June 24, 2018 / 12:51 PM / 4 months ago

Highlights - EU leaders discuss migration in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A group of European Union leaders gathered in Brussels on Sunday to discuss a common approach to asylum and migration.

Flags of 16 EU countries are seen ahead of an emergency European Union leaders summit on immigration at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

LEADERS’ COMMENTS AFTER THE MEETING:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

“We all agree that we want to reduce illegal migration, that we want to protect our borders and that we are all responsible for all topics. It cannot be the case that some only deal with primary migration and others only with secondary migration.

Everybody is responsible for everything. Wherever possible we want European solutions. Where this is not possible we want bring those who are willing together and find a common framework for action.”

“When it comes to the external dimension, our relationship with countries of origin or transit we have underlined that the EU-Turkey agreements serves as an example but that we also need to pay the second instalment, so Turkey can carry out its task of supporting migrants with European support.

We have looked at the Sophia operation at the progress made with coastal protection in Libya. We have made it clear that the Libyan coast guard will have to be able to do its job, that we have to support Libya. We have made clear that we want to develop further such agreements with such countries of origin. We will divide up the tasks among member states so that some can do this job for the whole of Europe. We also agree that Frontex has to be strengthened, also strengthened faster, and possible have its mandate extended.”

“When it comes to the internal dimension there were two points. You cannot leave the countries of entry alone, as that would mean that they have to solve all problems on their own.

That is not a common solution. On the other hand migrants and traffickers cannot choose in which country they make their asylum request. We have to decide who has which task. These three large topics, external dimension, border protection and internal dimension have played their part today. It was a good debate, you could see how long it took. We would not have had as much time at a European Council and that is why these countries were together today. In the coming days until the European Council and of course also afterwards we will continue to work of the solution to these problems. There was a lot of good will today and some differences but a large amount of common ground.”

French President Emmanuel Macron

“I’m happy that this meeting has managed to do away from solutions that were not in line with our values. Solutions that would have used tactics of forcible return or that were not in line with international human rights law, European law.”

“I have the certainty that there is an Italian Prime Minister at the negotiating table. He expressed a position, which was very coherent with that expressed by the others in the negotiation. I sometimes hear things through the press which aren’t the same, but...”

“Are these problems at the moment at which we speak are the most pressing? Less so than a year ago. Because we took decisive action and we have to know how to recognise this. The European solutions were effective and we have to say that. Today’s challenge is one of political pressure in certain member states and what we call secondary migration within the European Union.”

Belgian Prime Ministers Charles Michel

“There is progress possible (at the EU summit) on Thursday”

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

“The meeting was better than expected, there was some progress achieved, I do believe that all of us spoke our minds in a very clear manner, I do hope it has served the purpose of understanding each other better for next week.

Actually it is not about high level declarations, I am totally against of going in the direction of high level declarations. What we need is operational action.

What I heard to day, what we converged on today is a signal that there is probably a willingness to go for some operational changes.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez

“I think this meeting gave hope. I think there we found more points of agreement than of disagreement. There is still a lot of work to be done. I think we made an important step forward in this working meeting, sharing experiences but also strategies and pressure, which exists in some public opinion. In this sense I believe it was a frank discussion in which we saw the things that unite us but also some discrepancies. It was a good step forward.”

“There is one thing that in my opinion is very important. Everyone agreed on the need to have a European vision, a common response to a European challenge, which is how to manage the migration flow.”

“Prime Minister Conte presented his plan in the meeting. Many things were included in the conversation, he shared with us his views and opinion. We received his proposals that we are going to study.”

LEADERS REMARKS BEFORE THE MEETING.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

“One large part of today’s discussions will be protecting the outside borders and how we reduce illegal migration to Europe. There will also be a discussion about secondary migration, how do we treat each other fairly inside Schengen, how can we find a reasonable balance.”

“We discuss this here in view of the European Council. But we know that at the European Council, unfortunately, we will not have a complete solution of the migration issue. That is why there will be bilateral and trilateral agreements, how can we help each other - not always wait for all 28 members but think about what is important to whom. This search for a ‘modus vivendi’ and continue to work on having a joint European solution is at the centre of today’s talks. Work will continue in the coming days. Today is a advisory and working meeting. It is a first exchange, not more and not less. But regarding the question: can we get bilateral and trilateral agreements in the coming days, this meeting is very important.”

