Timeline - response to migratory pressures

The following timeline gives an overview of the key developments in the work of the Council and the European Council to build an EU response to migratory pressures.

Migration crisis - the inside story

This documentary looks back on how the crisis unfolded in 2015, and how the EU developed its comprehensive response. It covers 9 months of crisis in 2015, as told by key witnesses from the Council of the EU and the European Commission. 

2016

17 October

Council agrees way forward for compacts with Jordan and Lebanon

The Council agreed on a way forward for the partnership priorities and compacts with Jordan (for the period 2016-2018) and with Lebanon (for the period 2016-2020). The aim is to strengthen the economies of the two countries and increase job opportunities for Syrian refugees through increased protection, access to employment and quality education.

The partnership priorities will guide the EU's bilateral relations with the two countries. The compacts are instruments to implement the mutual commitments made at the donor conference 'Supporting Syria and the region', which took place in February 2016, in London.

The partnership priorities and the compacts are expected to be adopted by both sides in the coming weeks.

13 October

Justice and Home Affairs Council

Ministers discussed the shortfalls in the implementation of the different migration measures adopted so far. They undertook in particular to increase the number of experts provided by member states to the agencies (especially EASO).

The Council also covered the reform of the common European asylum system, where ministers endorsed the three-track approach suggested by the presidency.

14 September

European border and coast guard: final approval

The Council gave its final approval to the European border and coast guard. Its main role is to help provide integrated border management at the external borders. It will ensure the effective management of migration flows and provide a high level of security for the EU. 

30 August

EU NAVFOR MED operation Sophia: authorisation to start additional supporting tasks

 The Political and Security Committee authorised EU NAVFOR MED operation Sophia to begin two additional supporting tasks:

  • training of the Libyan coastguard and navy
  • contributing to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya

18 July

EUCAP Sahel Niger - mission extended and mandate amended

The Council extended the mandate of EUCAP Sahel Niger until 15 July 2018. It also adapted the mission's mandate to assist the Nigerien authorities in developing policies, techniques and procedures to better control irregular migration.

13 July

European Commission proposals - common European asylum system

The European Commission presented a second series of proposals to reform the common European asylum system and a proposal to create a common EU resettlement framework.

28 June

European Council

EU leaders focused on the Central Mediterranean route. They highlighted the need for a partnership framework of cooperation with individual countries of origin or transit, focusing on:

  • pursuing results on fast and operational returns of irregular migrants
  • applying the necessary leverage by using all relevant EU policies
  • also mobilising elements falling within member states' competence and seeking synergies with member states in relations with specific countries

22 June

European border and coast guard: Council confirms agreement

The Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) confirmed the compromise text agreed with the European Parliament on the proposed regulation for a European border and coast guard. The European border and coast guard will consist of a European agency (the current Frontex agency with expanded tasks) and national authorities of the Schengen countries responsible for border management. 

20 June

EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia: mandate extended

The Council extended the mandate of EU NAVFOR Med operation Sophia by one year until 27 July 2017. It also broadened the operation's mandate by adding two supporting tasks:

  • training of the Libyan coast guards and navy
  • contributing to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya 

10 June

Justice and Home Affairs Council

Ministers discussed the current situation, focusing in particular on the implementation of the 18 March EU-Turkey statement and the migratory flows in the Central Mediterranean. They reaffirmed that returns to Turkey from Greece should be stepped up. Participating states were also invited to speed up the resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey and the relocation of asylum seekers from Greece and Italy.

The Council adopted a decision which aims to suspend for one year Sweden's obligations regarding relocation of persons in need of international protection from Italy and Greece. It also adopted conclusions on return and readmission.

7 June

European Commission communication - partnership framework with third countries

The European Commission presented a communication for a partnership framework with third countries. 

The Commission also presented a proposal for a directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of highly skilled employment.

26-27 May

G7 summit

The G7 called for a global response to the migration and refugee crisis. Leaders committed to increase global assistance to meet the needs of refugees and their host communities. They called on financial institutions and bilateral donors to bolster their assistance. They also agreed to enhance legal channels for migration and encouraged the establishment of resettlement schemes.

24 May

General Affairs Council

The Council held its second annual rule of law dialogue with a focus on the challenges that the current migratory flows create for the safeguarding of the EU's fundamental values. Ministers stressed the importance of respecting EU fundamental values when receiving refugees and recalled that these values have also to be respected by refugees.  They also shared the challenges and best practices in helping refugees to integrate quickly. 

