European Union leaders agree on the outline of a migration deal

01 July, 2018, 16:53 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • GETTYMr Juncker and Mr Conte met for the first time at the G7 in Canada

Conte, whose government includes the anti-establishment 5-Star movement and far-right League, had earlier refused to endorse a summit text on security and trade until other leaders had pledged to help Italy manage Mediterranean arrivals.

The deal hinges on "voluntary" actions from European Union states on hosting migrant centres or taking refugees from other states, but Conte said that "procedures" could be used against countries who do not commit to respecting the agreement.

President Emmanuel Macron said the new secure centres would be reserved for countries on key migrant routes such as Malta, Italy, Spain or Greece and not France. Southern European states have long felt disproportionately affected by the influx of migrants arriving on their shores, while many central and eastern states vehemently oppose any relocation policy that would lift that burden by sharing migrants among member states.

"We still have a lot of work to do to bridge the different views", Ms. Merkel said.

Italy's new hardline Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who heads Italy's month-old populist and anti-immigration government, took the rare step of blocking the joint conclusions from the meeting in Brussels, as tensions boiled over. In Europe's case, the proposal also broadens an existing strategy of using African countries as partners that are willing to crack down on smugglers and intercept migrant vessels.

"Ireland has already agreed to accept some from that as well".

Outside Europe, centers would be created to reduce the number of migrants who risk the sea voyage to the Continent and to disrupt the black economy of people-smuggling.

"After an intense discussion on the most hard issue for the European Union, that is migration, the fact of having agreed on a common text is a good sign".

At the Sunday meeting, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, called for a 10-point plan that would alleviate pressure on Italy and force other European Union members to accept greater responsibility.

Juncker, whose Commission coordinates trade policy for the 28 European Union members, said he had accepted an invitation from U.S. President Donald Trump and would visit on July 24 or later.

Option one is a regional arrangement among member states on disembarkation in one of them, where rescued migrants would acquire a right to apply for asylum.

Early Thursday evening, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Conte set aside 45 minutes for a chat, only to break it off after 20 minutes when the Italian leader rejected the German leader's overtures, according to diplomats.

Asked if Austria would open a center, Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz said: "Of course not".

"All hastily-made solutions, be they exclusively national ones or a betrayal of our values that consists in pushing people off to third countries, were clearly set aside".

While Italy pushed for its European counterparts' greater support, other leaders were not keen to revise European rules that require asylum seekers to be processed in the country where they first arrive.

It also proposes screening migrants for their eligibility in applying for asylum prior to reaching the EU.

"Europe is really rolling the dice", said Jill Goldenziel, an associate professor at the Marine Corps University, who is writing a book on the global migration crisis.

However, Armin Laschet, state premier for Merkel's party in North Rhine Westphalia and a staunch ally of the chancellor, was quick to point out the ironic result that this threat would have, saying "if we as Germany go alone now, then Italy might withdraw from the Dublin agreement... and we end up with more refugees than before".


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