Stellungnahme zu Migrationsabkommen mit sicheren Drittstaaten

Frage: “Ob die Feststellung des Schutzstatus von Geflüchteten unter Achtung der Genfer Flüchtlingskonvention und der Europäischen Menschenrechtskonvention zukünftig auch in Transit- oder Drittstaaten erfolgen kann?”

Antwort: “Ja.”  

Die vollständige Stellungnahme liegt als PDF vor.

English translation: Statement on migration agreements with safe third countries

Dies ist ein Moment, in dem weltweit, auch in der EU, illegale Pushbacks an Grenzen zunehmend normalisiert werden. Radikale Parteien versprechen, Migration durch das Ignorieren und Aussetzen grundlegender Menschenrechte von Asylsuchenden und Migranten mit Gewalt zu reduzieren. Diese Stellungnahme beschreibt eine alternative Strategie für die seit Jahren tödlichsten Grenzen der Welt, die Außengrenze der EU, die es Parteien der politischen Mitte ermöglichen soll, Extremisten entgegenzutreten. Es geht darum, weder das Versprechen, irreguläre Migration zu reduzieren, noch die gültigen Menschenrechtskonventionen, die Rechtsstaatlichkeit und das seit 1949 bestehende Asylsystem zu opfern.

Dafür braucht es mehr als Rhetorik. Es braucht mehr als Empathie. Es braucht eine Strategie, die mehrheitsfähig und umsetzbar ist. Sichere Drittstaaten sind der Schüssel für eine humane Kontrolle lebensgefährlicher Außengrenzen. Sie können dazu beitragen, irreguläre Migration drastisch zu reduzieren. Sie können somit Tausende Leben retten. Aber das ist nur möglich, wenn klar ist, was diese Strategie leisten und was sie nicht leisten kann und welche Voraussetzungen und welche Vorbereitungen notwendig sind. Da jeder Schritt bei diesem grundlegenden Paradigmenwechsel Zeit und Aufwand erfordert, sollten die notwendigen Schritte so schnell wie möglich eingeleitet werden. Die Idee schneller Abschiebungen ab einem Stichtag aus den Grenzstaaten der EU in sichere Drittstaaten zur effektiven Entmutigung zukünftiger irregulärer Migration bei starken Interessen aller Beteiligten an einer langfristig erfolgreichen Umsetzung muss im Zentrum konkreter Planungen stehen.

Für den Erfolg solcher Abkommen braucht es:

1. Sichere Drittstaaten, die fähig und willens sind, die rechtlichen Standards zu erfüllen; und

2. EU-Staaten, die in der Lage sind, schnell und rechtmäßig zu entscheiden, wer in einen Drittstaat abgeschoben werden kann.

Die vollständige Stellungnahme liegt als PDF vor.

English translation: Statement on migration agreements with safe third countries

Kosovo: The next attack is bound to come

Der Spiegel, Gerald Knaus: Der nächste Angriff kommt bestimmt (3. Oktober 2023)

A guest article by Gerald Knaus

This article was first published in German by Der Spiegel on 3 October 2023: Der nächste Angriff kommt bestimmt

After the latest outbreak of violence in Kosovo, it is clear: Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić will not stop playing with fire. For Germany and the EU, it is high time for a credible integration policy in the Balkans.

In mid-August, I was sitting in a café in Gracanica, a Serb-majority community south of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. Across the street, in front of the town hall, a large Serbian flag was flying. In the car park were cars from the police station, where a multi-ethnic police force was on duty. I paid the Serbian waiter in euros, the official currency in Kosovo, and then wandered past a large poster of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to the Orthodox monastery with its medieval murals of heaven and hell. And finally stood at a crossroads in front of the equestrian statue of a Serbian hero of the Battle of the Field of Blackbirds in 1389. In front of it a writing in Serbian: “Ja volim Gracanicu”, “I love Gracanica.”

If Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is to be believed, the peaceful small town of Gracanica, with Serbian schools, hospitals, and bilingual street signs, is an illusion. For years, he and his ministers have been warning of state-organised pogroms against Kosovo’s Serb minority, now estimated at just over 100,000, and threatening a military response “to protect them” if that happens. For several months, however, they have been declaring, on Serbian television as well as in letters to MPs around the world, that these pogroms and state “terror” against Serbs are taking place. At the beginning of July, Vučić declared that Nato had “two weeks” left to disarm the Kosovar police in northern Kosovo, otherwise he would have no choice but to protect Kosovo’s Serbs themselves from Albanian terror.

“Hunting Serbs! Displaced Krajina Serbs [Serbs in Croatia] who wanted to visit their villages are arrested on the border … This is one example of “silent exodus” that is applied also in the so-called state of Kosovo, says Savo Strbac (Vesti, 10 July 2023)

Kurti: I want “Operation Storm” in Kosovo. I offered Serbs from the North the Croatian model, which is a success-story, said Albin Kurti. With that he openly stated that the goal is to expel the Serb population (Informer, 12 July 2023)

Epidemic of dangerous ideas: Kosovo crisis should be solved by ethnic cleansing of Serbs?! (Blic, 13 July 2023)

KFOR and the West are encouraging Pristina to sow fear (Politika, 15 July 2023)

Taking inflammatory rhetoric seriously

As for these pogroms: they do not exist. The international organisations stationed in Kosovo know this, of course. But instead of remembering the early nineties, taking inflammatory rhetoric seriously and countering it, the EU, including Germany, decided as recently as June to take “measures” against the government in Pristina: contacts were reduced, aid frozen. The demand on Pristina: it should relax the situation in the north bordering Serbia by withdrawing its special police. This has long been a demand from Belgrade. Why became obvious now, on 24 September, on a dramatic Sunday.

On that day, dozens of Serb paramilitaries with heavy weapons attacked the Kosovar police, shot one policeman, wounded another, and retreated to an Orthodox monastery. Their leader, who has since admitted his role: Milan Radoičić, the dominant Serb politician in Kosovo, Vučić’s man on the ground. The reaction to these attacks, however, came not from the international peacekeeping force Kfor, but from the Kosovar police, pressured by Vučić to retreat. They shot some of the paramilitaries and freed the trapped pilgrims in the monastery. The attempt to start a conflagration failed, but the killed paramilitaries were immediately hailed as heroes in Serbia. The government set a national day of mourning. And although Radoičić admitted his crime, he remained at large.

Now the evidence presented by the government in Pristina that the action was directed by Belgrade must be examined closely. In fact, at the moment everything points to the fact that dozens of heavily armed paramilitaries acted on behalf of the Serbian state. Unofficially, American and European officials confirm this.

What now? The priority of European policy in the Balkans must be to stop all further violence, which could also quickly lead to a new refugee crisis. To do this, the failure of previous policies must be acknowledged and corrected. For nothing about the latest of this escalation was surprising. Back at the end of July, the think tank I founded, the European Stability Initiative (ESI), published a detailed report entitled “Belfast, Kosovo and the End of Peace.” “Belfast” because the 1969 scenario, where paramilitaries became the main players in Northern Ireland for decades, and even the strong British army failed to stop the violence, is again the most likely path to a new hell.

Funeral of Raymond Peter McCreesh, a member of the Provisional IRA (Photo by Chip HIRES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

When pogroms are invented, they are followed by violence

In Brussels and Berlin, some saw these warnings as exaggerated. They ignored what Serbian politicians announced every day in their media. Yet this is the most important lesson from the dramatic failure of international diplomacy in the Balkans in the early 1990s: It is not what politicians say in English that counts, but how they speak to their own people, what campaigns they run in the media they control and, above all, how they act. In late May 2023, violent demonstrators reinforced from Serbia attacked Kfor soldiers in northern Kosovo so aggressively that dozens of Italian and Hungarian military personnel were injured, some seriously. In early June, Serbian special forces abducted Kosovar police officers who were trying to prevent smuggling, including of weapons, in northern Kosovo. In both cases, there was little reaction from Nato and the EU. Vučić and his proxy Radoičić had to feel encouraged.

Zvecan, Kosovo. 26th May, 2023. A Kosovo Police Special Unit officer walks near a burning car in Zvecan, Kosovo, on May 26, 2023. Clashes between ethnic Serbs and Kosovo Police began after the Serbs gathered in front of the municipality building trying to block the entrance to recently-elected officials. Photo: Stringer/PIXSELL Credit: Pixsell/Alamy Live News
Kosovo Police in Zvecan, Kosovo, on May 26, 2023. Photo: Stringer/PIXSELL Credit: Pixsell/Alamy Live News

If one takes seriously what is currently being said by politicians in Belgrade, then one thing is certain: the next attack is bound to come. The lesson: If pogroms are invented, then violence follows. If they are not called out, the situation will escalate further. Of course, Serbia will not take on Nato directly. Aleksandar Vučić, who was the Secretary General of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party led by Vojislav Šešelj in the 1990s and was the Minister of Propaganda in a government led by Slobodan Milošević in Belgrade in 1999, remembers the fate of his former superiors: Šešelj and Milošević ended up before an international court in The Hague. Vučić will want to avoid this. And that means: if the USA and Berlin now threaten him with severe consequences, should there be violence again like this September, then a policy of deterrence would have a good chance of success, at least in the short term. Also because Vučić, like his closest ally in the EU, Hungary’s Prime Minister Orbán, will hope that world politics could still change fundamentally in his favour anyway with Trump’s return to the White House in early 2025.

For Germany and the EU, this means: By the end of 2024, we must finally succeed in making violence like that in Northern Ireland in the decades after 1969 as unthinkable in the Balkans as it is today in Central Europe. This means replacing the empty phrases of the “European perspective” and “accelerated integration” of the Balkans, which Aleskandar Vučić has been publicly mocking for years, with a credible integration policy that people can believe in.

A realistic vision for a Berlin peace policy

In concrete terms, the EU could declare at the EU Council in December that it would be ready to grant every Balkan country – including Serbia and Kosovo – access to the EU’s internal market and the EU’s four freedoms by 2028. If they had made all the necessary reforms, strengthened the rule of law and secured minority rights by then. This would also apply to Serbs in Kosovo. That would be an enormously attractive goal. And it would be a vision for the Balkans: by 2030, the borders there should become as invisible in people’s everyday lives as the borders between Poland and Lithuania and Germany and the Netherlands are today. A border between Serbia and Kosovo should soon look like the invisible border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. And without which peace would immediately be in danger there as well.

Invisible borders instead of shifting borders. Minority rights everywhere in the Balkans instead of expulsions, as in Karabakh today. Kosovo and Serbia as neighbours integrated into a European community of law. In addition, access to the large common market. That was the recipe for success of EU integration from 1950 to 1992. In addition, deterrence of all those who rely on violence. That would be a realistic vision for a Berlin peace policy today.

Before it is too late for that. Who is betting on this could also be seen last week when AfD leader Chrupalla rushed to Belgrade and promised Vučić his support.