23 May

Foreign Affairs Council

Ministers had a discussion on the external aspects of migration. They reviewed the implementation of the Valletta action plan and the EU-Turkey statement.

The Council adopted conclusions on EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia, extending the mandate of the operation by one year and adding two supporting tasks.

20 May

Justice and Home Affairs Council

Home affairs ministers exchanged views on the current situation. They focused in particular on the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March and the migration flows in the Central Mediterranean.

Participating states were invited to speed up resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey and relocation of asylum seekers from Greece and Italy, according to existing decisions.

12 May

Foreign Affairs Council on development

Ministers focused on the implementation of the Valletta action plan and the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. They also reviewed the state of play of high-level dialogues with partner countries.

The Council discussed how to best support displaced people and refugees in long lasting crises.

12 May

Schengen internal border controls - Council adopts recommendation

The Council adopted an implementing decision setting out a recommendation which allows for the continuation of temporary internal border controls in exceptional circumstances. Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway should maintain proportionate temporary border controls at specific parts of their border for a maximum period of six months.

4 May

European Commission proposals - common European asylum system

The European Commission presented a series of proposals to reform the common European asylum system. 

The Commission also presented a proposal for a Council implementing decision setting out a recommendation for the continuation of temporary internal border controls in exceptional circumstances.

21 April

Justice and Home Affairs Council

Home affairs ministers examined progress in the implementation of existing measures. They also reaffirmed the need to speed up the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March 2016.

Ministers were informed about the progress achieved on the draft regulation on a European Border Guard

18 April

Foreign Affairs Council

Ministers discussed the external aspects of migration. They assessed progress in implementing the measures included in the EU-Turkey statement and reviewed initiatives taken on the Central Mediterranean route. They also underlined actions on the fight against traffickers and smugglers and the EU's support to Africa.

6 April

European border guard - Council agrees negotiating position

The Permanent Representatives Committee agreed the Council's negotiating position on the proposed regulation on the European border guard. As soon as the European Parliament has adopted its position, the presidency will start negotiations with the aim to reach a political agreement by the end of June 2016.

The main objective of the European border guard would be to ensure and implement, as a shared responsibility, European integrated border management at EU external borders. It would consist of an European Border Guard Agency and national authorities responsible for border management.

21 March

European Commission proposal - resettlement from Turkey

Following the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March, the European Commission made a proposal amending the Council decision to relocate people in need of international protection from Italy and Greece. This proposal would make 54 000 places which had not yet been allocated available for the purpose of resettling Syrians from Turkey to the EU.

17-18 March

European Council

The European Council further discussed its comprehensive strategy to tackle the migration crisis.

At their meeting on 18 March, EU and Turkish leaders reached an agreement aimed at stopping the flow of irregular migration via Turkey to Europe, breaking the business model of smugglers and offering migrants an alternative to putting their lives at risk.

16 March

Council approves financing for emergency assistance within the EU

The Council accepted the draft amending budged proposed by the Commission on 9 March 2016. It agreed to make available €100 million in commitments and €80.2 million in payments from the 2016 EU budget to support Greece and other member states overwhelmed by the refugee crisis.

The draft amending budget now needs to be approved by the European Parliament.

15 March

Council adopts instrument for emergency assistance within the EU

On 15 March, the Council adopted a regulation that will allow the EU to help Greece and other affected member states to address the difficult humanitarian situation caused by the migration crisis. The EU's humanitarian assistance aims to provide refugees with food, shelter, water, medicine and other basic necessities.

10 March

Justice and Home Affairs Council

Ministers discussed the current situation and the implementation of the statement agreed by EU leaders on 7 March. They were also briefed by the presidency on the state of play on the proposed regulation establishing an European Border and Coast Guard.

The Council adopted conclusions on migrant smuggling. It also adopted an implementing decision on the temporary suspension of the relocation of 30% of applicants allocated to Austria under decision 2015/1601.

9 March

Council agrees on instrument for emergency assistance within the EU

The Council agreed on an emergency support mechanism for crisis within the EU. This will allow the EU to help Greece and other affected member states to address the difficult humanitarian situation caused by the migration crisis. The EU's humanitarian assistance aims to provide refugees with food, shelter, water, medicine and other basic necessities.

This proposal is to be presented to the General Affairs Council meeting for formal adoption on 15 March.