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte

“We are here to present the Italian proposal, a completely new Italian proposal based on a new paradigm on the issue of migration. It is called ‘European Multilevel Strategy for Migration.’ There are six conditions and 10 objectives. It is aimed at proposing a precise policy of regulating and managing migratory flows in an effective and sustainable manner. It is a proposal that aims to overcome the Dublin Regulation. Let us remember that regulation is based on an emergency-based logic, while in reality we want to tackle the problem in a structural way. Our public opinion is asking for this.”

Franch President Emmanuel Macron

“We are here for a working meeting ahead of the Council that will take place at the end of the week, at an important moment for our European Union, our Europe.

Since 2015, Europe has been through and is still now under high migration pressure and now we have managed, thanks to our joint work, to reduce these flows inside Europe. It’s a political crisis mainly now in Europe, regarding this topic. We need a few clear and simple ideas to solve this I believe. First, we have values, they are our foundation and each time we have betrayed them, we have made things worse. Europe’s values are respect for human rights and the rights of individuals, it’s the respect of other states and their integrity and the solidarity that keeps us together.

The solution we must find is a European solution that can only be built through cooperation among the European Union member states. Whether it’s cooperation among the 28 or among several states deciding to go forward together. On that topic, cooperation requires everybody’s responsibility and a spirit of solidarity to share the burden and the pressure that some are under.

France has no lessons to learn from anybody, we are the second country welcoming asylum seekers this year. And it’s in that mood that I want to go forward with all the colleagues who are ready to offer a solution that respects our history, our rights, and allows us to make progress. We also have to look for efficiency.

The solution we bring must allow us to fight illegal migration, reduce flows of illegal migrants and do it in a humane way and with method.

The method we are going to adopt this afternoon, the one that France has pushed for in the past weeks, aims at working together regarding the origin or transit countries that are out of the EU. We have actually started doing it, which brought the first results. We are going to continue, with Libya, other African countries, Balkans or Asia.

We also have to better protect our borders. With more investment in Frontex, with also solutions such as the one we have unveiled yesterday with the head of the Spanish government, with these platforms proposed by UNHCR.

We also need to have the right organisation among EU member states to spread the burden. At the moment there is a crisis on the so called secondary movements. That is people that entered the Schengen area, and it is important on that point that we make changes to some texts. The one regarding asylum procedures, which is being discussed, that we reform the Dublin procedures and that we also have agreements to make our system more efficient.

This is what I wanted to say ahead of this meeting, which is only a work meeting before the Council. Let’s never forget who we are and where we come from. Let’s never forget our principles and our values and on that I will be inflexible. And let’s look for efficiency because we are the guarantors of our countries and people’s cohesion and of the Europe we care about.”

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel

“It is not about the survival of a chancellor, it is about finding common solution to a common migration and asylum policy in Europe.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez

“Our position is that Spain ... is fulfilling our commitments. Of course we are committed with the European Union, we are willing to reach this common response toe a global challenge which is the migration flows that are coming especially now from western Mediterranean and we would ask for the support from our comrades, other member states, in order to control better the flow that we are suffering now from the western Mediterranean.”

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen

“This is a meeting about solving the European crisis. We still have migration pressure on Europe which is not solved yet, even though we have made huge progress during the last couple of years. If I look at this from a Danish perspective, we have now the lowest number of spontaneous asylum seekers we have had for nine years. That is of course due to measures decided in Denmark but also due to European measures as the EU-Turkey agreement for instance. I’m very pleased we are now discussing more and more the external part of this. A year ago we mainly talked about how we should relocate the problem among the European countries. Now there are a number of ideas on the table how we can solve the problem in close cooperation with those countries for instance in Africa, the countries of origin.”

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel

“What is important for Belgium are controlling the external borders of the European Union. This is a prerequisite to safe the free movement of people in the Schengen zone. The second important point today is to make clear what the potential conditions are for hotspots and reception centres in line with international law. The third point is that it is very important to get an agreement on Dublin to guarantee solidarity and responsibility.”

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek

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