“There is a right to asylum, but not to migration”

Migrationsexperte Knaus: »Es muss um die Kontrolle der EU-Außengrenze gehen« Foto: Dominik Butzmann / DER SPIEGEL

This interview was first published in German by Der Spiegel on 22 September 2023:
»Es gibt ein Recht auf Asyl, aber nicht auf Migration«

How can the rising numbers of refugees be contained? Migration expert Gerald Knaus pleads for more precise and at the same time more humane measures – and proposes a new agreement with Turkey.

SPIEGEL: Europe is once again looking to Lampedusa, where boat after boat of refugees is arriving. How can Germany help?

Knaus: European policy has learned nothing. Today, more, not fewer people are coming and dying in the Mediterranean than in recent years. Berlin should work for a policy change.

SPIEGEL: Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni wants a sea blockade that does not let any refugee ships through, is that what you mean?

Knaus: There was already such a blockade once, in 2009, when the Italian navy brought asylum seekers to Libya. European courts clearly condemned it. To do it again would be an attack on the European Convention on Human Rights.

SPIEGEL: In Germany, there is a growing demand for better surveillance of its own borders.

Knaus: France has been doing this since 2015, and in the four years since, the number of asylum applications has doubled. Austria has also been doing this for years. In 2022, there were 110,000 asylum applications there – more than in 2015. Those who are turned away at the German-Swiss border try it so many times until it works.

SPIEGEL: Will only a wall help then? Some people would probably like that.

Knaus: Then go to Lörrach in Baden-Württemberg, where the wall would run right through the vineyards. And even then: Would they check every car, every commuter? The pragmatic Swiss have calculated how much such controls would cost the economy. No, it has to be about controlling the EU’s external border.

SPIEGEL: In June, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser described the planned tightening of European asylum legislation as “historic”. Among other things, there are to be mandatory asylum procedures at the EU’s external borders for people from countries with low protection quotas. Did you also see reason to rejoice?

Knaus: Greece already has border procedures at its external borders. Italy doesn’t do them because they would be useless. This proposal is neither a taboo nor a breakthrough.

SPIEGEL: But the commitment is new.

Knaus: This year, about 25,000 people have already arrived in Italy from the Ivory Coast and Guinea. Last year there were three deportations from Italy. First of all, we need agreements with countries for rapid readmission after cut-off dates, which are in the interest of these countries. Border procedures without agreements are pointless.

SPIEGEL: Do such political decisions frustrate you?

Knaus: As a citizen, yes. The policies in this area often seem frivolous. At the external borders, the rule of law is at stake, and thousands are dying. And the coalition agreement of the “traffic light” government even describes a convincing strategy of what should be done.

SPIEGEL: What is so special about it?

Knaus: The government promises to reduce irregular migration without illegal refoulement or pushbacks. This can only be done through a dual approach of sea rescue and a policy that prevents people from getting on boats without violence. It is high time to do that.

SPIEGEL: What is at stake?

Knaus: Liberal Democracy. On 2 September 2015, Alan Kurdi, the two-year-old boy from Syria, washed up dead in the Mediterranean. Two days later, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán predicted that in view of the hundreds of thousands who came to the EU via the Aegean Sea at that time, Europe’s governments would soon realise that this could only be stopped by abandoning human rights. He celebrated the imminent end of liberal democracy in Europe and propagated the conspiracy theory of the “Great Population Exchange”. Immediately after Orbán’s speech, my Institute proposed the EU-Turkey Statement. Refugees should be admitted legally, irregular migration should be reduced through lawful repatriation. The point was to combine the empathy that existed and still exists with control.

SPIEGEL: Has empathy been lost?

Knaus: Today there is illegal violence at most of the EU’s external borders. EU law is ignored. The EU-Turkey statement collapsed in March 2020, since then there have been no repatriations, and instead, pushbacks. In Libya, Europe has been cooperating with militias that abuse migrants since 2017. And right-wing extremists are gaining ground.

SPIEGEL: Then let’s get specific: How does Germany create more control and still grant protection to those who need it?

Knaus: What is needed now is a renewed EU-Turkey statement. Athens is currently appealing to Berlin to make Turkey a new offer. Greece would also legally accept tens of thousands of refugees from Turkey if it took back those arriving irregularly. The agreement in March 2016 immediately reduced the numbers of arrivals…

SPIEGEL: …from one million the year before to 26,000 the year after.

Knaus: At the time, Turkey offered to take back anyone arriving after the deadline. The EU’s billions for social assistance, education and medicine for millions of Syrians also had an effect. What was missing was a mechanism to check in Turkey that those who were sent back would be treated there in accordance with the Human Rights Convention, plus a credible asylum system. The UNHCR should now be involved in this.

SPIEGEL: The German government does not seem to have the best connection to Ankara.

Knaus: Turkey hosts the most refugees in the world, 3.5 million. If the EU would agree to continue to co-finance their support in Turkey and to take in people legally to do so, Ankara could help reduce irregular migration, as it did in 2016.

Photo: Dominik Butzmann / / DER SPIEGEL

SPIEGEL: Greece is pressing for a solution because the number of refugees in the Aegean is rising sharply.

Knaus: Yes. The numbers have been going up since people stopped being pushed back by force at sea.

SPIEGEL: Which could be used as an argument by those who say: More toughness at the borders leads to fewer refugees.

Knaus: No democrat can support the systematic breaking of the law. And even in 2022, more than 380 migrants died in the Aegean.

SPIEGEL: Many will say that Turkey is not a state with which one should cooperate.

Knaus: It depends on what you cooperate on. Keyword visa liberalisation: For that, Turkey would have to implement rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. And quickly take back Turks who are obliged to leave the EU.

SPIEGEL: Is the Turkey statement enough to defuse the situation?

Knaus: No. Further agreements are needed, especially for the central Mediterranean, also with safe third countries.

SPIEGEL: One idea is to send people there who have applied for asylum until their procedure is completed.

Knaus: According to the Danish proposal not only would procedures take place there, but people would also find protection after a successful procedure. A counterargument is then that there is not a single safe state for refugees in Africa today. And that one must accept that there are a few European states that are safe for refugees and the rest of the world remains unsafe. But it must be about giving countries incentives to want to become safe.

SPIEGEL: How realistic is it that we bring Syrians to Africa, where they then wait for their asylum decision?

Knaus: There is a very important ruling on this from the Court of Appeal in London. The UK government was planning to bring asylum seekers coming across the English Channel to Rwanda. Hotels have already been rented there. The court ruled that this arrangement would be in line with the European Convention on Human Rights as long as humane conditions and a fair asylum procedure were provided there. It then declared that the latter was not yet the case in Rwanda. But it pointed the way for legal third-country solutions. It is not possible without fair asylum procedures.

SPIEGEL: Is it ethical to bring a refugee to Rwanda without any connection to that country?

Knaus: There is a right to asylum, but not to migration. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has often stated this. Since 2019, it has been bringing people from Libya to Rwanda and doing the asylum procedures there. For that, Rwanda is already safe. A humane system would be one with more sea rescue and the goal of “zero deaths”, without repatriations to Libya, asylum procedures in truly safe third countries and the expansion of legal admission.

SPIEGEL: “No right to migration”: You sound like a CSU politician.

Knaus: Or like a Canadian liberal. “We will reduce irregular migration and make regular migration possible,” says the German coalition agreement and announces the that government will examine whether asylum procedures are possible in third countries. The practical question is: When are countries of origin and third countries willing to cooperate with us? Only if we also expand the possibilities for legal mobility. For example, offering a country like Morocco the prospect that its inhabitants can travel to Europe visa-free if they cooperate. Countries with a visa-free regime cooperate on readmission, because otherwise the popular visa-free regime is at stake. In addition, more exchange with Africa is a value in itself.

SPIEGEL: Do you have other states in mind as models for a wise asylum policy?

Knaus: Those who come to Canada irregularly are sent back to the safe third country, the USA. Canada accepts half a million immigrants annually, including 50,000 refugees. In Germany’s case, that would be more than 100,000 refugees – that’s how many Germany granted protection status to each year. The difference: Families who come to Canada do not risk their lives, are not raped on the way. They get on the plane and are ready for integration from day one.

SPIEGEL: Many worry that Germany is letting too many migrants into the country. At the same time, we complain that we don’t have enough migration to cover our labour shortage. How do you explain this contradiction?

Knaus: Many people fear loss of control. In Australia’s immigrant society, a few thousand boat people became a national obsession. Add dramatic stories of millions of unknown people supposedly ready to emigrate, and worry turns to fear. One problem with this is irresponsible talk about the hundreds of millions of climate refugees who would soon be arriving. The often-quoted UNHCR figure of the alleged hundred million displaced is also misleading.


Knaus: Because it counts many millions who fled decades ago. Because the majority of them have never crossed a border. Because the vast majority who have to leave their homes because of climate change will stay in their countries or regions.

SPIEGEL: Are many against migration altogether because of such scenarios?

Knaus: I am against a discourse that stirs up irrational fears. People are capable of cruelty as well as great empathy. Take Switzerland. During the Second World War, it had an anti-Semitic head of the foreigners’ police who took pride in preventing almost all Jews from the “Third Reich” from finding refuge in Switzerland. A few decades later, Switzerland participated in the voluntary admission of Vietnamese boat refugees. Large families who did not speak a word of German were kindly received in villages in Aargau. The Swiss were not afraid and believed they understood why these people fled from evil communism.

SPIEGEL: And the moral of the story?

Knaus: Fear and prejudice destroy empathy. Racists exploit this. To maintain empathy, majorities need to feel that there is control and understand why people flee. For politics, humane control is therefore the way to counter the narratives of right-wing extremists.

“Some boys think they will be paid to play soccer here”

F.D.P. politician Joachim Stamp on his new post as special representative for migration agreements, the deportation of foreigners who commit crimes and the idea of transferring asylum procedures abroad.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

This interview was first published in German by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 4 February 2023:
“Manche Jungs glauben, dass sie bei uns fürs Fußballspielen bezahlt werden

Excerpts from the interview:

Mr. Stamp, you have just taken office as the German government’s “special representative for migration agreements.” A tabloid called you “Germany’s top deportation commissioner.” Is that how you see yourself?

It’s explicitly not just about deportations, especially since the federal states are still responsible for that. It’s about a fundamentally new political approach: comprehensive agreements with the countries of origin, so-called migration agreements.

These agreements provide for a country to be granted a quota of legal immigration if it accepts back its own citizens who have committed criminal offenses in Germany or whose asylum applications have been rejected.

Such agreements would have to vary from country to country. But in principle, we agreed in the coalition agreement between the two parties to reduce irregular migration and strengthen regular migration. The idea goes back to proposals such as those made by migration researcher Gerald Knaus, with whom I am in regular contact.

