Why this story matters:
On Wednesday, Donald Tusk's proposal for next week's European summit was leaked in De Standaard: he wants to set up "regional disembarkation platforms" outside Europe, where it will be decided who will be allowed into the EU, and who will be turned away.
For weeks now, Belgium has been divided over the issue of migration and asylum and so has Europe as a whole.
Tusk's proposal of installing refugee centers outside Europe to process asylum applications is an effort to break the acute political crisis over the topic.
The reaction of the Christian Democrats in Belgium suggests that Tusk's plan could work: for the first time in weeks, the coalition partners agree about something. The question remains, of course, of how the "platforms" will be managed?" For the plan leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and one can be sure that there will be a lot of different proposals.
Even though there is agreement among factions in the Belgian government and perhaps agreement among EU leaders as well, is it ethical to outsource Europe's problems? European leaders are set to begin discussions next Thursday.
What will bring the European summit next week in Brussels?
- Belgium is divided: the Flemish nationalists of N-VA, the party of Asylum Secretary Theo Francken, has taken a harsher, far more right stand on immigration issues. The popularity of Francken is, according to his party, a signal that the public opinion supports the N-VA-policy.
- Tusk's proposal has taken the sting out of the dossier. N-VA is enthusiastic about the "game changer" and is giving the plan-Tusk thumbs up, even the Christian Democrats of CD&V can agree with the idea of regional immigration platforms. But in Belgium the reaction of CD&V is the real "game changer."
- So there seems to be an opportunity for PM Charles Michel to reunite his partners around an asylum and migration policy.
- Michel himself wants to analyze the plan first, but calls it an "urgency" to "destroy the deadly business model of people smugglers".
- The concept was also mentioned by Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR special envoy for the Mediterranean following the Aquarius incident. He stated that this model was used in the 1970s in Southeast Asia to process the Vietnamese boat refugees.