Brief EU election analysis: How do German parties position themselves on the distribution and reception of asylum seekers?

On June 9th, the people of 27 EU countries will vote for a new parliament. But what do the German parties, which belong to different political groups in the EU Parliament, think about issues of intra-European solidarity and the distribution of people seeking protection? We asked them.

06 June 2024

On June 9th, people in 27 EU countries will vote together for a new parliament - the tenth election since 1979. The last legislative period of the EU Parliament was characterised, among other things, by the adoption of a reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). While parliamentarians from 27 EU member states repeatedly struggled for unity and cohesion in Brussels, we at the Berlin Governance Platform (BGP) developed and piloted ideas on how European - but also local, national and global - challenges can be met with participatory and transparent good governance concepts.

One of these challenges is the solidarity-based distribution of people seeking protection in the European Union, which is followed by reception and integration at national and local level. In our analysis, the agreed CEAS reform hardly provides for an improvement in the situation for people seeking protection at the EU's external borders and within the EU in this respect - on the contrary, a further deterioration must be assumed. It is questionable whether the planned intra-European relocations (relocation for distribution) as part of the solidarity mechanism will actually lead to more intra-European solidarity and fairer distribution in the future. Our project "Re:Match - Relocation via Matching"offers a solution to this problem. We are working with municipalities to pilot an alternative - participatory, needs-based and individualised - procedure for the solidarity-based distribution of people seeking protection from external EU border states directly to European municipalities.


But what do the German parties, which belong to different political groups in the EU Parliament, think about issues of intra-European solidarity and the distribution of people seeking protection? We asked them.

The following text is based on the parties' European programmes and the election test questions in which they answered the following questions:

  1. Will you take measures to give people seeking protection and local authorities concrete opportunities to participate in issues relating to the distribution and reception of refugees?
  2. Are you in favour of algorithm-based matching that directly compares the needs and preferences of people seeking protection with the capacities and infrastructural conditions of host municipalities?

As of June 5th 2024, the CDU/CSU, SPD, Die Linke and Die Grünen/Bündnis 90 have answered our enquiry, while the FDP has yet to respond.

In the European election programme of the CDU/CSU (p. 7f) the word solidarity unfortunately does not appear. The CDU/CSU wants to send people who apply for asylum in the EU to third countries outside the EU. Here they are to undergo their asylum procedure and receive protection if the decision is in their favour. Individual member states can then accept a certain contingent of people in need of protection as part of a coalition of the willing. The CDU/CSU wants to effectively abolish the individual right to asylum enshrined in the German Basic Law, European law and international law. The CDU/CSU wants to promote the participation of local authorities by organising interdepartmental refugee summits and setting up a crisis and coordination unit in the Chancellery. In response to our enquiry, the CDU/CSU did not comment on the participation of those seeking protection in questions of distribution. However, the CDU/CSU considers the harmonisation of capacities, requirements and needs of municipalities on the one hand and persons entitled to protection on the other hand to be fundamentally sensible when distributing persons entitled to protection to the municipalities (note: The CDU/CSU deliberately refers here to persons entitled to protection, not to those seeking protection).

The SPD sees the agreed duty of solidarity of all Member States* as a major step with which the EU as a whole fulfils its humanitarian responsibility (p. 34). Accordingly, the party wants this obligation to be enforced from now on. It would like to enable solidarity-based municipalities to play a greater role in the reception of refugees. As an example of this, the SPD cites the idea of a European integration and municipal development fund, through which cities and municipalities that agree to take in refugees would receive financial support for integration costs and an equal amount for municipal development costs - an Idea, which was originally developed by us at the BGP. As part of this fund, citizens should have a say in the organisation of the reception of refugees (p. 36). At the same time, however, the SPD emphasises that the reception and distribution of refugees remains the responsibility of the member states. Will the SPD be in favour of matching based on our model? The party writes to us that improved coordination and harmonisation of reception capacities, infrastructure and the needs of people seeking protection could benefit both the host municipalities and the people arriving. The SPD believes that the possibilities offered by innovative projects such as Re:Match should be utilised for this purpose within the scope of the respective competencies at European, national and municipal level. We are particularly pleased with this statement because we did not make any reference to our Re:Match project by name in our enquiry!