In 2019, Knaus proposed concluding an agreement with The Gambia as a model: Legal immigration within a certain quota, if Gambia first takes back criminals as well as, from a cut-off date, all other nationals who come to Germany outside this quota.

This is actually a model that is very conceivable.

But the coalition agreement also says: “Not every person who comes to us can stay. We are launching a repatriation offensive to implement departures more consistently, especially the deportation of criminals and dangerous persons.” How is this to be achieved?

In the past, there were always steep announcements about deportations from certain politicians, but experience shows that nothing happens without the willingness of the countries of origin to take back their citizens who are obliged to leave the country. Some countries of origin also refuse to take back their citizens because a strong diaspora in Germany is economically important to them through remittances. Such transfer payments are often much higher than German development aid, which is why threatening to cancel them makes little impression. We have to convey to these countries that it is better for them if their people do not live here in illegality but in a regular way, because then they are of course much stronger financially and can better support their home country. For this, we can offer a certain number of regular visas to study here, to do an apprenticeship or to go directly into the labour market. Through the newly created right of opportunity to stay, we also offer those who are already here and who have a job here a prospect of legalizing their status. But we also have a clear expectation: in order to provide the integrated majority with a regular status, countries must take back their citizens who are considered criminals and dangerous persons here – and, from a certain date, all other of their citizens who still come to Germany irregularly.

The 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey was based on a similar model. However, it has failed.

Initially, the agreement helped to greatly reduce migration flows on the Balkan route. This was also because Turkey was given the means to integrate millions of refugees from Syria, who then did not even make their way to Europe. The fact that this later developed differently due to the policies of Turkish President Erdoğan is another matter.

Some EU states have other ideas for controlling the so-called Balkan route than migration agreements. Vienna, Budapest or Athens, for example, are calling for EU funds to further expand Greece’s and Bulgaria’s border fences with Turkey.

I am sceptical about this. Of course, Europe’s external borders must be protected. But barbed wire and fences alone are not enough to stop irregular migration. Instead, agreements with the countries of origin can ensure that people don’t venture into the desert in the first place, don’t board unseaworthy boats in the Mediterranean, and don’t climb over barbed-wire fences only to end up here in an asylum system where they don’t belong because they are not persecuted in their countries. We want to create opportunities for a limited and contingent number to apply regularly for the German labour market, provided that those who try to do so on their own and who have no right of asylum here are readmitted by their countries of origin without further ado. We have had good experience with the Western Balkans arrangement. While the circumstances are somewhat different in this case, we want to extend the principle similarly to other countries and regions of the world. Of course, there are countries with which we cannot reach agreements at present for fundamental reasons, such as Syria or Afghanistan. But we will seek dialog with many other countries.

Your title “Special Representative of the Federal Government” sounds solemn, but you are a king without a country, since you have no real powers. Who are your most important partners?

That remains to be seen. We have excellent civil servants in the ministries, but there has been a lack of a body to bundle the initiatives of the various ministries into a strategy. That is also my task. If, for example, the Ministry of Labor wants to recruit workers in a particular country, this should be coordinated not only with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Development, but also with the Ministry of the Interior in such a way that the obligation to leave the country for people without the right of residence is also integrated into the agreements from the outset. We also need to bring practitioners together, even beyond the usual hierarchies. In my years as Integration Minister in North Rhine-Westphalia, I often experienced criticism from the federal police to the municipalities and from the municipalities to the federal police because there was a lack of agreements. There continue to be errors and gaps in logistics that repeatedly lead to delays or cancellations of deportations. Practitioners from all agencies involved can certainly achieve many improvements by talking directly with each other.

Many companies that have found workers abroad and can present signed employment contracts complain that this is not the case.

This has been a problem for a long time. In my time as minister, companies complained about this time and again. We need to make greater use of digitization here, and we also need to increase the number of staff in the relevant departments. We also need to become more flexible in the recognition of educational and vocational qualifications if we want to manage labor immigration well. However, I would caution against exaggerated expectations. None of this will bring quick results overnight. What is important is that we start down this new path and network the work between the ministries more closely.

According to the coalition agreement, the traffic lights also want to examine whether asylum procedures can be relocated to third countries. What does that mean exactly?

That we want to examine whether asylum procedures can be carried out in third countries, for example under the umbrella of the UNHCR, in compliance with the Geneva Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. Then people rescued on the Mediterranean would be brought to North Africa for their proceedings. But that requires a great deal of diplomacy and a long lead time. And it is clear that a country like Libya, for example, cannot be a partner for this in its current state. We need to take a close look at developments in potential partner countries. We are not talking about a quick fix, as former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did with Rwanda.

Whereas British courts have ruled that Johnson’s move to transfer British asylum procedures to Rwanda is compatible with the UN Refugee Convention.

It is important that the standards of international law are upheld; anything less is out of the question. But on this basis, we actually want to think about it.

You will certainly get applause for this from parts of your party – but will the Greens go along with it?

It is crucial that we both end the deaths in the Mediterranean and the pushbacks at the EU’s external borders and reduce irregular migration. To do this, we need to remove the motivation for people to embark on the life-threatening crossing in the first place. This can be accomplished by providing regular alternatives to entry for a select group, if all others without asylum rights are consistently deported. Another case is those who entered irregularly, but who have abided by all the rules here for years. People who are integrated into the labour market and learn the language, whose children go to school, who have become a natural part of our society. We want to make it possible for them to stay permanently. On the other hand, we want to put all our concentration into getting rid of those who don’t play by the rules.

Those who only talk about deportation are missing the point

Never before has Germany taken in so many refugees as last year. To cope with this task, more than cheap promises is needed.

This article was published in Die Zeit in German on 9 February 2023:
Wer nur von Abschiebung spricht, der blendet

A guest article by Gerald Knaus

Gerald Knaus of the European Stability Initiative (ESI) is one of Europe’s most influential experts on refugee policy. He helped develop the EU-Turkey Statement and wrote the books “Welche Grenzen brauchen wir?”(What Borders Do We Need?) and “Wir und die Flüchtlinge”(Us and the Refugees).

Since the founding of the Federal Republic, Germany has not taken in as many refugees in any year as it did in 2022. Last year, protection was granted to one million Ukrainians who fled to Germany after the Russian aggression and from the bloodiest war in Europe since the 1940s. In addition, about 100,000 asylum seekers, including more than 75,000 from Syria and Afghanistan, were also granted protection at first instance in 2022. Still others were granted protection by courts in the second instance and for 30,000 people, most of them Afghans, deportation was suspended in 2022.

Germany was thus a pillar of international refugee protection in 2022. But the practical challenges this entails are great. The most important reasons for the historic refugee year of 2022 are named quickly: above all Russia, then Syria and Afghanistan. Or: Putin, Assad, and the Taliban. Their actions were the cause of mass flight.

If you now add up these figures, you also immediately realise how misleading the current debate about speeding up deportations from Germany is. The vast majority of people who applied for asylum in Germany last year and in the years before were granted asylum or came from countries to which all European countries hardly ever deport – regardless of whether Thomas de Maizière, Horst Seehofer or Nancy Faeser headed the Ministry of the Interior in Berlin. This is because the vast majority of asylum applications, more than 80 per cent, were filed in Germany in recent years by citizens from ten countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, Georgia, Somalia, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria and Russia. Refugees from Ukraine do not have to apply for asylum, they usually receive temporary protection status without red tape.

Deportations are necessary, but one must remain realistic

In 2021, 120,000 people from these ten countries submitted one of the 150,000 asylum applications in Germany. In 2022, they accounted for 180,000 out of 220,000 applications. The increase in applications between 2021 and 2022 can almost entirely be explained by the growth in asylum applications from these ten countries.

At the same time, however, there were and are almost no deportations to these countries. The only exception is Georgia, with good reason. The country, which benefits from visa-free travel to the EU for its citizens, cooperates very well in taking back its citizens. There were just over 1,000 deportations to Georgia in 2021. To the other nine countries, there were just as many in total.

But what does the political promise of a “deportation offensive” mean? That in 2023 not 52 people would be deported to Iraq as in 2021, but 152? That the number of deportations to Somalia would increase from 13 (2021) to 130 (2023)? In 2021, there were still a few controversial deportations to Afghanistan: 167. But these have also ended since the Taliban seized power. The same applies to deportations to Russia since the war on Ukraine.

Even a fivefold increase in deportations to these most important asylum-seeking countries would only be a few thousand people per year. In view of the large number of those who would receive protection in Germany in 2022, especially from Ukraine, this would hardly relieve German municipalities of the burden of receiving them. Those who promise this are missing the point.

Now, on the one hand, an asylum system in which final asylum decisions have no consequences does not make sense: in that case, one could dispense with procedures, as the EU did with the Ukrainians in 2022 for good reason. However, at the external borders this would have the foreseeable consequence of reinforcing already existing systematic pushbacks – as is the case today in Poland or Greece. Deportations are necessary, but those who demand them must remain realists.

The strongest argument in favour of strategic deportations is therefore that – within the framework of migration agreements limited to the deportation of convicted criminals or new arrivals according to cut-off dates – these could reduce life-threatening irregular migration across the sea and thus also save lives without relying on human rights violations. Negotiating migration agreements, which the new Special Envoy Joachim Stamp is supposed to tackle, is therefore about specifically getting convicted criminals out of the country, and reducing future irregular migration, for example across the Mediterranean. However, this would not change the fact that in 2023, as in 2022, most of the people seeking protection in Germany would again come from Ukraine, Syria, and Afghanistan, would receive protection and would not be affected by deportations.

A pilot project also for others

Thus, in the face of a record number of refugees in Germany as well as in Europe, the current discussions are helpless and devoid of strategy. The EU agreed on visa sanctions against the smallest country in Africa, Gambia, a young democracy and one of the poorest countries in the world, which does not even have a Schengen consulate. Incidentally, most Gambians in Europe who are obliged to leave the country live in Baden-Württemberg. Germany would be well advised to take the opposite course to achieve results and not destabilise countries: To make offers to strategically focus on the deportation of criminals and those who arrive after a cut-off date, and to allow the country quotas of legal migration in exchange. As a pilot project for others as well.

Equally unhelpful and pointless are considerations in Europe to once again close the so-called Balkan route in this crisis, as Viktor Orbán and Sebastian Kurz did once before in 2016. In these plans, the EU agency Frontex is to be sent to the borders of the Western Balkans to stop migrants there. This is all the more absurd because almost everyone in the EU is counting on Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen area as soon as possible, which will mean that there will no longer be any border controls between Greece and Germany. But then what are bored Frontex officials on the green border between northern Macedonia and Serbia supposed to do when there are no more borders around the EU-enclosed Western Balkans? Here, too, the opposite strategy would be more promising: to concentrate on the EU’s actual external border with Turkey, to negotiate agreements there through migration diplomacy and to present the Western Balkan states with a roadmap for joining the Schengen area soon, after reforms. And in this way, also in the interest of peace, to make disputed borders such as between Serbia and Kosovo more invisible.

