European Union leaders hold 'frank and open' talks at emergency migration summit

Thursday, 28 Jun, 2018

To placate the CSU, Merkel must get something from Sunday, arranged hastily among more than a dozen European Union capitals, and also from the full summit of the bloc's 28 leaders on 28-29 June. "We will continue to work toward a solution".

Italy's populist 5-Star Movement demands that European countries act to deal with hundreds of thousands of migrants on the continent, warning that the future of Europe is at stake.

Migrants not entitled to asylum should be returned directly to their country of origin and not via other countries, Macron said. He said leaders planned to try to sort out the legality of a range of ideas meant to clamp down on illegal migration.

A proposal by EU Council President Donald Tusk puts those migrant centers outside of Europe.

Yesterday French President Emmanuel Macron infuriated Rome by suggesting that Italy was not going through a "migration crisis".

"We must not give in", Macron said.

It means, among other measures, setting up global protection centres in African transit countries to assess asylum applications.

He said Europeans should "not forget our values".

The meeting, which began amid a flurry of mutual fingerpointing by France and Italy, is seen as crucial for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces her own political crisis at home.

A potential failure to stem the flows of asylum seekers into Germany raises the possibility of a mutiny by Merkel's Bavarian coalition partners, which has threatened to defy the chancellor, risking a historic rift that could deny her alliance its majority. She said the hope is to see if "we can reach bi-, tri- or even multinational agreements to better solve certain problems". "Everyone is responsible for everything", she said. Italy, a front-line state to asylum seekers and migrants coming from northern Africa, is more focused on the initial arrivals and on avoiding what it says is an unfair burden that has been placed on it by countries to its north.

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But some countries like Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia don't want to hear about it.

The leaders agreed on less controversial moves, including a strengthening of the bloc's border protection forces, and on striking agreements with African countries for the repatriation of those not entitled to asylum.

Paradoxically, the EU's immigration policies are receiving renewed attention as the number of newcomers reaching Europe has dropped significantly.

That means that whatever is agreed upon Sunday, it would still face a full test when the full two-day European Union summit starts on Thursday.

Despite the different perspectives, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said, "progress is possible on Thursday".

"We need to improve the internal functioning [of migration] to have an approach that is above all pragmatic, efficient, which fights against illegal migration but doesn't go against our principles", Macron said, describing what he saw as a consensus achieved during the meeting.

New arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers coming to Europe via the Mediterranean have dropped by more than half this year compared with the same period in 2017, according to the United Nations migration agency: 40,944 people as of Wednesday. The decline is even starker compared with 2016: It equals just 19 per cent of the same period in 2016.

She said: "Italy wants to leave the migrants in the hands of Libya, where they torture, rape and enslave" migrants.

"A country like Italy has not at all the same migratory pressure as past year".

Macron, speaking after talks in Paris with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, said member states that benefit from European Union cooperation but "claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants" should have sanctions imposed on them.