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State of the Union: Migrant disaster strikes again, EU's nature restoration act struggles

MEPs vote at the PEGA committee in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
MEPs vote at the PEGA committee in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Copyright Fred MARVAUX/ European Union 2023 - Source : EP
Copyright Fred MARVAUX/ European Union 2023 - Source : EP
By Euronews
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MEPs also voted on a report on spyware.

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Another devastating shipwreck in the Mediterranean dominated this week's headlines and raised anger against the EU's migration policy or the lack of it.

Dozens of migrants died and hundreds more are missing and feared dead after their overloaded boat capsized and sank in open seas off Greece, in one of Europe's deadliest shipping disasters in recent years.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees' special envoy for the Western and the Central Mediterranean tweeted that “this boat was unseaworthy & no matter what some people on board may have said, the notion of distress cannot be discussed.”

Overall, the International Organization for Migration has tallied more than 27,000 missing migrants in the Mediterranean since 2014.

And all this is happening, one week after the bloc celebrated a so-called "historic" migration deal.

A deal that mainly focused on border protection and offshoring asylum processing outside of the EU and less on mandatory solidarity that frontline states were pushing for years.

The EU's Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told Euronews that the EU is ready to cooperate with third countries in Africa and the Middle East despite warnings over their undemocratic regimes.

"What we also need to do, because legislation is not enough. I mean, it's absolutely necessary to work also with countries with the countries in Northern Africa and other third countries to prevent these dangerous, deadly journeys to start from the beginning," Johansson said.

Human rights groups, from their side, say the EU has been outsourcing migrant rescues to the Libyan Coast Guard which returns them to horrific camps where many are subjected to beatings, rape and other abuse.

MEPs endorse spyware report

Meanwhile, at the European Parliament, MEPs this week endorsed the final report of the so-called PEGA Committee which has been looking into the abuse of spyware in the EU for almost a year now.

They want EU rules to allow the use of spyware such as Pegasus or Predator only when strict conditions are fulfilled.

Illegal cases of spyware use have been detected in Poland, Hungary, Greece and Spain, raising concerns about privacy rights and press freedom.

Nature restoration act survives the day

Tensions were high elsewhere in the Parliament in Strasbourg this week too, as controversy around the so-called Nature Restoration Act, a piece of legislation aimed at restoring habitats and species that have been degraded by human activity and climate change.

For several weeks now, the European People's Party, supported by the far-right, has been waging a campaign to completely reject the compromise that was on the table claiming among others that it will force farmers to abandon some of their fields.

"This is a consequence of a very badly made law, we said it over nine months that the proposal from the Commission is not good, we said over nine months what we want," EPP MEP, Christine Schneider, told Euronews.

However, the controversial law was kept in life just by one vote and it will be submitted for a final vote on June 27.

"I think nature is not the guilty one in this fight, of this problem, of the electoral strategy of the EPP in Europe. No?" César Luena, Spanish MEP said.

It means that the progressive parties saved face for the EU's Green Deal that European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen once described as "Europe's man on the moon moment."

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