But anyone who suggests today that more deportations would relieve the burden on municipalities in a situation in which nine out of ten refugees admitted in 2022 came legally from Ukraine is raising expectations that can never become reality. And thus does the business of populists who are already driven by fear and anger against allegedly traitorous elites. No democratic party in Germany can want that.

80 per cent a consequence of Putin’s war

What would be needed? A message that helps centrist politicians arm themselves against populists. Three measures that could also help the municipalities. And a concrete vision for the future, as also contained in the German coalition agreement.

The most important message: this historic refugee crisis in Germany and Europe is 80 percent a result of Putin’s war. The only way to prevent this crisis from getting worse is therefore to support Ukraine. So that Ukrainians are no longer forced to flee in even greater numbers in the future.

An important measure would therefore also be a better distribution of Ukrainian refugees still to come. Instead of Brussels being preoccupied with sanctioning little Gambia, an EU migration summit should discuss how countries that have taken in only a few Ukrainians so far could make a fair contribution. Currently, Baden-Württemberg has taken in more Ukrainians than the whole of France. The Czech Republic alone has taken in more people than France, Spain and Italy combined.

One way to change this would be to support families in France, Spain, Italy and elsewhere in taking in refugees and accommodating them privately, as is already being done in Ireland and the UK, by giving them a monthly thank you payment (of around 500 euros). Germany should lobby for this, starting with the Chancellor, at the EU migration summit to launch a Europe-wide initiative of mobilising private, state-supported reception with the French President. The goal: by the end of 2023, at least as many Ukrainians should have been admitted to France, Spain, and Italy respectively (half a million) as have been admitted to the Czech Republic today. This would also relieve the burden on Germany.

A second measure: the acceleration of asylum procedures for all those who have hardly any chance of asylum anyway and whose countries of origin have an incentive to immediately take back citizens from Germany who are obliged to leave the country, such as Georgia and Moldova, due to the existing visa-free regime. Germany can also take its cue from countries like Austria. The goal: There should be hardly any asylum applications from these countries by the end of 2023. 

A third measure would be to make attractive offers to the most important transit countries at the European border, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey, to motivate them to take back asylum seekers arriving irregularly via the Mediterranean Sea. The UNHCR could carry out the procedures for those sent back. This would reduce life-threatening irregular migration. In parallel, legal mobility and the admission of refugees through resettlement should be expanded, as envisaged in the German coalition agreement.

A vision for the future is also outlined in the coalition agreement: not only to reduce irregular migration, but also to promote legal migration. Germany should work to expand legal mobility with African countries in the framework of new migration agreements. Instead of pushing them into the asylum system, the EU should allow Ukrainians – after the end of temporary protection – to transition to full freedom of movement, as it does for people from the Western Balkans, Moldova, and Georgia. This would also be a measure against the lack of labour force (“Arbeiterlosigkeit”). More controlled and legal mobility from partner countries in Africa would make geopolitical sense and would strengthen the common interest in reducing irregular migration in return.

Today, in the face of record numbers of refugees and asylum seekers in Germany and elsewhere in the EU, deportations are a very blunt instrument. If we want to solve problems, restore the rule of law at the EU’s external borders and not provide populists with further ammunition, we need migration summits that propose practicable solutions based on facts. This requires a grand coalition of reason for humane control, in Germany as well as in the EU. And no more political posturing.

‘We have to fight the forces that bring out the worst in us’

Viktor Orban sees him as a threat, Germany wants to implement his plans. Gerald Knaus, the man behind the Turkey deal, wants to save democracy with a humane migration policy. ‘You can change the world. I know that from experience.’

De Staandard

By Kasper Goethals

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Gerald Knaus at SPÖ party retreat, January 2023.

This is an English translation from the original Dutch:

‘We moeten vechten tegen de krachten die het slechtste in ons naar boven halen’

One afternoon in late November last year, Gerald Knaus walks into Cyprus’ interior ministry. It is warm, a tropical sea breeze blows through the open door. No one asks the Austrian for his passport or searches his bags. A single guard nods politely. “Such a thing is only possible in a safe country,” muses the migration expert. “But this was not always so obvious here. In the late 1950s, the British occupiers tortured and executed young men who rebelled.”

In the entrance hall of the ministry, a screen hangs with images of asylum seekers and refugee camps. Knaus looks at it for a while. “Cyprus is experiencing the biggest asylum crisis in Europe,” says a female voice. “Every year the number of stranded people on the island increases. The Republic offers these people shelter and food, but the situation is unsustainable. Six per cent of the population is now made up of asylum seekers.”

Knaus leafs through his notes. “Applied to Germany, those percentages would amount to six million asylum applications in five years. Whereas Germany ‘only’ had 720,000 asylum applications to process in the record year 2016. If nothing is done, we will see the same harrowing scenes here as on the Greek islands. Everyone knows this is unsustainable. The only question is: what are we going to do about it?”

With the minister of interior in Nicosia

Asylum seekers in Cyprus have discovered the only safe route to the European Union. They come from all over the world with student visas to the Turkish part of the island. Then they walk on foot to the European part, or hitch a ride in the boot of a smuggler for a small fee. A wall or border fence is unthinkable, as Cyprus does not recognise the Turkish occupied territories and advocates for the unification of the island. Illegal pushbacks, as in the rest of Europe, are therefore impossible. Knaus, upbeat: “Cyprus must therefore look for a way to limit migration without using violence. This offers a unique opportunity to show that things can be done differently.”

Orban got it right

Gerald Knaus has been fighting for democracy and peace in Europe for 30 years. His close friend Rory Stewart, the former British development secretary with whom Knaus wrote a book on military interventions in Bosnia and Afghanistan, calls him a “deeply original thinker”. “Gerald believes in ‘principled pragmatism’. He has an unwavering belief in man’s ability to change things. And he has proven many times that he can,” Stewart says on the phone. “Gerald belongs to a small group of people actively fighting for the survival of European democracy. With great optimism, he throws himself into challenges that others see as frustrating or unachievable.”

Co-authors of Can Intervention Work (2011)

To the wider public, Knaus is best known as the architect of the controversial March 2016 refugee deal with Turkey. Under the terms of the deal, it was agreed that people arriving by boat on the Greek islands should be ‘processed’ in Greece and sent back to Turkey. For refugees sent back, the EU offered protection to Syrian refugees from Turkey. In addition, the country received billions of euros meant for hosting refugees.

But it turned out differently. After the deal, the number of boat refugees fell by 97 per cent. The number of death by drowning dropped from 1,150 in 2015 to 130 in the two years following the deal. But the practical implementation ended in a fiasco. Thousands of refugees were trapped for years in wretched camps on the Greek islands. According to the United Nations, the deal was “possibly illegal” because money was paid to Turkey to take back refugees. Amnesty spoke of “madness” and of “a dark day for Europe”.

Knaus still stands by his proposal. He calls the criticism from NGOs “cynical”. According to him, they did not put forward any concrete alternatives, even though it was an important social problem. The camps on Lesbos were terrible, he agrees, but if the agreement would have been implemented correctly, these would not have emerged. “Massive uncontrolled migration as we experienced in 2015 is disruptive. When the population believes there is no plan at all, a sense of loss of control takes over. That is fertile ground for those who bring out the worst in people.”

According to Knaus, the extreme right understood this well. “It is shocking to re-read Viktor Orban’s speeches from that period. ‘In a few years, everyone will follow me,’ the Hungarian prime minister said. And in this, Orban has been proven right. Hungarian-style pushbacks have become the norm everywhere. Greece, Croatia, Poland, Bulgaria, you name it: everywhere migrants are kidnapped and thrown back across the border without accepting an asylum claim. It is wrong simply to accept that there is no alternative to this. Cooperation with countries of origin, but also with countries like Turkey, would be a logical solution.”

We are slipping

The morning after talking to the minister, Knaus sits in a café in the buffer zone between northern and southern Cyprus. The buildings are perforated with bullet holes. There are sandbags and checkpoints. Further away, UN soldiers in uniform drink their cappuccino. “The minister is interested in our proposal,” says Knaus. He advocates agreements with African countries so that they take back rejected asylum seekers. In exchange, there should be more legal migration and possibly even visa-free travel. Visa-free travel for Africans seems like a policy proposal doomed to failure, but Knaus is convinced it can be done. “We achieved things in the past decades that everyone thought were impossible.”

In Pyla, a mixed village inhabited by Greek and Turkish cypriots in the UN administered buffer zone. Photo: Kristof Bender/ESI

For Knaus and his associates in the small think tank European Stability Initiative (ESI), migration is just one priority. “We want a Europe capable of defending its democratic institutions and human rights standards against illiberal forces,” ESI’s website reads. “The fight for a humane migration policy is crucial because democracy is always tested hardest in prisons and at borders,” says Knaus. “There, people are tempted to commit human rights violations that can even be popular with the general public. It will not do to complacently sit back and blindly rely on our ‘strong institutions’. There is no guarantee that they will last, if we do not fight for them.”

Our institutions are already beginning to slip dangerously, the Austrian believes. He gives the example of pushbacks in Croatia. “All independent observers – the Council of Europe, journalists, NGOs, academics – noted that Croatia is carrying out pushbacks. Only the EU did not, because otherwise Croatia could not join the Schengen zone. In its ‘rigorous check’, the EU could not find ‘any evidence’ of pushbacks. That is like claiming that black is white and rain is sunshine. Such falsity is dangerous. When words no longer mean anything, the rule of law and democracy are worthless.”

Headscarves and pop music

It is getting late; we return to the centre of Nicosia. Knaus shows me across the dimly lit squares and through a maze of barbed wire and alleys. Our wheeled suitcases thunder through the deserted city with a hellish noise. “This is where the unaccompanied minors are,” he points out. A group of teenagers from West Africa look suspiciously as we pass. “This is where pregnant women and other vulnerable asylum seekers end up.” He keeps pointing and hurriedly shuffling around. “There is the church where Pope Francis prayed when he came to Cyprus to release asylum seekers stuck in no-man’s land and take them to the Vatican. It is also the office of Caritas.”

Gerald Knaus on “Cyprus, Germany & the Future of European Refugee Policy” in October 2022. Screenshot: FES

The main shopping street runs straight up to the Turkish half of the town. We can get through easily with our passports. Across, you enter a different world. The narrow streets are lined with peddlers selling chestnuts, pomegranates, and watermelons. Shops sell Turkish fruit, dürüms and Ottoman souvenirs. Everywhere you look, you see Africans. All of them have come here on student visas. Some to study, but also many with the plan to go over to the European side. In recent years, all sorts of shady ‘educational institutions’ have been popping up, which seem to be mainly concerned with organising migration. The largest number of asylum seekers in Cyprus now come from Nigeria, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Knaus orders a Turkish pizza and sends a photo of the food to his daughters, who grew up in Turkey. It is indicative of his optimism, says his friend Stewart, that they went to Turkish schools. “Most of us wouldn’t dare.” Knaus doesn’t understand the doubt. “For them it’s normal, classmates who wear a headscarf when in the mosque and who like pop music. The daughters all learned Turkish.”

