GRANADA, Spain (AP) — Despite a breakthrough in negotiations at the start of the weekEuropean Union leaders clashed again on Friday over how to manage the human drama of a migration that tested their sense of common purpose during the last decade.
The world’s largest club of rich countries remains divided between those who support Brussels’ initiatives focused on distributing migrants among members in an act of solidarity and countries, like Hungary or Poland, whose extreme governments right categorically refuse any shared responsibility for migrants arriving in the country. other Member States.
Italy is even going so far as to leave the EU to establish links with the United Kingdom in order to combat unwanted arrivals.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was blunt that European leaders are still far from reaching consensus ahead of their meeting in Granada, Spain. Orbán, who has repeatedly opposed EU policies and taken a tough approach against migrationsaid he would not sign any deals at any time in the foreseeable future.
He went so far as to compare the situation to being “legally violated” by Hungary’s other EU members.
“Agreement on migration, politically, is impossible – not today (nor) generally in the coming years,” Orbán said. “Because legally we are, how can I put it – we are raped. So if you are legally raped, forced to accept something you don’t like, how would you like to have a compromise?
The dispute centers on a deal reached by a majority of EU interior ministers on Wednesday that unlocked a draft new global pact on migration that would involve setting up processing centers at the EU’s external borders to check people upon their arrival. This agreement will now go to the European Parliament, where further negotiations will take place before it can become binding.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who is up for re-election this month, also criticized the deal, maintaining his government’s position that it is preventing migrants from entering for security reasons. He called it a “diktat coming from Brussels and Berlin” that Warsaw would resist.
Neither Hungary nor Poland could veto a final pact, but their refusal to comply with European policy in the past has bordered on provoking institutional crises, and the bloc is keen to avoid similar tensions with its Eastern members.
The summit’s final declaration was supposed to include a paragraph on migration, but this was removed from the initial draft after the leaders’ meeting. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, host of the summit, said he was aware of the “risk” of this happening, while downplaying the failure to reach consensus.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen remained positive about the chances of the new agreement becoming a reality, welcoming this week’s agreement to establish extraordinary measures a country could take in the event of a mass movement and unexpected migrants to its borders, as well as “a great success.”
“This is an important piece of the puzzle of the pact on migration and asylum,” she said at the post-summit press conference, bypassing opposition from Hungary and Poland .
Balancing the demands of progressive politicians and migrant rights groups with the political realities of a continent where the far right uses migration to expand, Von der Leyen said it was essential to deter migrants from ‘use illicit trafficking routes by opting for legal routes. to join the union.
She said some 3.7 million regular migrants entered the EU last year, while 330,000 attempted irregular crossings were recorded.
“We cannot accept that smugglers and traffickers define who and decide who passes through the European Union,” she said.
The EU has been trying to craft a new common migration policy since it was overwhelmed in 2015 by more than a million arrivals, most of them refugees fleeing the war in Syria.
Since then, he has focused on paying countries like Turkey, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco to do the dirty work of stopping migrants before they embark on the journey. dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Seawhere nearly 30,000 people have died since 2014, according to the UN migration agency.
A draft new pact on migration and asylum, which has been criticized by human rights groups for ceding ground to harder-line approaches, has been touted as the answer to migration problems of the EU when it was adopted. made public in September 2020.
For the plan to come into force, officials and lawmakers say, an agreement must be reached between a majority of member countries and parliament by February, before European elections in June.
Migration flows to the EU have increased this year, although they are down from the peak in 2015-2016. From January to October, some 194,000 migrants and refugees reached Spain, Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus by boat, compared to 112,000 in the same period last year, according to the International Organization for Migration .
The issue of migration was not going to be a priority at this informal meeting, where leaders were already asking themselves the thorny question of how to continue expansion to include Balkan countries and Ukraine who is immersed in the fight against the Russian invasion.
But migration was put on the agenda by Giorgia Meloni, Italian far-right prime minister. Italy has seen an influx of people in recent months, including the arrival of 7,000 people in the small fishing island of Lampedusa in just one day last month.
Meloni and British Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced Friday in an opinion piece published in London’s Corriere della Sera and The Times newspapers that they were forming an alliance against illegal immigration as part of an initiative bilateral beyond Brussels’ sphere of influence.
“We need to fight criminal organizations and carry out the work we are doing in Africa to stop departures,” Meloni, who also had a private meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on migration, told reporters at Grenade. “We are now looking for concrete tools to solve the problems. »
The day-long summit takes place in the picturesque town of Granada, just an hour’s drive from Spain’s southern coast, where boats full of people fleeing violence or poverty in Africa regularly wash up.
Spain’s maritime rescue service said Friday it had intercepted another 500 migrants aboard six boats approaching the Canary Islands, located off the northwest coast of Africa. Earlier this week, the small island of El Hierro, with a population of 10,000, welcomed 1,200 migrants who arrived aboard open wooden boats believed to have left Senegal on a dangerous journey north.
Wilson reported from Barcelona. Associated Press editors Raf Casert in Brussels; Ciaran Giles in Madrid; Colleen Barry in Milan; Giada Zampano in Rome; Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.
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