Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has invited for a mini-summit in Brussels on Sunday (24 June) the Prime Ministers of Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Austria, Germany, France and Bulgaria, to discuss migration and reform of the EU asylum policy. Georgi Gotev has the story.
Juncker informed about the “informal working meting” in a tweet, copying the parties invited, saying the goal is to work on European solutions in preparation of the 28-29 EU summit. The Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat tweeted that he accepts the invitation.
J'invite à une réunion de travail informelle sur les sujets des migrations et de l'asile un groupe d'Etats membres intéressés. Le but de la réunion, qui aura lieu ce dimanche à Bruxelles, est de travailler à des solutions européennes en vue du #EUCO. #MigrationEU pic.twitter.com/2tim8EbUXX
— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) June 20, 2018
I have accepted @JunckerEU invitation for an informal meeting on #migration ahead of #EUCO. #Malta was and will remain consistent with its principles, and looks forward to contribute to the debate and action on a coordinated European response -JM #MigrationEU
— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) June 20, 2018
Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain are seen as “front-line countries”, as they are exposed more than others to the arrival of migrants via the Mediterranean.
Bulgaria is the current holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Austria is taking over from 1 July
France and Germany are called “the engine of Europe”, but Germany is the country in trouble. Merkel’s conservative Bavarian allies agreed to give her two weeks’ breathing space to find a European solution to a row over immigration that threatens to scupper her three-month-old coalition government.
Tensions have been growing on migration issues between France and Italy, especially under its new government, in which the leader of the far right Lega Nord party Matteo Salvini holds the post of deputy Prime Minister and minister of the Interior.
Salvini has also accused Spain for failing in its commitments to receive migrants, saying it should take “the next four” rescue boats after Madrid welcomed one rejected by Rome.
The European Commission has said that EU leaders should better talk to each other, instead of talking about each other.
The Commission has voiced confidence that EU leaders could agree at the 28-29 June summit on handling migrants and refugees, but some diplomats were much less optimistic. EU leaders will be asked to approve the creation of centres to assess migrants trying to reach the bloc and decide which are refugees in need of protection and which are economic migrants who should be returned to their home countries.
Leaked draft summit conclusions suggest that Council President Donald Tusk is banking on the idea of “regional disembarkation platforms”, so that migrants rescued in the Mediterranean would be sent to processing centres outside the EU.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has repeatedly said that the answer to the refugee crisis is to seal the external borders of the EU, and that entrance to the Union be allowed only at official border crossing points. Borissov’s positions seem to be closely coordinated with Berlin.
Unlike Bulgaria, Austria, who takes over the rotating Presidency from 1 July, prefers intergovernmental solutions to the refugee crisis. Austria was able to seal the so-called “Balkan route” with the cooperation of Serbia and Macedonia. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is meeting with the Visegrad leaders on Thursday and is likely to act as their spokesperson on Sunday.
“Is it one minute to midnight”, a journalist asked Juncker yesterday, with reference to the tense issues with the potential of unraveling the EU.
“We have passed this hour”, the Commission President replied.