Along the way through Europe and Turkey, Knaus says he has gained a better understanding of human nature. “All the cities I lived in – Istanbul, Sarajevo, Sofia, Chernivtsi and Berlin – experienced ethnic cleansing in the last century. That is humbling. We have no different biology or psychology from that of our ancestors. Nothing intrinsic in us, no matter how much we would like to believe it, prevents us, or our children, from making the same mistakes. We have to fight the forces that bring out the worst in us.”

Great Europeans

Knaus is the grandson of a woman from Mariupol who was taken to Germany and was shot dead by the Soviets there in 1945. That is all he knows about her. His mother was stateless for 10 years after that and grew up in Austria, in hiding. The Soviets came looking for her twice.

Gottlieb Knaus in Siberia

Both of Knaus’ grandfathers fought for Austria-Hungary during World War I, but on two different fronts. Gottlieb Knaus was soon, in 1914, captured by the Russians in the east. He spent 40 months in Siberia. The other, Alfons Schwärzler, fought against the Italians in the Alps and almost died in an avalanche. He was caught at the end of the war and taken to an Italian penal camp “where there was nothing to eat except thin rice soup”.

Prisoner of war after World War I

A family history of World War I – and a meaningless war

When Knaus went to study at Oxford, in 1988, a rare period of optimism began. The Berlin Wall fell, the Cold War ended. Knaus organised debates on “why Europe has more to gain from political union” and discovered ‘the great Europeans’ like Jean Monnet, who had “pulled the continent out of an endless spiral of violence”. To pay for his studies, Knaus was a tour guide to communist Albania, Yemen and former Yugoslavia. “I had never been to those countries myself, I only knew them from books, but afterwards the groups were always happy,” he laughs.

Knaus says he saw then a “glimpse of a different Europe, connected and free”, but things soon turned dark. He avidly read the diaries of imprisoned Czech dissident Vaclav Havel, who said that “hope is not the belief that things will get better, but the belief that what you are doing is right”. From Havel, he learned that a humane society is always fragile and yet possible. It fuelled his optimism, but he also saw too much violence to believe in Francis Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’. “I was in Zagreb after the first bombings. I saw the bridge in Mostar and the mosque in Banja Luka that had been blown up. In Albania, I saw museums cutting out murdered dissidents from photographs, as if they had never existed. It was a period of uproar, tragedy, and virulent, deadly nationalism. No one comes out of that naïve.”

Yet friends mostly remember his unflappable progress optimism. “He is fantastic,” Bulgarian philosopher Ivan Krastev says via email. The two met in Sofia, where Knaus came to teach for a time after his studies. They fought together for Bulgaria’s accession to the EU. “He combines enthusiasm about new ideas with great intellectual seriousness. It is always a pleasure to discuss with him.”

Bulgarien (1996)

However, Krastev feels that Knaus’ struggles belong to the past. “He is a product of the 1990s, an exceptional era that will never come back. As long as we stay on course, we will achieve what we want, he thinks. Whereas I think we are in a different situation that requires a different approach.”

The marginal becomes mainstream

Knaus dismisses this. “History does not move in one direction. Both good and bad ideas can shape it.’ He tells of a lanky boy who was a year higher at Oxford. That boy, Jacob Rees-Mogg, was already fiercely opposed to the idea of European integration. “In 2016, the same Rees-Mogg campaigned for Brexit and he won. As students, many of us found his ideas ridiculous, outdated, marginal. It was an important lesson. Rees-Mogg persevered and was pragmatic. He rose to power, hammering his point endlessly. What was marginal became mainstream.”

But also “positive ideas from the margins” can become mainstream in this way, says Knaus. “After the 1990s, we campaigned for the lifting of the visa requirement for Albania and other Balkan countries.” At that time, Albanians were still dying at sea, during illegal crossings to the Italian Bari. “Everyone said it was impossible. Albania was seen as criminal, clichés about blood feuds and their “violent nature” were widespread. Nevertheless, after years of campaigning with the ministers of the interior in Europe, a breakthrough was achieved. After that it went fast. Today, citizens of countries such as Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia travel visa-free to the Schengen zone. They do not die in the refrigerator compartments of trucks or on old fishing boats.”

People are the stories they tell themselves, and each other, Knaus believes. He takes me to a village in the buffer zone of Cyprus. There is a mosque and a church. Cigarettes are sold at Turkish prices and shopkeepers sell banned products under the counter. In the middle of the village, an American runs a restaurant on two floors. Turkish food and Turkish beer are served at the top. At the bottom, guests eat and drink Greek food. The staff consists of a Syrian, an Iranian and an Iraqi. Knaus: ‘Take away the history here and this looks like an ordinary village, where the differences between people are of secondary importance. But this is not an ordinary village and you can’t just take away the history. If a murder is committed here, the United Nations Peacekeepers must come and address it.”

The German road

In Cyprus, Knaus promises everyone that he will urge the German government to find a solution to their problems soon. He seems firmly convinced that it will work. “There is good news coming,” he says. What Knaus does not say at that time is that he received a phone call a week earlier from the cabinet of the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock (Greens). He was asked whether he was interested to become the first special envoy for German migration policy. Only in the week after Christmas does Der Spiegel release the story.

Knaus declined the top spot. The job goes – much to Knaus’ satisfaction – to the liberal politician Joachim Stamp. “It is better that a politician does that job,” Knaus says on the phone that week. “I can do more from the sidelines. Stamp and I are in close contact. He might soon start the first negotiations with The Gambia and other African countries. He knows that there is no time to lose.’ Knaus emphasizes what that means: ‘Germany is going ahead, along with other countries that still believe in humane solutions in the fight against irregular migration.’

During a car ride from Nicosia to Larnaca, I overhear Knaus discussing matters with Adrian Praetorius, the German liaison officer in Greece in the field of migration. Praetorius does not want to be quoted, but his story agrees with what Knaus tells me. The German government wants an alternative to the pushbacks. Migration agreements with Africa are at the top of the list of priorities. Germany wants to find humane solutions to the migration crisis in voluntary coalitions with other countries, such as Switzerland and Austria. “In this way, someone like Viktor Orban cannot delay or stop initiatives at European level,” says Knaus.

Reverse Bataclan

After New Year, Knaus invites me to Klagenfurt, an Alpine town in southern Austria. The leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) is meeting here to discuss migration. In the polls, the SPÖ is in a neck-and-neck race with the far-right FPÖ. As in Belgium, the number of asylum applications is historically high and is again becoming a key election issue.

If she can find a solution to this issue, SPÖ president Pamela Rendi-Wagner stands a good chance of becoming Chancellor in 2024. She has invited Knaus to explain his ideas on migration. “A great opportunity to pull Austria away from Orban’s camp,” says Knaus. “Under the previous Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, that path was widely pursued. There are also forces in that direction among the Social Democrats.”

Gerald Knaus and Pamela Rendi-Wagner, possibly Austria’s new chancellor. ‘A great opportunity to pull that country away from Orban’s camp,’ says Knaus.

On the scenic train ride from Vienna to Klagenfurt, straight through the mountains, Knaus says Orban attacked him again over Christmas via the newspapers he controls. Since Knaus called him “the most dangerous man in the European Union” in 2015 and called for the suspension of EU subsidies to Hungary, state-run newspapers have been constantly attacking him. Knaus is described as a key figure in a global conspiracy to undermine Hungary. Knaus: “the most dangerous thing about Orban is not the plots, but rather his narrative of control and romanticism combined with language reminiscent of Europe’s darkest days.”

Conspiracy theories in Hungary

Knaus refers to Orban’s annual speech in Romania last summer. In it, Orban quoted The Army Camp of Saints, a 1973 book by French writer Jean Raspail. “I have read that book with horror. It is a far-right fever dream about a group of wild people from India overrunning France with a stolen fishing fleet. The book glorifies an armed response to migration and calls for genocide,” says Knaus. “Orban knows very well why he is quoting Raspail. He wants to mainstream the idea of migration as organised ‘repopulation’ and a ‘culture war.’”

This is precisely why the ideas of writers like Michel Houellebecq are also problematic, Knaus believes. “They poison the mainstream. Like Jacob Rees-Mogg in Britain, they nourish step by step the most inferior reflexes in human nature until they become widespread and common. This is not purely literary.” In media interviews, meanwhile, Houellebecq calls on French Muslims to emigrate, otherwise they will face a race war – ‘a reverse Bataclan’. “That rhetoric is not innocent. When Orban says: ‘The war starts at the border’, he means: we must also wage it in the cities.”

Finishing up in Klagenfurt

In Klagenfurt, Knaus debates behind closed doors with the party leadership of the Austrian Social Democrats. Afterwards, I speak briefly with chairman Rendi-Wagner. “I have known Knaus for three years and we have been consulting for longer. We share a belief in political policy based on facts. Especially on sensitive issues like migration. Knaus is not a theorist, but someone who provides us with practical, feasible solutions.” Asked about Orban, she says: “I believe in a politics of concrete European solutions, not hollow promises from populists. Not all 27 member states have to join right away. If it works, the rest will follow.”

The next morning, I walk with Knaus around Wörthersee, Klagenfurt’s big lake. Knaus talks about the rule of law in Poland, a topic on which for years he has also been lobbying for, and about his hope that Rendi-Wagner will soon cite his proposal for a Bodensee-Allianz (a coalition of Austria with Switzerland and Germany) in her press conference. He talks about his time as a university lecturer in the Ukrainian town of Chernivtsi in 1993 and how the war threatened his friends there now. He recalls his memories of the elderly Jewish women he met then, who had miraculously survived the Holocaust.


Knaus: “You know who I would love to debate with?” He smiles. “Rutger Bregman. I’ve read his book ‘Humankind’ twice to see how he argues. It is very compelling, as a reader you gradually become captivated by his argument. There is only one problem: none of it makes any sense at all. Everything is pushed into the same mould to make a point that does not stand the test of reality. It is almost like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who sees the dangers of Islam everywhere and skilfully ignores all positive information about integration.”

Bregman clearly touches a nerve with Knaus. “The point that people are going to help each other more in a city that is being bombed is all well and good. But meanwhile, a city is still being bombed. That, too, is something being done by people. So are they virtuous?” The Austrian peered across the lake. “Here in Carinthia, the far-right receives the highest vote-share compared to anywhere in the whole country. They appeal to human nature, just as much as someone who calls for empathy and pity. This is precisely why the work is never over.”

