Saturday

7th Dec 2019

EU leaders want to quarantine migrants

  • Red cross welcomes Libya migrants at Italian port (Photo: iom.int)

EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday (25 June) plan to say that irregular migrants should be detained in special facilities, and, where possible, quickly sent home.

The proposal is part of broader talks on migration, security, and jobs in a two-day summit overshadowed by the risk of an imminent Greek default and euro-exit.

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  • Leaders hold minute of silence for Mediterranean dead (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The migrant plans are outlined in the latest draft of the summit conclusions, dated 24 June and seen by EUobserver.

The text calls for “the setting up of structured border zones and facilities” in “frontline” states including Greece, Italy and Malta.

“This will allow to determine those who need international protection and those who do not”.

The conclusions say the European Commission should come up with a plan next month “on the legal, financial, and operational aspects of these zones and facilities”.

An senior EU official told reporters that capitals want greater emphasis on sending irregular migrants back to “safe countries of origin”.

The EU’s border-control agency, Frontex, is to be beefed up and to concentrate its energy on return and readmission policies.

“We need a Europe that is more active, not in opening the door wider, but in helping us close the windows”, he said.

Leaders want to give Frontex new powers to return anyone who doesn’t qualify for international protection. The agency is currently authorised to organise return flights if at least two member states are involved.

The EU source said Frontex should be given the “instruments to initiate returns by itself”.

Frontex has seen its budget balloon this year by €26 million, mostly for its operations in the Mediterranean Sea. That budget is to increase yet again, with an additional €45 million earmarked specifically for the Mediterranean crisis.

Quotas, Libya

Leaders also want to reinforce “co-operation with countries of origin and transit” to stem migrant flows and crack down on smugglers.

The issues will be discussed with African nations at an upcoming conference in Malta. Another conference, possibly in Budapest, will be organised to tackle migrant flows in the Western Balkans.

Leaders are also set to agree to help Italy and Greece relocate some 40,000 arriving migrants from places like Syria and Eritrea over a two-year period.

But a commission proposal, to impose binding distribution criteria, will most likely be rejected. Member states want to determine for themselves who and how many they will relocate.

The migration debate is underpinned by the launch, earlier this week, of an EU-run naval assault against Libya-based smugglers.

An aircraft carrier, warships, drones, and other naval assets supplied by over a dozen member states are already moving into position near the Libyan coast.

Greece

Migration is not the only issue to be tackled over the next two days.

The Eurogroup on Wednesday (24 June) failed to reach an agreement with Greece, pushing bailout talks into the summit.

An EU source told reporters EU leaders expect the issue to be resolved.

“Their expectation is not to negotiate. Their expectation is to welcome [an] agreement”, he said.

Asked what would happen if no agreement is reached, the source said “we will do whatever it takes to address the situation”.

Monetary union

EU leaders will also discuss the EU's economic and monetary union (EMU) on Thursday.

A report earlier this week drafted by heads of the European Commission, the EU Council, Eurogroup, the European Parliament and the European Central Bank (ECB) recommends eurozone countries to cede more power to Brussels.

The UK’s prime minister David Cameron will also discuss over dinner on Thursday his plans to organise a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union.

On Friday, Nato’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg will give a presentation on Nato and EU relations.

Separate discussions on stepping up EU research funds for defence will also be held on Friday.

European Council president Tusk is likely to ask the European Commission to engage “funds into research that is defence related.”

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