7 March

Meeting of the EU heads of state or government with Turkey

EU leaders held a meeting with Turkey to strengthen their cooperation on the migration crisis. They pushed for the full and speedy implementation of the EU-Turkey action plan, and the reduction of the number of illegal entries from Turkey to Greece.

They also discussed some new proposals to address the crisis. President Tusk was assigned with the task to work out their details before the next European Council.

2 March

European Commission proposal - instrument for emergency assistance within the EU

The Commission presented a proposal for a Council regulation creating an emergency assistance instrument for crisis within the EU. This would allow to provide humanitarian aid in response to major crisis affecting member states, including the current migration crisis. 

25 February

Justice and Home Affairs Council

Ministers discussed the current migratory situation and reiterated the need for a common European solution. They focused on progress made on the implementation of existing measures and on cooperation with Turkey and on the Western Balkans route. 

The Council also took stock of the work on the proposal for a European border and coast guard

18-19 February

European Council

EU leaders adopted conclusions on the migration crisis. They focused on the need to build an European consensus on migration and on implementation of decisions already taken. They highlighted the need to make progress on:

  • implementation of the EU-Turkey action plan
  • provision of humanitarian assistance to refugees, including in the western Balkans
  • ensuring hotspots are fully functional
  • implementation of decisions on relocation, return and readmission
  • improving management of external borders
  • restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area

12 February

Schengen evaluation of Greece - Council adopts recommendation

The Council adopted a recommendation on addressing serious deficiencies identified during an evaluation of Greece's application of the Schengen acquis in the area of external border management. The recommendation proposes to Greece remedial action to address these deficiencies. 

4 February

Supporting Syria and the region - EU pledges more than €3 billion

European Council President Donald Tusk joined world leaders at a conference in London to announce a €3 billion EU contribution to assist the Syrian people in 2016. This includes both people inside Syria as well as refugees and the communities hosting them in the neighbouring countries. 

3 February

Refugee facility for Turkey: agreement on details of financing

Member states agreed on how to finance the €3 billion EU refugee facility for Turkey. This will allow the EU to deliver additional humanitarian assistance to refugees in Turkey and their host communities.  

18 January

Foreign Affairs Council

The Council concluded that all the conditions have been met for EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia to implement on the High Seas UN Security Council Resolution 2240. This resolution reinforces the authority of operation Sophia to take measures against the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking from the territory of Libya and off its coast, under phase 2 of the operation (high-seas). Phase 2 started on 7 October 2015. 

Ministers also discussed the EU's position ahead of the Syria donors' conference, which will take place in London on 4 February 2016. This conference aims to address the long-term economic needs of refugees in the region and increase available funding to the most affected countries.

2015

17-18 December

European Council

The European Council took stock of the implementation of decisions taken in previous meetings and agreed to speed up actions on:

  • the operation of hotspots
  • the implementation of the relocation decisions and returns 
  • the control of the EU's external borders
  • cooperation with countries of origin and transit

EU leaders also asked the Council to rapidly examine the European Commission's proposal of strengthening the EU's external borders released on 15 December.

15 December

European Commission package of proposals

Delivering on the European agenda on migration, the European Commission put forward a package of proposals aimed at securing the EU's external borders and managing migration more effectively.

3-4 December

Justice and Home Affairs Council

Justice ministers took note of a progress report on actions related to judicial cooperation and the fight against xenophobia.

Home affairs ministers held a discussion on the implementation of previously agreed measures and on the actions needed to strengthen the Schengen area. 

29 November

Meeting of the EU heads of state or government with Turkey

The EU and Turkey adopted a joint action plan to deal with the refugee crisis created by the situation in Syria.

The EU and its member states will step up their political and financial engagement  to stem the migration flow coming to the EU via Turkey. The EU is committed to provide an initial €3 billion of additional resources to help Turkey improve the situation of Syrian refugees currently in the country.

The action plan also includes increased cooperation regarding migrants who are not in need of international protection.

Furthermore, the EU-Turkey readmission agreement will be fully applied from June 2016. The EU and Turkey are also aiming to complete the visa liberalization process for Turkish citizens in the Schengen zone by October 2016.

23-24 November

Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council

Integration of migrants was a common thread throughout discussions in the four sessions of the Council. Ministers focused in particular on:

  • the role of youth policy and youth work with regards to migration
  • education and training strategies to integrate recently arrived migrants and people with a migrant background
  • the role of intercultural dialogue to improve mutual understanding between migrants and host countries
  • the educational potential of sport to help disadvantaged youth, including migrants

16 November

Foreign Affairs Council

Ministers focused on the follow up to the high level conference on the Western Balkans route (8 October) and the Valletta Summit on migration (11-12 November). They welcomed discussions with African partners in Valletta. On the Western Balkans and eastern route, they covered cooperation with Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. 