In the hotel lift, Knaus tries in vain to load a web page on his phone. No internet. “What did she say? Did she adopt our idea?” Then his face brightens. “This gives hope for Cyprus. With this, we can claw further towards a different migration policy.”

He shows the title of the article: “Rendi-Wagner will ‘Bodensee-Allianz’ gegen illegale Migration”. 

DGAP akcioni plan: Kako Nemačka može da doprinese trajnom miru na Balkanu

This is a translation of the action plan “Westlicher Balkan und EU-Nachbarschaft” I wrote for the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). It was part of the DGAP project “Action Plans Structures German Foreign Policy,” a ten-month process of reflection and strategy resulting in ten concrete action plans.

Of those I contributed two (English translations will be available in November):

Nemačko Društvo za Spoljnu Politiku (DGAP)

Akcioni plan Zapadni Balkan i EU-Susedstvo

Kako Nemačka može da doprinese trajnom miru na Balkanu

Više od dve decenije nemačka spoljna politika posvećena je sprečavanju obnove tenzija, unutrašnjo-političkih ili čak oružanih sukoba na Zapadnom Balkanu. Da je ovo uspelo od 1999. godine takođe je uspeh nemačke politike.


Poslednjih godina se povećao rizik od neuspeha stabilizacione politike EU i Nemačke na Balkanu. U Srbiji, najmoćnijoj zemlji u regionu, vodeći članovi vlade ponovo otvoreno govore o mogućim oružanim sukobima i dovode u pitanje granice na Zapadnom Balkanu. Osuda bivšeg generala Ratka Mladića za genocid u Srebrenici, u proljeće 2021. dovela je do ekstremno nacionalističkih reakcija vlasti i medija bliskih vladi. Godinama rastući izdaci za vojnu potrošnju takođe jasno stavljaju do znanja da bi destabilizirajuća politika prema susednim državama, poput Bosne i Hercegovine i Kosova, bila ne samo zamisliva, već čak i verovatna da nema stabilizacijske kontra-strategije Nemačke i njenih saveznika.

Kosovski sukob tek što je bio okončan kada su u julu 1999. godine nemački kancelar Gerhard Schröder, američki predsednik Bill Clinton i šefovi vlada svih članica EU došli na veliki balkanski samit u Sarajevu. Na Kosovu, u četvrtom balkanskom ratu za manje od jedne decenije, skoro milion Albanaca je bilo proterano u susedne zemlje. Političare, koji su se tada sastali u Sarajevu, spajalo je gnušanje prema nacionalizmu, koji je u kratkom vremenskom periodu koštao toliko života. Oni su se obavezali da će „sarađivati na očuvanju multinacionalne i multietničke raznolikosti zemalja u regionu i u zaštiti manjina“. Svečano su izjavili: „Zajedno ćemo raditi na integraciji Jugoistočne Evrope u kontinent na kojem granice ostaju nepovredive, ali više ne znače podelu te nude mogućnost kontakta i saradnje.“ Obećali su evropski mir, postmoderni “Pax Europeana”. Nemačka je imala vodeću ulogu u formulisanju ovog cilja.

Dve decenije mira

Dok su u drugoj polovini devedesetih pre svega USA imale vodeću ulogu u stabilizaciji regiona -nakon završetka ratova u Bosni (1995.) i na Kosovu (1999.)- to se promenilo od 2000. nadalje. EU je postala vodeća igrač, a unutar EU je Nemačka igrala glavnu ulogu: sa sve većim uticajem. Zapadni Balkan je tako postao prvi i do danas najuspešniji test zajedničke evropske spoljne politike, pri čemu je EU i njenim državama članicama uspelo geopolitičko čudo demokratske stabilizacije.

Crna Gora je svoju nezavisnost postigla mirnim putem, uz podršku široke multietničke koalicije. Danas u bosanskoj “Republici Srpskoj” ponovo živi više od 220.000 Ne-Srba, proteranih sa srbske teritorije tokom rata 1992-1995. Severna Makedonija ima osnovne škole na četiri jezika, a albanski je službeni jezik u celoj zemlji. Većina kosovskih Srba koji su živeli na Kosovu pre 1999. godine ostali su tamo i posle 1999. godine. Srpski je službeni jezik na Kosovu. U celom regionu vlada mir već dve decenije.

Poslednjih nekoliko godina oko EU vidimo ratove i izbijanja nasilja: u Gruziji, Iraku, Siriji, Ukrajini, Libiji i na Kavkazu. U mnogim istočnoevropskim državama, članicama Saveta Evrope, sada ponovo ima političkih zatvorenika. Zapadni Balkan je, s druge strane, ostao miran. Danas nema političkih zatvorenika ili sistematskih kršenja ljudskih prava ni u jednoj zemlji u regionu. Nemačka je povukla svoje vojnike iz Bosne i Hercegovine, ne brinući da bi zbog toga moglo doći do izbijanja novih borbi. Samo na Kosovu je trenutno stacioniran mali kontingent od oko 80 vojnika nemačkog Bundeswehra.


Ne samo na Zapadnom Balkanu već i u evropskom susedstvu uticaj Nemačke na unutrašnjo- i spoljnopolitičke razvoje više od dve decenije je tesno povezan sa verodostojnošću evropske integracione perspektive. Tamo gde ona postoji, Nemačka ima veliki uticaj, bilateralno i preko Evropske Unije, te može da realizuje svoje interese. Izručenje traženih ratnih zločinaca koje traži Njemačka, modalitet za referendum o nezavisnosti Crne Gore, prvi koraci u procesu normalizacije između Srbije i Kosova, kompromis sa Grčkom oko imena države Severna Makedonija, dalekosežne pravosudne reforme u Albaniji i druge teške odluke su sprovedene u regionu, jer su elite smatrale da je to neophodno kako bi se napredovalo ka evropskim integracijama: koje su želele i smatrale realnim.

Tamo gde ta „evropska perspektiva“ nestaje, reducira se brzo i nemački uticaj u regionu. Razvoj odnosa Turske i EU jasno je upozorenje šta se u bliskoj budućnosti može desiti i na Zapadnom Balkanu. U Turskoj je postojao period rastućeg uticaja Nemačke i EU posle 2000. Ali onda su pregovori o pristupanju EU sa Turskom iz različitih razloga izgubili svaki kredibilitet i na kraju su zamrznuti. U isto vreme rasle su napetosti između Turske s jedne strane i Nemačke i drugih zemalja EU s druge – sve do vojnih pretnji Ankare Grčkoj i Kipru. Nemačka i EU su se pokazele nemoćnima glede demontaže turske pravne države i kršenja osnovnih ljudskih prava.

Sada i na Zapadnom Balkanu perspektiva integracije -koja je bila toliko moćna pre nekoliko godina- gubi kredibilnost za političke elite i društva. U važnim državama članicama EU, poput Francuske ali i Holandije, postoji veliki skepticizam u pogledu bilo kakve dalje runde proširenja. Stoga je novo učlanjenje u EU postalo malo verovatno a proces proširenja već godinama u zastoju. Trenutno su samo dve od šest zemalja u regionu stvarno uključene u pregovore o pristupanju: Srbija i Crna Gora. Međutim, pregovori ove dve države o pristupanju -i reforme u njima- se ne pomeraju sa mesta već godinama. Albanija i Severna Makedonija godinama čekaju na početak pregovora. Bosna i Hercegovina nije čak ni zvanični kandidat za članstvo. Neke zemlje članice EU ne priznaju Kosovo kao nezavisnu državu i stoga se Kosovo ne može ni kandidovati za pridruživanje EU.

Uloga Nemačke

U decembru 2003. EU je usvojila prvu evropsku bezbednosnu strategiju koja je sadržala upozorenje: „Izbijanje sukoba na Balkanu nas je podsetilo da rat nije nestao sa našeg kontinenta.“ EU je povezala budućnost vanjske politike EU sa sopstvenim uspehom u Jugoistočnoj Evropi: „Kredibilitet naše spoljne politike zavisi od učvršćivanja naših tamošnjih postignuća.”

To i dalje važi. Od Beograda do Tirane, od Sarajeva do Prištine, Njemačka je danas najpriznatiji i najvažniji evropski partner. Realno: Zapadni Balkan bi u narednih pet godina mogao postati spoljnopolitička priča o uspehu Nemačke i EU ako bi se perspektiva integracije ponovo učinila verodostojnom. Tada bi bilo moguće upotrebiti mudru diplomatiju kako bi se otvorena spoljnopolitička pitanja približila finalnom rešavanju: od dijaloga između Srbije i Kosova do trajne stabilizacije multietničkih demokratija u Severnoj Makedoniji, Bosni i Hercegovini i Crnoj Gori. U regionu u kojem se sve države orijentišu prema EU, njenim standardima i vrednostima, ali i njenim pravilima i institucijama, pitanja statusa bi takođe bila rešiva.

I naredna nemačka vlada takođe ima veliki interes za stabilnost u regionu koji je, sa četiri rata i genocidom, svojevremeno bio najkrvaviji konfliktni region na svetu a devedesetih godina prošlog veka prouzrokovao veliki pokret izbeglica. Da bi se eliminisao rizik povratka u nestabilnost nije dovoljno pustiti da se trenutni proces nastavi. Potrebna je nemačka inicijativa.

Preporuke za obnovljenu nemačku Zapadnobalkansku Politiku

Poslednjih godina vlade u Beogradu, Podgorici, Prištini, Sarajevu, Skoplju i Tirani ispunile su mnoge zahteve Nemačke i EU te poboljšale odnose između etničkih grupa i sa svojim susedima. Političari u Crnoj Gori (pre i neposredno nakon početka pristupnih pregovora 2012.), Srbije (između 2010. i 2014.), Severne Makedonije (2004.-2005., kad se zemlja nadala statusu kandidata te ponovo između 2017. i danas) te Albanije iznova i iznova su sprovodili politički zahtevne reforme, imajući na umu konkretan i atraktivan cilj. Danas u regionu nedostaju slični mobilizirajući ciljevi. U nemačkom je interesu da se to promeni. Ali to može uspeti samo ako Berlin ozbiljno shvati zabrinutost svojih partnera u EU.

Inicijativa Nemačke trebalo bi da se zasniva na predlogu koji je Francuska predstavila krajem 2019. godine, a koji predviđa različite faze integracije balkanskih zemalja. Ova ideja se može pojednostaviti kako bi bila kredibilna u EU a istovremeno definisala atraktivan cilj za elite regiona u narednih nekoliko godina. Ovako bi to moglo da funkcioniše:

1) Predlaže se pristupni proces u dve faze. Cilj pregovora sa svih šest država u regionu ostaje punopravno pridruživanje, ali se nudi novi i konkretan posredni cilj: potpuni pristup evropskom unutrašnjem tržištu.

