed a majority to support granting immigrants the opportunity to vote in local elections. Giving migrants the right to vote is a red line for us (EPP), which we were not prepared to cross,” he said.
“For this reason, my group's support is on hold and I hope this can be remedied in time for the adoption of this report in plenary,” he said. Negotiations would now resume in search of a compromise on the main sticking point.
The final vote on the report will be taken in the EP's plenary session, when all MEPs will vote on it at the end of April.
According to Dr Busuttil, in the negotiations preceding yesterday's vote, his group had successfully fended off amendments proposed by the Socialists. These would have slowed down the return of illegal immigrants, increased obligations for their integration, made detention a last resort and limited cooperation with third countries.
The MEP's report presents a comprehensive picture of how the European Parliament would want the EU's Common Immigration Policy to be constructed.
It tackles immigration from the aspects of prosperity, solidarity and security and gives due importance to illegal immigration, return, cooperation with third countries and solidarity with member states such as Malta which are facing disproportionate burdens.
The report emphasises that solidarity should be stepped up through the introduction of binding instruments. It calls on the Commission to propose a legislative initiative to secure a solidarity mechanism at a European level on a permanent basis.
This mechanism would enable the relocation of immigrants from one EU country facing a disproportionate burden to another.
The report calls for agreements with third countries to include binding commitments on immigration, including on legal migration, on the fight against illegal immigration and on readmission.