Merkel still seeking European solution on migration: spokesman

Geraldine Edwards
June 28, 2018

"We will continue to work toward a solution".

The new Italian government has taken one of the most hardline stances on illegal migration in Western Europe in recent weeks with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of La Lega, leading the way by banning several migrant transport NGO vessels from docking in Italian ports.

Migrants not entitled to asylum should be returned directly to their country of origin and not via other countries, Macron said.

The ex-communist states in the EU's east led by Hungary and Poland have refused to host any of the new arrivals, citing security risks after a raft of Islamist attacks in Europe.

Conte had previously threatened to boycott the mini-summit after leaked conclusions drew attention to sorting out Germany's big issue on preventing asylum seekers from travelling across Europe's passport-free Schengen zone.

In what was billed as a rare "informal meeting" of leaders under the auspices of the European Commission, the new Italian prime minister, Guiseppe Conte, representing his new anti-immigration populist government, presented a plan that would upend the regulations now governing migrants and asylum-seekers. He said leaders planned to try to sort out the legality of a range of ideas meant to clamp down on illegal migration.

Rome on Saturday accused French President Emmanuel Macron of "arrogance" for turning back migrants at the French-Italian border and minimizing Italy's problem.

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Macron blamed political posturing more than the actual migration situation for the current uproar in Europe, saying that "we are living through a political crisis more than a migratory crisis today".

There was tension between Italy and France, too. "We must not give in".

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

"At this moment, the only thing that can be done is laying the groundwork of what a consensus could look like in the future", said Marie de Somer, a migration expert at the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based think-tank.

Mrs Merkel, who is fighting a domestic political crisis with her coalition partners over migration, said she was seeking "bilateral and trilateral" deals to cope with short-term migration pressures.

Its stance has raised tension both with Germany and within Merkel's coalition government, with European Union diplomats saying the mini-summit is to help "save" the chancellor. Macron and Sanchez both stressed the need for a humanitarian but responsible approach to migration.

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.

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As tensions rise between Rome and Paris as well as Rome and Berlin, the top-level talks are created to help clear the heavy air for a previously scheduled full summit of all European Union leaders on Thursday and Friday.

On Thursday (28 June), all 28 European Union heads of state and prime ministers, will once be faced with same tough questions in Brussels. "We have the impression that we took the right direction in the ongoing debate".

The EU struck a cash-for-repatriation deal with Turkey in March 2016 and engaged Lybian coast guard in cracking down on migrant trafficking, following the peak year of 2015 which saw more than one million irregular migrants flocking to Europe via different routes.

The groups, which have been chartering boats to rescue migrants, point to the very hard conditions for migrants in Libya as they attempt to reach Europe on the perilous Mediterranean crossing.

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

Merkel's ally in pursuit of European solidarity on migration, French President Emmanuel Macron, threatened non-compliers with economic sanctions ahead of the meeting, saying the EU can not have members, which "benefit hugely from EU solidarity and claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants".

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