BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU leaders meet in Brussels for two days of talks on migration that German Chancellor Angela Merkel described as “make or break” for the union. [nL8N1TU1MP]
They will also discuss security, trans-Atlantic trade and their troubled ties with U.S. President Donald Trump, economic sanctions on Russia, the bloc’s next long-term budget from 2021, the euro zone reform and Brexit, among others.
Below please find the leaders’ comments before the summit starts in Brussels later on Thursday.
“We can talk about landing ships (of migrants) in other countries, for example in North Africa. But we need to talk with these countries. We can’t do this over their heads. The EU-Turkey deal was one that both sides agreed to. So we need to talk about the needs of these countries. We need to do this together with the UNHCR and the IOM.
“Defence of our external borders is something which unites Europe. (We will talk about ) the issues of Frontex, border protection, secondary migration. The countries that are receiving a lot of refugees need support. But the refugees and migrants can’t choose in which country they request asylum.”
“As you know, Italy has worked on a proposal which it brings to this European Council, a proposal we believe is completely reasonable because it is in line with the spirit and the principle on which the European Union is based. Over all these years and in the meetings with the leaders of other member states, I have seen many expressions of solidarity. Today is a very important day. We hope these words will be translated into action. Italy no longer has a need for words and statements, we need concrete acts. This is the right occasion. From that point of view this meeting will be a watershed as far as we are concerned. And as far I am concerned I am willing to draw the needed consequences.”
“Since 2015, we have managed to stem the migratory flow by 96% only because we decided to cooperate with third countries and to bloc illegal migration outside the EU.”
“That is why I am urging that at the summit we focus on the EU’s external border, including the disembarkation platforms project.”
“The alternative is a chaotically advancing closure of borders, including inside the EU, as well as growing conflicts among EU member states.”
“Some may think I am too tough in my proposals on migration. But trust me, if we don’t agree on them, then you will see some really tough proposals from some really tough guys.”
“It seems as if today we will manage a shift in migration policy. That’s important because we have asked a systemic change for years. For years we have asked to reduce the number of people coming to Europe illegally. I think that is possible today.”
“The discussion is moving in the direction which we always have stressed it should move towards - namely more action regarding external EU borders ... and even more action in third countries which surround the EU because we want to provide the fishing rod not the fish, to motivate people to stay in places from which they migrate to the EU.”
“We push for action based on consensus, not imposed relocation. We are against imposed relocation. As regards secondary migration, Poland has tough asylum regulations and will stick to these tough asylum regulations. Poland’s sovereign policy on relocation must be maintained.
“This summit will also be the place for an important discussion on immigration. This is not a new issue. Europe has been living with it since 2015. We all face a simple choice: do we want national solutions or do we believe in European solutions and cooperation? For my part, I will defend European solutions, in cooperation, in the European Union and under Schengen. We need cooperation under the current agreements that we have and to modernise them. There is work to do beyond Europe’s borders, on Europe’s borders and within Europe based on two principles: responsibility and solidarity.”
“The biggest priority in this moment is to protect our external border. First we have to start to do this and after that we can continue to discuss about was is happening inside the European Union.”
“The main issue is not migration, the issue is democracy in Europe ... it is about what the people believe, what should be done.”
“What we need is a common response to a common challenge, which is migration and we have to combine responsibility with solidarity. Responsibility in order to control our frontiers, to intensify our foreign and external dimension of the migration policy. And solidarity also with regards to other countries especially Germany which is now suffering a political crisis.”
“I think we have to discuss everything. If we have countries saying this and that is a red line we will never get an agreement. Legal immigration has to be the rule.”
“There are so many people who arrived in different countries and then made their way to Germany. I understand Germany says ‘Why do we have to deal with everything?’”
“We have practical problems (on secondary migration) in Finland and Finland is ready to cooperate with Germany.”
“I’m not losing patience, but time is getting shorter and shorter to come to an agreement.
“I do understand that it is difficult to come to agreements within her cabinet and within the UK parliament, but she has to.”
“The problem is to whom should be listen. Our point of contact of course is Theresa May. I know she is working day and night to solve this, but the first issue on the table to solve is the problem of the Irish border. That is crucial and there has to be a backstop that is not temporary, but is continuous in case we are not able to solve this problem in the future.”
“I don’t want to speak in apocalyptic terms, but I believe the first, second and third priorities now is solving the issue of the Irish border. When that is solved, then so many other issues will be easier to discuss.”
“We will have a tete-a-tete meeting with Prime Minister May.... Will look forward to continue with the negotiations and with this constructive approach that the Spanish government is having.”
Question: Are you disappointed with slow progress on Brexit?
Answer: “No, I won’t say that. Absolutely not.”
“We will talk about whether we, the European Union, enter into talks with the United States in order to prevent a spiral of trade barriers.”
“We will have a discussion on trade, with the objective of preserving European trade sovereignty, and I am pleased that at this stage the Council’s conclusions have taken up proposals that we have made on the indispensable reform of the WTO and a firm desire not to give in to any edicts but to defend European interests and global trade multilateralism.”
Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, Jan Strupczewski, Gabriela Baczynska, Noah Barkin, Philip Blenkinsop, Richard Lough, Francesco Guarasco