A 50/50 Ball: The East versus the EU in the Refugee Relocation Game

The soccer terminology of a 50/50 ball refers to a free ball contested by two opponents, usually after a badly behaved goal kick. Analogy that much resembles the ongoing political game between some of the former Eastern Bloc nations and the European Union (EU) in regards to the proposed relocation mechanism for people in need of international protection.

Several coastal areas of Italy and Greece had long seen significant numbers of boat arrivals from the Middle East and Africa. In the summer of 2015, however, the numbers of irregular entries reached unprecedented levels. To ease out the burden felt by these front line states, in terms of asylum claims, the EU Council, following talks carried out in June 2015, made use of Article 78(3) from the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) — which outlines that in case of a Member State being confronted with a sudden inflow of irregular entries the Council may adopt provisional measures for the benefit of the concerned state — and subsequently proposed a quota-based provisional system to relocate some of the refugees to other EU Member States. Four weighted indicators — GDP (40%), size of the population (40%), unemployment rates (10%) and past number of asylum seekers applications (10%) — were taken into account to equalise states’ responsibility in terms of accommodating asylum claimants.

The proposed numbers were 40,000, on a 60/40 ratio from Italy and Greece to be transferred over the next two years. This decision entered in force on 15 September 2015. During this time, entries continued to rise and a new entry route opened up via the Western Balkans, turning Hungary into an additional ‘hot spot', and prompting the EU Council to take a second decision, on 22 September 2015, which added a new relocation goal of 120,000 people: 15,600 from Italy, 50,400 from Greece and 54,000 from Hungary ...

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