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Thursday, January 17, 2019
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EU moving to end migration feud

EU migrant feudThe head of the European Parliament said EU countries who refuse to host refugees could pay more for EU migration and development projects in Africa, signalling a possible compromise to end a bruising dispute in the bloc.

The migration feud divided southern and eastern EU states as well as rich destination countries such as Germany since 2015, when more than a million refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa reached the bloc’s borders.

The tone of the discussion changed recently after years of one camp insisting all EU states must take in some migrants and the other side rejecting it.

“No relocation - then more money for Africa,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani told a news conference as the bloc’s 28 national leaders discussed migration.

“This should be a good compromise. It’s better to have an agreement with a compromise than no agreement,” he said.

Mediterranean arrivals of migrants and refugees are below 100,000 people so far this year, according to United Nations data, far from the 2015 influx that caught the bloc unprepared and overwhelmed security and other public services.

The EU tightened external borders, turned more restrictive on granting asylum and sealed deals with countries from Turkey to Libya to keep a lid on migrants departing their territory by sea for EU shores.

EU will further step up returns and deportations of those who reach Europe but do not qualify for asylum, a statement of the 28 national leaders’ meeting in Brussels on Thursday said.

The bloc will seek to build “a broader partnership” with countries along migratory routes, mainly in North Africa, including a crackdown on people smugglers.

The chaotic scenes from 2015 still reverberate in European politics, which has seen a surge in support for anti-immigration, populist and nationalist groups. Fewer arrivals now mean some heat is off, making a deal easier.

The eastern, formerly communist EU states like Poland and Hungary remain adamant they will not allow in refugees from mainly Muslim countries.

Germany, France and the Netherlands, which previously demanded solidarity from all EU states, may be more open now to allowing reluctant peers to buy out of the refugee distribution scheme as a way of sealing a deal, diplomats said.

“We cannot force others to take in refugees, but those who do not must possibly contribute in another way such as in Africa. Everyone needs to take on some responsibility,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told his EU peers recently.

Any political agreement is likely to take time, diplomats and officials said, not least because Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the Euroskeptic Italian government built political clout on an anti-immigration line and criticism of how the EU has handled migration.

 

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