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Europe Needs a Migration Reset

The new European Commission under President Ursula von der Leyen must regain control over migration while respecting the dignity of those seeking a better life. To do this, it needs to reset the European Union’s approach in four areas, mobilizing member states in the European interest.

BRUSSELS – More than 900 migrants trying to reach Europe have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year. Meanwhile, the rescue ships Open Arms and Ocean Viking have spent the summer seeking a safe harbor that will allow their human cargo to disembark. The refugee and migrant camps on the Greek island of Lesbos are overwhelmed, and conditions in other holding camps in Libya are similarly horrific. And Turkey has undermined the 2016 agreement under which it had been stemming the flow of migrants into the European Union.

Although Europe wants to help the migrants and respect international law, it does not want to be overrun. The 2015-16 spike in the number of refugees and migrants entering the EU, many of whom were fleeing the war in Syria, dramatically undermined trust within the bloc. The huge inflow eroded governments’ confidence in the EU’s external borders and asylum management, and revealed the weakness of partnerships with migrants’ countries of origin. Migration thus became a political football, to the delight of populists.

The new European Commission under President Ursula von der Leyen must therefore regain control over migration while respecting the dignity of those seeking a better life. To do this, it needs to reset the EU’s approach in four areas, mobilizing member states in the European interest.

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