12 November

Informal meeting of heads of state or government

EU leaders discussed the latest developments in the migration crisis  and how to accelerate the implementation of the measures agreed in September and October. They particularly focused their discussions on cooperation with Turkey.

President Tusk also reiterated the need for the EU to regain the control of its external borders and to effectively proceed to the registration of migrants.

12 November

Valletta Summit on migration

EU heads of state or government met with their counterparts from African countries to discuss migration issues. They agreed on an action plan focusing on five priority domains:

  • addressing the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement
  • improving work on promoting and organising legal migration channels
  • enhancing protection of migrants and asylum seekers
  • tackling the exploitation and trafficking of migrants
  • improving cooperation on return, readmission and reintegration

9 November

Justice and Home Affairs Council

Ministers adopted conclusions defining further measures to handle the refugee and migration crisis. These focus on:

  • speeding up the ongoing relocation process
  • strengthening the EU's external borders
  • fighting human trafficking and smuggling
  • improving return and readmission

The Council supported the Presidency decision to update the Integrated Political Crisis Response to full activation mode.

30 October

EU Council presidency activates IPCR to step up information sharing

The Luxembourg presidency decided to trigger the integrated political crisis response (IPCR) arrangements on an information sharing mode. EU member states and institutions are requested to continuously share updated information on the situation on the ground via a common web platform. The Commission and the EEAS will provide regular integrated analysis of the information provided.

The aim is to monitor the development of migratory flows, to support decision-making and to better implement the agreed measures.

26 October

Foreign Affairs Council on development 

EU Ministers had an in-depth debate on migration, focusing on development cooperation. They agreed to strengthen cooperation with third countries to address the common challenges currently facing Europe and its partner countries.

25 October

Meeting on the Western Balkans migration route

Leaders representing Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia agreed on a 17-point plan of action to improve cooperation between the countries along the Western Balkans migration route to tackle the refugee crisis in the region.

15 October

European Council

EU leaders agreed on a series of priorities:

  • cooperation with countries of origin and transit: they welcomed the agreement on an EU-Turkey joint action plan and agreed to achieve concrete operational measures at the upcoming Valletta Summit
  • strengthening the EU's external borders: including through an integrated border management system that will go beyond the current Frontex mandate and the addition of hundreds more border guards to secure the hotspot areas in Greece and Italy
  • return and readmission: improve implementation under existing legislation and agreements and enhance the role of Frontex

12 October

Foreign Affairs Council

EU foreign ministers discussed the external aspects of migration. The Council adopted conclusions to feed into the discussions of the European Council meeting on 15 October.

08-09 October

Justice and Home Affairs Council

The Council discussed the future management of the EU's external borders, and adopted conclusions on the future of the return policy.

8 October

Eastern Mediterranean - Western Balkans route conference

EU ministers for home affairs and for foreign affairs met with their counterparts from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and the Western Balkans. The associated countries, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland also attended.

The conference aimed to enhance engagement among all partners, increasing solidarity and ensuring an orderly management of refugee and migration flows. It adopted a declaration.

28 September

EUNAVFOR Med: agreement to start the active phase of the operation 

The Political and Security Committee agreed to start the first step of phase 2 of the operation against human smugglers as of 7 October 2015. This will allow to conduct boarding, search, seizure and diversion on high seas of suspicious vessels, within international law.

They also agreed to rename the operation "Sophia", after the name given to the baby born on a ship participating in the operation.

23 September

Informal meeting of heads of state or government

EU leaders agreed on a series of priorities for action:

  • responding to the urgent needs of refugees through assistance to the UNHCR, World Food Programme, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other countries
  • assisting the Western Balkan countries in handling refugee flows
  • addressing the root causes of irregular migration in Africa
  • tackling the situation at the EU external borders
  • supporting front-line member states through the establishment of hotspots and ensuring relocation and return

They also discussed how to address long term migratory challenges and called for renewed diplomatic efforts regarding Syria and Libya.

22 September

Justice and Home Affairs Council on migration

The Council adopted a decision establishing a temporary and exceptional relocation mechanism from Italy and Greece to other member states. This mechanism will apply to 120 000 persons in clear need of international protection.