2) U prvoj fazi, svaka država u regionu koja ispunjava neophodne uslove trebalo bi da pristupi unutrašnjem tržištu, poput Finske, Švedske i Austrije 1994. Ostvarivanje ovog pristupa do 2030. bio bi realan cilj za sve zemlje na Zapadnom Balkanu. Oni bi uživali u četiri slobode – slobodnom kretanju robe, kapitala, usluga i radne snage – baš kao što to rade Norveška i Island danas. U tom cilju, EU bi trebala stvoriti okvir Ekonomskog Prostora Jugoistočne Evrope (EPJE). Nemačke institucije: Ured Saveznog Kancelara, MIP i druga ministarstva izradili bi poseban predlog i založili se za njega u EU.

3) Jačanje vladavine prava u regionu pri tome ostaje centralna komponenta procesa integracija, jer svi uslovi za vezani za demokratiju, vladavinu prava i ljudska prava moraju biti u potpunosti ispunjeni da bi se zemlja mogla pridružiti unutrašnjem tržištu i Ekonomskom Prostoru Jugoistočne Evrope. Sledeća nemačka savezna vlada trebalo bi da se založi za  proširenje redovnih izveštaja o vladavini prava u EU na zemlje Zapadnog Balkana.

4) Istovremeno, Nemačka bi trebalo da se založi i za jačanje Saveta Evrope – kojem pripada pet od šest zemalja u regionu – i da promoviše brzi prijem Kosova u njega. Važno je da implementacija presuda Evropskog Suda za Ljudska Prava u čitavom regionu postane centralni uslov za integraciju u EU.

5) U tu svrhu, EU bi trebala još pomnije da prati važne sudske procese u svih šest zemalja kako bi mogla utvrditi da li pravosuđe radi nezavisno. Evropska Komisija treba da izradi detaljne izveštaje o korupciji za Zapadni Balkan, koristeći istu metodologiju koja se koristila za izveštaje o korupciji u državama članicama EU 2014. godine. Novi izveštaj svake dve godine mogao bi osigurati uporedivost među zemljama.

6) U tom kontekstu bi približavanje i normalizacija odnosa između Kosova i Srbije već u naredne četiri godine bilo realna. Usvajanjem istih pravila EU, državne granice bi postale manje važne. Pre nego što se pridruži zajedničkom tržištu, Srbija bi takođe morala da prihvati sadašnje granice Kosova. Opšti cilj bi bio da granice između balkanskih zemalja budu isto tako nevidive, kao što je danas norveško-švedska granica.

Pristupanje unutrašnjem tržištu EU, u okviru EEA EU-a i Zapadnog Balkana do 2030., ambiciozan je ali ostvariv cilj za sve zemlje Zapadnog Balkana. Realna perspektiva uživanja četiri slobode – za robu, kapital, usluge i rad (sa prelaznim periodima, kad EU smatra da je to neophodno) – u roku od nekoliko godina mobiliziralo bi društvo u celini te stvorio novu ekonomsku dinamiku.

Cilj je region, koji je ekonomski tako blisko povezan sa EU kao Norveška i Island danas. Jaz u blagostanju sa ostatkom Evrope trebalo bi brzo da se smanji, baš kao što su Rumunija ili baltičke zemlje to tako spektakularno postigle od 2000. Vladavinu prava i zaštitu manjina treba ojačati. Slično unutrašnjim granicama EU u šengenskom sistemu, granice između balkanskih zemalja takođe bi trebale postati nevidive, kako bi se ublažio politički spor oko njih.

Ovaj cilj se može postići bez previše napora i bez rizika za Nemačku i EU. To bi bio nemački i evropski spoljnopolitički uspeh. I to bi bio signal drugim zemljama u susedstvu da se dobri odnosi i posvećenost funkcionalnoj integraciji sa EU politički isplate i bivaju realnost.

Višestruki interesi Nemačke u regionu još uvek se najbolje mogu realizovati u okviru koherentne politike EU prema Balkanu. U poslednje dve decenije, moć Nemačke na Zapadnom Balkanu zasnovana je prvenstveno na realističnoj utopiji: verodostojnom obećanju bolje budućnosti kroz integraciju u stabilnu i prosperitetnu EU, koja omogućava sličan mir na Zapadnom Balkanu kakav je proteklih decenija u EU postojao: „Bezbednost kroz transparentnost i transparentnost kroz međuzavisnost.“ 

Ovaj „postmoderni mir“ u EU, koji je opisao Robert Cooper, učinio je vekovnu politiku alijansi i balansiranja moći suvišnom. Članice EU, rekao je Cooper, ne razmišljaju o tome da naprave invazije jedna na drugu. Izazov na Zapadnom Balkanu je postizanje sličnog trajnog mira u kom granice gube na značaju, vojske više ne služe za zastrašivanje, a manjine žive sigurno.

Oružani sukob bio bi onda nezamisliv na Zapadnom Balkanu kao što je to danas među članicama Evropske Unije. Ako sledeća nemačka savezna vlada može pomoći u implementaciji takve “Pax Europeana” na Zapadnom Balkanu, ona će nastaviti nemačku i evropsku priču o uspehu, priču u kojoj se mir obezbeđuje integracijom i umrežavanjem.

A Balkan, od bureta baruta postaje region stabilnosti za narednu generaciju.

Autor: Gerald Knaus, predsednik European Stability Initiative (ESI)
Prevod: Mirko Vuletić

5 miliardów na ratowanie UE – Polska, pingwiny i praworządność


6 sierpnia 2021 r.

Rządy prawa wymagają, aby „nawet  Ci, którzy stoją na straży prawa, prawa tego przestrzegali (…) Jeśli znęcasz się nad pingwinem w londyńskim zoo, nawet jeśli jesteś arcybiskupem Londynu, nie ominie cię kara”      

Tom Bingham, Rządy prawa

Drodzy przyjaciele,

15 lipca Trybunał Sprawiedliwości Unii Europejskiej (TSUE) w Luksemburgu wydał historyczny wyrok. Odniósł się on do „strukturalnego załamania” polskiego sądownictwa, które

„nie pozwala na zachowanie widocznych oznak niezawisłości i bezstronności sądownictwa oraz na utrzymanie zaufania, jakie sądy powinny budzić w społeczeństwie demokratycznym, ani też na wykluczenie w przekonaniu jednostek wszelkiej uzasadnionej wątpliwości co do niepodatności na czynniki zewnętrzne”.

TSUE potwierdził to, co wielu, w tym ESI, opisywało w licznych szczegółowych raportach: Sytuacja w Polsce stała się dziś swego rodzaju testem, czy możliwe jest stworzenie systemu sprawiedliwości w państwie członkowskim UE bez niezawisłych sądów, gdzie sędziowie mogą być nagradzani i karani przez rząd za treść orzeczeń sądowych.

W takiej sytuacji prawo do rzetelnego procesu sądowego nie może być już zagwarantowane. Zanika także wtedy zaufanie konieczne, aby sądy w innych państwach członkowskich UE akceptowały wyroki polskich sądów. Gdy, jak ma to miejsce w Polsce, sędziowie krajowi karani są za zwracanie się do TSUE o wskazówki dotyczące stosowania prawa UE, niszczony jest europejski system prawny. W całej UE sądy krajowe szanują i wykonują wyroki sądów innych państw członkowskich, niezależnie od tego, czy dotyczą one sporów handlowych, europejskiego nakazu aresztowania czy opieki nad dzieckiem. To zaufanie między sądami umożliwia „swobodny przepływ orzeczeń sądowych”. Bez takiego zaufania nie byłoby możliwe ani utworzenie jednolitego rynku, ani zniesienie granic wewnętrznych. Koen Lenaerts, 66-letni belgijski prezes TSUE, na początku 2020 r. ujął to dosadnie: „bez niezależności sądów środki ochrony prawnej wywodzące się z prawa UE stają się papierowym tygrysem”. Dialog między niezależnymi sądami krajowymi a TSUE jest, zdaniem Lenaertsa, „filarem unijnego systemu ochrony sądowej”. A bez takich filarów budynki zwyczajnie się walą.

Do niedawna, pisze Lenaert, zakładano, że po przystąpieniu do UE państwa „pozostaną zaangażowane w obronę liberalnej demokracji, praw podstawowych i rządów prawa, a nie ludzi. Ostatnie wydarzenia pokazują, że założenie to nie może być po prostu uznane za pewnik”.

Walka o praworządność

Podobnego kryzysu nie było też nigdzie indziej w UE, w tym na Węgrzech, z którymi Polska jest często „leniwie” porównywana. Ponadto, żaden minister sprawiedliwości w UE nigdy nie skupił w swoich rękach tyle władzy, co polski Zbigniew Ziobro, architekt i największy beneficjent rozkładu rządów prawa w swoim kraju.

Po wyroku TSUE Ziobro błyskawicznie zadeklarował, że woli z nim walczyć i ignorować europejskie traktaty, niż zrezygnować z posiadenej przez siebie kontroli. Jak to ujął 21 lipca, ostatnie orzeczenia TSUE „nie są wiążące dla polskich władz, które działają w oparciu o polską konstytucję. Poddanie się tym orzeczeniom byłoby rażąco niezgodne z prawem”. Naiwnością jest oczekiwać, że polski rząd z Ziobro jako ministrem będzie realizował wyroki.

Równie nierozsądne jest przekonanie, że TSUE zaakceptuje kilka kosmetycznych poprawek lub „jakieś porozumienie”, jak ostatnio sugerował polski premier. Kosmetyczne kroki i pozorne kompromisy nie przywrócą zaufania do niezależności polskich sądów i nie rozwiążą głębokich problemów, na które zwrócono uwagę w tym wyroku.

Sąd najwyższy Unii Europejskiej od lat przygotowywał się do tego starcia. Rozwinął swoją „prawną amunicję” w pierwszych wyrokach dotyczących niezależności sędziowskiej wydawanych od lutego 2018 r. Jak opisali dwaj czołowi eksperci, TSUE zbudował „cegła po cegle, odnowiony zestaw zasad i standardów, aby pomóc instytucjom UE i sądom krajowym skuteczniej bronić praworządności”. Wyrok TSUE z 15 lipca jasno określa wymagania. Zawarto w nim cztery kluczowe punkty:

Punkt 1: Praworządność jest podstawową wartością, wyrażoną w art. 19 Traktatu o Unii Europejskiej.

 „Państwo członkowskie nie może zatem zmienić swojego ustawodawstwa w sposób prowadzący do osłabienia ochrony wartości państwa prawnego, której konkretny wyraz daje w szczególności art. 19 Traktatu o Unii Europejskiej”.

Punkt 2: Niezależne sądy mają fundamentalne znaczenie dla praworządności.

