European Union leaders have agreed that 40 000 migrants who have arrived in Italy and Greece will be relocated to other EU countries over the next two years, but Hungary and Bulgaria will be given special treatment because of their own migratory pressures.
This was the message from European Council President Donald Tusk, speaking after a lengthy and reportedly heated meeting of the EU leaders as they wrangled over the European Commission’s proposals on a migrant relocation scheme.
EU interior ministers are to finalise the criteria for the share-out of the distribution of migrants to other countries by the end of July, according to Tusk.
“There is only one exception – that is Hungary and to some extent Bulgaria, because these two countries are affected also by strong migratory flows and I think they will be treated by us as specific cases when the time comes to distribute the pledges,” Tusk said.
Tusk told reporters: “In our search for a new European consensus on migration, today’s decisions on return policy are the first step. Migrants with no legal right to enter the EU must be returned.”
He said that at the meeting, the Spanish experience on return was shared by prime minister Rajoy.
“In the past, Spain was faced with a large wave of illegal migrants to the Canary Islands, and yet it managed to prevent this wave. Europe is learning from such experiences,” Tusk said.
He said that leaders had agreed to accelerate readmission negotiations with the third countries and to fully implement EU rules on returns.
“We also agreed to use our trade and development agreements on the basis of the ‘more for more’ principle. Finally, Frontex will get more powers to help return illegal migrants. The Commission was tasked to deliver.”
Tusk issued a call for solidarity with frontline countries.
He said that EU leaders had agreed that 40 000 people in need will be relocated from Greece and Italy to other states over the next two years.
“I am also convinced that there will be no solidarity on relocation so long as migrants are not properly registered. The EU can help with logistical and financial support. Respect for our rules is a must. If the rules are not respected by everyone, Schengen will be at risk,” Tusk said.
“The current crisis concerns not only Italy and Greece. Since the beginning of the year, a third of asylum seekers have been registered in Hungary – that is more than in Italy. Our approach needs to be geographically comprehensive,” he said.
(Photo of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Tusk at the June 25 2015 European Council meeting: EC Audiovisual Service).