Return and readmission: improving cooperation within the EU and with external partners
Today, the Commission is presenting its first factual assessment to the Council on cooperation with partner countries on readmission, as required under the revised Visa Code and as part of the comprehensive approach to migration policy outlined in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.
Effective return and readmission as well as sustainable reintegration are essential elements of comprehensive, balanced, tailor-made and mutually beneficial migration partnerships with countries outside the EU. The New Pact, presented last September, underlines that effective returns also require improved procedures inside the EU that reduce the fragmentation of national approaches and bring closer cooperation and reinforced solidarity between all Member States.
A common EU system for returns
The New Pact paves the way towards a common EU system for returns, where a consistent and coherent approach can ensure that returns can deliver within the overall objectives of the EU's migration and asylum policy.
Many of the obstacles to return lie inside the EU. To overcome them requires improved procedures that reduce the fragmentation of national approaches, and closer cooperation and reinforced solidarity between all Member States. The New Pact outlined measures to improve national processes. This includes the need to agree legislation as well as the forthcoming appointment of a Return Coordinator, who will be supported by a High Level Network and work closely with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). The Return Coordinator will bring together return and readmission stakeholders in EU Member States and encourage work towards a common objective.
The first comprehensive analysis of readmission cooperation
Return, readmission and reintegration are a common challenge for the EU and its partner countries. Today's assessment of third countries' cooperation on readmission – which is a restricted document – is based on the comprehensive set of indicators in the Visa Code that takes into account all stages of the readmission process: from identification to the issuance of travel documents and effective return. In addition to data on return operations and numbers of irregular arrivals, the assessment also considers some common challenges in readmission cooperation, such as obstacles to identification, delayed issuance of travel documents, non-respect of deadlines or non-acceptance of charter flights. The assessment details the extent of EU engagement with each country and efforts made to improve cooperation on readmission.
A selection of countries was assessed based on objective criteria, looking at countries whose nationals are subject to a short-stay visa requirement and for which the EU has issued more than 1,000 return decisions in 2018. For almost two thirds of the assessed partner countries, Member States experience good or average cooperation on returns and readmission. For just over one third, the level of cooperation requires improvements. The assessment shows the overall added value of EU readmission agreements and that readmission instruments are most effective when tailored to the specific situation.
As part of a Communication outlining how the EU intends to enhance cooperation on return and readmission - internally and externally - the Commission is publishing the key overall findings of the first annual assessment of third countries' cooperation on readmission, while the full assessment is transmitted to the Council and serves as input for discussion on both return and readmission and on migration cooperation more broadly. Together with the High Representative and the Member States, the Commission will use the report's findings to engage partner countries where improvements are needed, as part of the comprehensive approach on migration. Under the revised Visa Code, the Commission could also make use of the possibility to propose more restrictive or more favourable visa measures, whilst taking into account the Union's overall relations with the countries concerned.
Readmission of own nationals is an obligation under international law. Under the revised Visa Code, the Commission annually assesses readmission cooperation with non-EU countries and reports to the Council. The Council, on a proposal by the Commission, could decide on a more restrictive or generous implementation of certain provisions of the Visa Code, including the maximum processing time of applications, the length of validity of visas issued, the level of visa fee applicable and the exemption of such fees for certain travellers
This process supports wider efforts to put in place effective and comprehensive migration management in the EU under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum and to strengthen the external dimension of migration policy . This includes not only the readmission dimension but also, for example, addressing migrant smuggling, improving the use of EU funding, and fostering legal migration and mobility.