Monday

21st Jan 2019

Germany shows little sympathy for Italy on migration

  • Berlin reminded Rome that it took in more refugees last year (Photo: Giampaolo Macorig)

Germany voiced little sympathy for southern EU countries' migrant problems at the summit on Friday (25 October), despite more drama in the Mediterranean.

The Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said there is no question of changing the EU's basic rule, the so-called Dublin regulation, under which countries through which asylum seekers first enter the Union have to take care of them.

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She said there was a "long and thoughtful debate" on migration, in which Bulgaria, Italy and Malta spoke out.

She also said that a special task force, which met for the first time this week, will in December propose how to help the Italian island of Lampedusa and how to build up Frontex, the EU's border-control agency.

She indicated that southern states are not the only ones dealing with the problem, however.

"I'd like to remind you the we have quite a large number of asylum seekers that we have accepted [in Germany] by European comparisons," she said.

"We feel that Dublin is the basis on which we should work, and that we need to add some short term measures on Lampedusa and on the seas around Lampedusa … We have today not undertaken any qualitative change to our refugee policy," she added.

Merkel spoke two weeks after some 400 people drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from north Africa to the small Italian island.

On Friday morning, the Italian coastguard said it rescued over 700 boat refugees from Mediterranean waters.

The official summit conclusions voiced "deep sadness" on the Lampedusa drowning.

But like Merkel, they noted the response should be to stop boats coming instead of remodelling the EU's immigration system.

They called for the "reinforcement" of Frontex and for "swift implementation" of Eurosour, a new surveillance system for the Mediterranean.

They said new "strategic guidelines" for changing EU law will not be looked at before mid-2014.

For his part, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters that some EU countries pledged to give Frontex more money, boats and planes.

The meeting fell short of calls for EU solidarity issued earlier by Italy and Malta.

But Italian PM Enrico Letta and Malta's Joseph Muscat welcomed the result despite Merkel's wariness.

"I think that we reached the key result that the issue has become a European issue, not simply an Italian issue, or Maltese, or Greek," Letta noted.

Muscat said: "We got what we were really after: a specific timeframe [the December deadline for ideas on short-term actions]."

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