EU ministers still disagree on plans for migrants

Following a meeting in Luxembourg, the European Union’s 28 members remained sharply divided Tuesday over plans to redistribute thousands of migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean.

As they met, an example of the issue they were discussing could be seen on the border between Italy and France. French authorities refused to allow several dozen mostly African immigrants to cross over from Italy. Many eventually were bused to the nearby Italian town of Ventimiglia, where their long-term fate was unclear.

A standoff occurred in Luxembourg as well, where the ministers wrapped up talks with no agreement on the migrant quotas. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, wants to make quotas mandatory.  Not all EU members agree, and three countries — Britain, Denmark and Ireland — are exempt from the quota plan.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos spoke to reporters after the meeting. “I am pleased to see that member states agree on the principles, but words are not enough,” he said. “Now is the moment for actions. We should not waste any more time.  We must rise to the occasion and deliver results.“

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has reportedly threatened a “Plan B” — issuing temporary visas to migrants so they can travel outside Italy’s borders, in Europe’s Schengen passport-free zone.  Italy has been overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of migrants arriving on its shores this year.

But standing alongside his Italian and German counterparts in Luxembourg, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve tried to present a more united front.  He said the three were trying to resolve a common problem together.  He also said there was progress on resolving the Ventimiglia border standoff.

Italy and Greece have received the majority of the more than 100,000 Mediterranean migrants who have arrived this year.  The quota plan would redistribute 40,000 of them to other EU states.  Another plan would resettle about 20,000 Syrian refugees who live in camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

EU leaders will be discussing another part of the migration plan — cracking down on smuggling rings — when they meet next week.


(Photo: Sébastien Bertrand)