EU migration crisis again accentuates lack of unity and solidarity among member states

Informal working meeting on migration and asylum issues
Angela Merkel, on the left, and Jean-Claude Juncker
Date: 24/06/2018. Location: Belgium,Brussels – EC/Berlaymont. © European Union , 2018 Photo: Etienne Ansotte

Almost nothing was achieved between the EU member states at the mini migration summit which was convened in Brussels last Sunday. Despite the German efforts, there was no common ground among EU leaders.

The latter was mainly due to the fact that Italy’s new anti-migrant government is against the “first country responsibility” rule which obliges migrants to register in the first EU country they enter. On the contrary, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte argued that EU nations should share the influx of refugees coming to the Old Continent through the Italian shores.

Reason for EU migration summit

Germany Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, formed recently an anti-refugee alliance with the extreme right-wing Austrian government and the Italian populist administration opposing to the open door immigration policy of Angela Merkel. Horst Seehofer has then threatened to unilaterally turn away refugees already registered in another EU country at German borders unless the German Chancellor finds an EU solution by July 1. After that development, Angela Merkel started joining forces with France and the EC to convince the rest EU member states to confront the migration crisis.

Summit results

But till now, the EU countries which participated in the emergency summit were not persuaded to follow a common migration policy. Particularly, Italy, one of the countries which shoulder most of the burden, objected Germany’s opinions.

According to the Italian Prime Minister, migrants should be distributed to the entire bloc or otherwise face imminent EU grants reductions. More specifically, Mr Conte said: “We believe that agreement is based on emergency logistics but we want to tackle the issue structurally. Our public opinion demands it. Who arrives in Italy, lands in Europe. The rescue obligation cannot become an obligation to process asylum requests on everyone’s behalf. Each state establishes entry quotas for economic migrants. It is a principle that must be respected, but adequate countermeasures must be provided for funding with respect to states that do not offer welcome to refugees.”

Germany asks for bilateral and trilateral agreements

The lack of unity by the EU countries on the migration crisis has led Angela Merkel to state the need for “bilateral and trilateral agreements”. Apparently, the German Chancellor foresees that the EU summit which will take place in Brussels on June 28-29 will have the same outcome as the one of last Sunday. More in detail, Ms Merkel mentioned: “Unfortunately, we won’t have a comprehensive solution to the migration problem at the European Council. So it’s also about bilateral or trilateral agreements, about how we can help each other — not always to have to wait for all 28, but to consider what is important to whom.”

The urge to balance the internal issues is most likely going to force her to meet with leaders in the sidelines of the summit. Countries such as Greece and maybe Spain could be the potential targets of Germany to cooperate with and thus prevent a possible breakdown of the CSU-CDU alliance.

What about Italy?

Italy is going to play a significant role, as always, in dealing with the migration crisis in Europe. Everyone and especially Germany and France are aware of it and will make everything in their power to bring them together and promote further solidarity to the EU.

However, Italy demonstrates anti-migrant signs. Firstly, the No3 EU economy started turning away rescue vessels carrying migrants with Lifeline and Aquarius boats to be among them. But yesterday Italy and Malta came to an agreement and finally, after five days, the Lifeline will dock in Malta and Italy together with France which will contribute by receiving the migrants who were on board. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Interior Minister and a vowed extremist nationalist, told to BBC though that “such ships would never be allowed in Italian ports again”.

All in all, migration crisis has once again shown that can create severe turbulences to the EU as there is no common migration policy and populist parties have gained great power in many EU countries. It remains to be seen how Germany will react to this challenge as this time Angela’s Merkel alliance with CSU is under huge threat.

Will the Greek government be persuaded to host more migrants receiving a vague special treatment in return? Possibly, if the Syriza government is provided with the cheese of a long-shot glimpse of EU funds along with a sound Brussels turbulence enough to shake the party’s power momentum or the Greek politicians to lose their hefty parliament salaries.

One thing is for sure though; Italy seems to be turning its rigid, G7 worthy back to the EU at a moment when solidarity is not in the EU equation of the 28 member states.

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