20th May 2019

Eight member states urge EU action on migration

  • The migration crisis "must be tackled at a European level", according to southern EU members (Photo: European Commission)

The leaders of eight southern European states including France, Spain and Italy have raised the alarm over illegal immigration, sending a letter to the Finnish EU presidency pressing for "strong mobilisation" at EU level.

Paris, Rome and Madrid took the initiative for the letter, which was received by the office of Finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen, on Monday evening (25 September).

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The move comes a few weeks before an informal EU leaders meeting in Lahti, Finland on 20 October, which is set to be dominated by the continuing migration crisis on the southern shores of the EU.

"The urgency of the problem of illegal immigration in the Mediterranean and southern Europe requires a strong mobilisation from the European Union and a joint commitment from the migrants' countries of origin, transit and destination," the letter said according to press reports.

"The question must be tackled at a European level, notably in terms of financial aid and resource deployment."

The leaders of Greece, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus and Slovenia also signed up to the letter, with Greek prime minister Kostas Karamanlis saying the document highlighted the "explosive dimensions" which the migration issue has meanwhile taken.

Austrian daily Der Standard quotes the spokeswoman of Mr Vanhanen as saying the flows of African migrants in the Mediterranean will not only figure on the agenda of the October summit in Lahti, but probably also at a formal EU leaders meeting in December.

But the letter's signatories are likely to have a hard time convincing the rest of the EU to release more financial aid to help tackle the problem.

At an informal justice and interior ministers meeting in Finland last week, proposals by the Finnish EU presidency and the European Commission to share the costs of handling the crisis faced strong resistance from states like Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

"Those who want to solve problems must stop asking for the money of others," German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble was quoted as saying in German newspapers.

Austria and the Netherlands criticised Spain for last year legalising the status of around 600,000 illegal immigrants already in Spain, with Austria's Karin Gastinger saying this had created "some kind of pull factor to the people in Africa."

Despite Monday's joint initiative by France, Spain and Italy, the three states earlier this month also bickered among each other with France's interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy strongly criticising Madrid and Rome for regularising illegal migrants.

"We cannot have moves towards massive regularisation without asking the opinion of our partners," he stated.

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