Migration: EU ministers fail to agree as MEPs urge solidarity following Renzi threat

EU home affairs ministers have so far failed to come to an agreement on a proposed binding mechanism governing the resettlement of migrants arriving in the European Union.

By Desmond Hinton-Beales

17 Jun 2015

The European commission proposal was part of wider plans on dealing with an increasingly contentious migration issue among the member states, with EU governments remaining divided over the redistribution of more than 40,000 migrants.

In the build up to Tuesday's meeting of home affairs ministers in Luxembourg, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi had threatened to issue temporary Schengen visas to all migrants currently in his country unless EU member states agreed to help share the load.

The number of migrants making the dangerous crossing in the Mediterranean has skyrocketed and Greece and Italy are struggling to deal with the influx of people without further support from other member states.


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European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group deputy Timothy Kirkhope, responding to the Italian leader's comments, said, "We keep hearing about the need for solidarity between countries but solidarity is built on trust and that is clearly lacking in today's EU.

"Countries that want to help Italy cope with the pressures it faces are not going to feel enamoured by thinly veiled threats from Renzi.

"The real danger with the European commission's proposals is that countries are now turning on each other over the numbers of migrants they are going to take, rather than working together to ease the pressures on the front line and try to tackle the issue at source.

"Some countries should try to do more to help but in a borderless zone, compulsory relocation is not going to be the solution to this crisis," warned the UK MEP.

The EU's migration, home affairs and citizenship commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, speaking directly after the ministerial meeting, said, "It's time that we look beyond national interests, and avoid a lowest common denominator bargaining or finger-pointing.

"What is at stake here is the very core of our European unity and collaboration. We have no other choice but to find a solution at European level.

"That is why I am happy to announce that we agreed to step up our efforts to increase the effective returns of irregular migrants, to prevent further secondary movements and to swiftly develop the concept of hotspots that we proposed [where the European asylum support office, Frontex and Europol will work on the ground with frontline member states to swiftly identify, register and fingerprint incoming migrants].

"In the coming days, however, we will continue to push forward for a comprehensive and bold agreement on migration in order to establish a balanced but mandatory emergency intra-EU relocation scheme and launch an EU-wide resettlement scheme and move ahead," said the Greek official.

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in parliament, however, warned that the European council risks losing credibility without an agreement on helping migrants in need of protection.

Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on migration issues, said that, "For too long the council has been burying its head in the sand when it comes to migration. We in Europe have the means to deal with the current refugee crisis, however, we lack the political bravery to even take small steps in the right direction.

"The commission has put forward a clear and reasonable proposal to help share the burden and help those most in need. Its proposals for a fair distribution of migrants in need of protection through relocation and resettlement will not solve the crisis alone but it is at least a start. If the European council cannot even agree on this what hope is there of finding a more comprehensive and lasting solution?
 
"It is high time that we find a fair way of distributing asylum seekers between member states. Now is the time for European solidarity. Not just solidarity between ourselves but solidarity with those fleeing the horrors of war and persecution."
 
EU heads of state and government are due to meet on 25-26 June with migration expected to dominate the agenda.

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