14 September

EUNAVFOR Med: Council adopts a positive assessment on conditions to move to the first step of phase 2 (high-seas)

The Council adopted a positive assessment, agreeing that conditions had been met to transition to the first step of phase 2. This assessment was part of the formal steps required in the process of transitioning the operation to phase 2 on high seas.

14 September

Justice and Home Affairs Council on migration

The Council adopted the final decision establishing a temporary and exceptional relocation mechanism from Italy and Greece to other member states. This mechanism will apply to 40 000 persons in clear need of international protection.

The Presidency drew up a set of conclusions which presented a course of action to deal with the migratory crisis.

09 September

European Commission second package of proposals

Delivering on the European agenda on migration presented in May, the European Commission put forward a second package of proposals to address the refugee crisis:

  • an emergency relocation proposal for 120,000 people in clear need of international protection from frontline countries
  • a permanent relocation mechanism for all member states
  • a common European list of safe countries of origin
  • a more effective return policy
  • a guide on public procurement rules for refugee support measures
  • measures to address the external dimension of the refugee crisis
  • trust fund for Africa

20 July

Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting

Home affairs ministers agreed on the contribution by each member state to the relocation and resettlement of persons in clear need of international protection, reaching a total of 54 760 persons.

They also adopted conclusions on the designation of certain third countries as safe countries of origin.

25-26 June

European Council

Based on the Commission agenda and on discussions at the Council, EU leaders agreed on a series of measures covering the following areas:

  • relocation and resettlement
  • return and readmission
  • cooperation with third countries

22 June

EUNAVFOR Med: launch of the operation 

The Council launched EU NAVFOR Med, a naval operation against human smugglers and traffickers in the Mediterranean. The mission is conducted in sequential phases, with the first phase focusing on surveillance and assessment of human smuggling and trafficking networks.

16 June

Pierre Vimont appointed personal envoy for the Valletta Conference

European Council President Donald Tusk appointed ambassador Pierre Vimont to lead the preparations for the Valletta conference between EU and African countries.

16 June

Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting

At their June Council meeting, EU home affairs ministers discussed the different aspects of the European agenda on migration proposed by the European Commission and its implementation package.

Most delegations welcomed its comprehensive and cross-cutting nature, as well as its mix of immediate actions to address the current crises and the proposed long-term measures that should lead to the establishment of a true European migration policy.

27 May

European Commission first package of proposals

Following the European agenda on migration presented two weeks before, the European Commission put forward a first package of measures to address the migration crisis:

  • an emergency relocation proposal for 40 000 people in need of international protection, from Italy and Greece to other member states
  • a recommendation asking member states to resettle 20 000 people in need of international protection from outside the EU
  • an EU action plan against migrant smuggling
  • guidelines on fingerprinting
  • a public consultation on the future of the blue card directive

26 May

Foreign Affairs Council on development

Following the special meeting of the European Council on 23 April, the Council reiterated the need to enhance work on the links between migration and development. It invited the European Commission and the EEAS to work on concrete measures. 

18 May

EUNAVFOR Med: establishment of the operation

Following instructions by the European Council, the Council agreed to establish an EU military operation, EUNAVFOR Med, to break the business model of smugglers and traffickers of people in the Mediterranean.

13 May

European agenda on migration

On 13 May 2015, the European Commission adopted an European agenda on migration. It underlined the need for better management of migration and stressed that it is a shared responsibility. 

The agenda covers all aspects of migration management and looks in a fully integrated manner at the internal and external aspects.

It identifies concrete actions and measures in the following four areas:

  • reducing the incentives for irregular migration
  • saving lives and securing the external borders
  • a strong asylum policy
  • a new policy on legal migration

13 May

Reinforcement of the civilian mission EUCAP Sahel Niger

The Council agreed to reinforce the scope of the EU civilian mission in Niger to support the Nigerien authorities in preventing irregular migration and combating associated crimes.

23 April

Special meeting of the European Council

Following the tragic events in the Mediterranean in April 2015, EU heads of state and government agreed to mobilise all efforts to prevent more people from dying at sea and to address the root causes of migration. They decided to focus the response on four main areas:

  • strengthening the presence at sea
  • fighting traffickers
  • preventing illegal migratory flows
  • reinforcing internal solidarity and responsibility

EU leaders highlighted the key role of the upcoming Commission communication on a European agenda for migration and called for the organisation of the Valletta summit to discuss migration issues with African and other key countries.

They also called for a rapid reinforcement of operations Triton and Poseidon, by at least tripling their financial resources for 2015 and 2016.