Jasper Jacobs

N-VA enthusiastic about European immigrant plans: "This is a game changer"

Draft conclusions for a European summit, next week in Brussels, propose to set up regional immigration platforms outside Europe, where it will be decided which refugees are allowed into the EU, and who is being refused. The Flemish nationalists of N-VA are giving the proposal thumbs up, but other Flemish parties are more sceptical. 

Those regional asylum centres outside Europe, in Northern Africa, should allow immigration officers to sort out who can be allowed into Europe, like "real" refugees in need of protection, and who is not in danger, for example economic refugees. The latter will be sent back to their country of origin. The idea behind the plan is to better protect the European borders (and reduce the number of immigrants), and to stop the dangerous situations for boat refugees on the Mediterrenean, supporters say. 

Belgium's biggest political block, the Flemish nationalists of N-VA, are welcoming the idea. The N-VA, the party of Asylum Secretary Theo Francken, has taken a harsher stand on immigration issues than most (centre or left-wing) parties. Francken has become one of the most popular politicians in Belgium as a result. He sees the good results in opinion polls as a major support of the N-VA's policies. 

"I said this three years ago already"

N-VA leader Bart De Wever reacted with enthusiasm after Donald Tusk's proposals were leaked. "I said the same three years ago. It's a pity it took so long before other people came to the same conclusion, but I am glad they're there. This is a game changer."

De Wever wants the Belgian PM Charles Michel to support the idea during next week's European summit, which will focus on immigration. 

However, John Crombez, the leader of the Flemish socialists, is sceptical. "We have seen this kind of false statements before. One idea pops up, but in the end it never becomes real as a consensus cannot be found." Crombez wants Europe to invest more in accomodation for refugees in their home countries. "Most refugees stay in their homeland, or go to a neighbouring country. If we can make sure these people can live in humane circumstances, they would not feel the need to travel all the way to Europe in the first place." 

Europe should invest more in accommodation for refugees outside Europe

Flemish socialist leader John Crombez