”Wymóg niezawisłości sędziowskiej, stanowiącej integralny element sądzenia, wchodzi w zakres istoty prawa do skutecznej ochrony sądowej oraz prawa podstawowego do rzetelnego procesu sądowego, które to prawo ma fundamentalne znaczenie jako gwarancja ochrony wszystkich praw, jakie podmioty prawa wywodzą z prawa Unii”.

Punkt 3: Przepisy regulujące działalność sądów muszą rozwiewać wszelkie uzasadnione wątpliwości co do ich niezawisłości:

 „gwarancje niezawisłości i bezstronności oznaczają, że muszą istnieć zasady, w szczególności co do składu organu, powoływania jego członków, okresu trwania ich kadencji oraz powodów ich wyłączania lub odwołania, pozwalające wykluczyć, w przekonaniu jednostek, wszelką uzasadnioną wątpliwość co do niepodatności tego organu na czynniki zewnętrzne oraz jego neutralności względem ścierających się przed nimi interesów”.

Punkt 4: Systemy dyscyplinarne NIE mogą być wykorzystywane do kontrolowania treści orzeczeń.

„Jeżeli chodzi dokładniej o przepisy regulujące system odpowiedzialności dyscyplinarnej sędziów…system ten będzie przewidywał niezbędne gwarancje w celu uniknięcia ryzyka wykorzystywania takiego systemu jako narzędzia politycznej kontroli treści orzeczeń sądowych”.

TSUE sformułował również pięć konkretnych wymogów:

Wymóg   1: zagwarantować niezależność nowej izby dyscyplinarnej

Wymóg 2: zaprzestać nadużywania procedur dyscyplinarnych do kontrolowania treści orzeczeń sądowych

Wymóg  3: stworzyć solidny i przewidywalny system dyscyplinarny

Wymóg 4: zaprzestać nadużywania tego systemu do nękania sędziów nieprzychylnych Ministerstwu Sprawiedliwości

Wymóg 5: zaprzestać nacisków na sędziów, aby nie kierowali pytań do TSUE (w celu uzyskania „orzeczeń wstępnych”)

Dlaczego nie będzie kompromisu

Determinacja polskiego rządu, by wszelkimi dostępnymi środkami podporządkować sobie sądownictwo, nie ulega już wątpliwości. A jednak niektórzy obserwatorzy wciąż nie potrafią zrozumieć strategii polskiego rządu, mimo że stosuje ją już od dłuższego czasu.

Mówiący biegle po angielsku były bankier Mateusz Morawiecki, który powołany został na urząd w grudniu 2017 roku, jest mistrzem w dyplomatycznej grze polegającej na udawaniu negocjacji bez czynienia ustępstw w jakiejkolwiek kwestii merytorycznej. W styczniu 2018 roku Morawiecki spotkał się z ówczesnym przewodniczącym Komisji Europejskiej Jean Claude’em Junckerem. Juncker zadeklarował, że cieszy się na „postępy, które mają nadejść do końca lutego”. 14 lutego 2018 roku Juncker powtórzył: „Myślę, że jest duża szansa, że polskie stanowisko zbliży się do naszego”.

Nie było żadnego postępu. Nie rozwiązano żadnych problemów. Nowy system dyscyplinarny służący kontrolowaniu sędziów i podważaniu podziału władzy konstruowany był w oszałamiającym tempie. 

22 marca 2018 r. polski premier stwierdził dosadnie: „Istota, najważniejsze elementy reformy pozostają nietknięte. Jednocześnie przyglądamy się temu, co pozwoliłoby drugiej stronie powiedzieć: O, można osiągnąć kompromis z Polską”.  3 kwietnia 2018 roku Juncker ogłosił, że na obietnice ustępstw ze strony polskiego rządu patrzy „z dużą dozą sympatii”. Polski sekretarz stanu do spraw UE powiedział 3 kwietnia 2018 r. niemieckiemu radiu: „Czynimy ustępstwa dotyczące kwestii, które nie odgrywają żadnej centralnej roli w systemie sądownictwa”.

Na początku maja 2018 roku Financial Times i inne międzynarodowe media napisały, że „Polska idzie z UE na kolejne ustępstwa w sprawie reform sądowych”. Powoływały się na „ustępstwa” przedstawione przez polski rząd 22 marca. Żadnych ustępstw nie było. Przyznał to wówczas minister spraw zagranicznych Jacek Czaputowicz, tłumacząc 4 maja 2018 r.: „Chcemy pokazać pewną otwartość na żądania Komisji, żeby zamknąć tę sprawę i zająć się innymi ważnymi sprawami europejskimi, jak budżet”. A w przemówieniu wygłoszonym 11 listopada 2019 r. prezydent Andrzej Duda zaatakował (wówczas jeszcze) krytycznych sędziów Sądu Najwyższego, po czym oświadczył: „Trzeba spokojnie zaczekać, aż odejdą”.

Dokładnie tak się stało. W efekcie, gdy w zeszłym miesiącu przyszło TSUE orzeczenie, związane z:

– Krajową Radą Sądownictwa, odpowiedzialną za nominowanie sędziów, składającą się z 25 osób, z których zdecydowana większość była członkami partii rządzącej lub została przez nią mianowana; oraz

– system dyscyplinarny, w którym Minister Sprawiedliwości bezpośrednio lub pośrednio mianuje każdą osobę zaangażowaną w dochodzenie, ściganie i orzekanie w sprawach dyscyplinarnych przeciwko sędziom.

Istnieje rozwiązanie — sankcja w wysokości 5 mld euro

Negocjacje nie przyniosą rezultatów, nie są też konieczne. UE nie jest bezsilna: same traktaty oferują rozwiązanie.

20 lipca wiceprzewodnicząca Komisji Europejskiej Vera Jourova, gotowa użyć wszelkich środków, aby wyrok TSUE został wykonany, postawiła ultimatum: „wystąpimy o sankcje finansowe, jeśli Polska nie naprawi sytuacji do 16 sierpnia. Prawa obywateli i przedsiębiorstw w UE muszą być chronione w taki sam sposób we wszystkich państwach członkowskich. W tej sprawie nie może być kompromisu”.

Możliwość nakładania sankcji finansowych w przypadku niewykonania wyroków TSUE istnieje od 1993 roku. TSUE nałożył takie sankcje 37 razy.

Traktaty europejskie dają Komisji prawo do zaproponowania dowolnych sankcji finansowych. Stanowią one także, że TSUE ma ostatnie słowo co do wysokości grzywny, niezależnie od tego, jaką kwotę uzna za stosowną. Wysokość tych sankcji, ustalanych na podstawie wzoru opracowanego przez Komisję w 2005 r. była zazwyczaj skromna. Wzór ten nie jest wiążący, a traktat UE nie określa górnej granicy możliwych grzywien. Zgodnie z wytycznymi Komisji należy dążyć do tego, aby „sama kara stanowiła czynnik odstraszający od dalszego naruszania przepisów”. Przewidziana jest również możliwość nakładania wyjątkowo wysokich grzywien „w uzasadnionych przypadkach”.

Nigdy wcześniej nie było sprawy o naruszenie traktatów o podobnym znaczeniu dla systemu prawnego UE i dla przetrwania unijnej praworządności. Uzasadnia to nałożenie sankcji niespotykanej w historii UE. Komisja Europejska i TSUE mogłyby to uczynić w oparciu o  Zasadę z Artykułu 19 TEU:

„Za każdym razem, gdy TSUE stwierdzi, że gwarantowane przez artykuł 19 Traktatu UE prawo do „skutecznej ochrony prawnej” w sądach krajowych jest naruszone, a państwo członkowskie odmawia przy tym usunięcia uchybienia, nakładana jest sankcja finansowa w wysokości co najmniej 1 procent PKB tego kraju rocznie”.

W przypadku Polski, której PKB wynosi ok. 520 mld euro, oznaczałoby to karę w wysokości ok. 5,2 mld euro rocznie. Komisja powinna zatem zaproponować grzywnę, która następnie nałożona zostanie przez TSUE. Kara finansowa w wysokości 880 mln euro powinna być wznawiana co dwa miesiące do czasu wykonania przez rząd polski orzeczenia z 15 lipca. Jeśli polski rząd zobowiąże się do pełnego wdrożenia tego wyroku do 16 sierpnia i porzuci dążenie do kontrolowania swoich sędziów, sankcji finansowych nie będzie.

Punkt zwrotny dla Europy

Jest to ogromna szansa zarówno dla Polski, jak i dla UE. Wdrożenie wyroku TSUE z 15 lipca skutecznie oddaliłoby perspektywę prawnego Polexitu i przywróciłoby zaufanie do polskich sądów w całej UE.

Egzekwowanie zasady Artykułu 19 wzmocniłoby system prawny UE dla następnych pokoleń. Żadne państwo członkowskie UE nie powinno już nigdy ulec pokusie zniszczenia niezależności swoich sądów. Żadne państwo nie powinno też nigdy odważyć na zignorowanie wyroków TSUE w tak fundamentalnej sprawie. Byłby to pozytywny punkt zwrotny w historii Unii. Jak to ujął Koen Lenaerts na początku 2020 roku:

„Dziś Europejczycy stoją przed definiującym momentem w historii integracji […] zasada niezawisłości sądów musi zostać zachowana, aby UE pozostała „Unią demokracji”, „Unią praw” i „Unią sprawiedliwości”. Jeśli następne pokolenie Europejczyków ma odkrywać nowe horyzonty dla coraz bardziej zintegrowanej Unii, w której obywatele mogą nadal korzystać ze sfery wolności osobistej wolnej od ingerencji publicznych, integracja poprzez rządy prawa jest jedyną drogą naprzód”.

Z poważaniem,

Gerald Knaus

Twitter: @rumeliobserver

Artykuł 19 ust. 1:

„Trybunał Sprawiedliwości Unii Europejskiej obejmuje Trybunał Sprawiedliwości, Sąd i sądy wyspecjalizowane. Czuwa on nad wykładnią i stosowaniem traktatów w poszanowaniu prawa.

Państwa członkowskie zapewniają środki odwoławcze wystarczające do zapewnienia skutecznej ochrony prawnej w dziedzinach objętych prawem Unii”.

Warto przeczytać:

Wyrok TSUE w sprawie Polski z 15 lipca 2021

Mocny esej Koena Lenaertsa o tym, co jest stawką: Nowe horyzonty dla praworządności w UE (2020)

Doskonały przegląd ostatnich wydarzeń autorstwa dwóch czołowych ekspertów, Laurenta Pecha i Dimitry’ego Kochenova: Respect for the Rule of Law in the Case Law of the European Court of Justice: A Casebook Overview, maj 2021 r.

Przeczytaj także Laurent Pech, Patryk Wachowiec i Dariusz Mazur: Poland’s Rule of Law Breakdown: Pięcioletnia ocena (braku)działań UE, 2021

Klasyka – lektura obowiązkowa: Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law, 2011