The Left is in favour of replacing the Dublin system, which will remain in place even after the CEAS reform, in favour of a solidarity-based system for the distribution of people seeking protection in the EU (see 90). When determining the host country, Die Linke wants the legitimate interests of those seeking protection (e.g. family ties, language skills, individual circumstances) to be taken into account. The Left Party sees algorithm-based matching as an option for fully reflecting the individual needs of those seeking protection. The party - rightly! - points out that such a procedure would have to ensure that the sensitive data collected from protection seekers is used exclusively for distribution within the EU and may not be passed on to other European authorities. When asked about opportunities for municipalities and people seeking protection to participate in questions of distribution and reception, Die Linke, similar to the SPD and following the idea of the BGP, mentions its commitment to an EU fund for welcoming municipalities. The resources from this fund should not only be limited to supporting refugees, but can also be used for general public services in the interest of the municipalities.

Bündnis 90/The Greens emphasises that a fair and binding distribution of people seeking protection is necessary (p. 102). All member states should participate in this in order to overcome the common challenge. States with Europe's external borders are particularly reliant on this solidarity - this is also one of the reasons why the BGP decided to develop a proposal to improve intra-European distribution with Re:Match. Bündnis 90/The Greens would also like to harmonise the resources of the federal states and municipalities with the needs of the refugees via a matching mechanism, taking into account family backgrounds, language skills and professional qualifications, for example. With reference to the procedure we have proposed, the party recognises that the use of algorithm-based solutions can be an important aid here. When asked whether the party will give those seeking protection and local authorities concrete opportunities to participate in issues relating to the distribution and reception of refugees, Bündnis 90/The Greens say they want to strengthen the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). The party also points out that European networking and exchange between municipalities can help with integration, as can be seen from the successful establishment of cross-border networks of municipalities. The BGP is closely involved in the International Alliance of Safe Harbours (IASH), establishing and developing such a European municipal networks.

In the European election programme of the FDP unfortunately, there are no statements on intra-European solidarity and the distribution of people seeking protection. As of 6 June 2024, the FDP has not responded to our request to answer the election test.

The European programmes and responses of the parties to our election test questions show that even after the decision on the CEAS reform, there is no consensus on the issues of intra-European solidarity and the distribution and reception of people seeking protection in our country. The parties primarily want to achieve the participation of municipalities in questions of distribution and reception by making more financial resources available to municipalities for the reception of people seeking protection. While this is an important, overdue step that we have long recommended, this measure says little about the participation of local authorities in the distribution of asylum seekers. Any commitment by the parties to extended opportunities for participation and co-determination can at best be gleaned from their positive to non-rejectionist attitude towards a matching-type comparison of capacities and needs between municipalities and those seeking protection. An indication of participation and co-determination opportunities for those seeking protection can also be interpreted from this, if at all. At the BGP, we are aware that the distribution and reception of protection seekers is the responsibility of the Member States. However, there is no reason why Member States should not use this competence to actively involve municipalities and protection seekers and thus break new, progressive ground. We repeatedly put forward convincing arguments for this based on evidence generated by our pilot projects and scientific expertise. We will therefore continue to develop our ideas after the elections on June 9th and present them to the newly elected and re-elected members of parliament. Our goal remains to achieve a fair, just and effective refugee and migration policy in the EU and its member states.


* This duty of solidarity relates to the permanent and mandatory solidarity mechanism that was adopted as part of the CEAS reform. Member States can choose from three forms of contribution: relocation, i.e. taking on people seeking protection, or alternative or financial contributions.