The Franco-German initiative for an EU mini-summit on Sunday reflects the absence of a consensus; differences between EU member states on migration management remains substantive on the countdown to the EU June summit (28-29).
Present at the summer will be “transit states,” through which migrants and asylum seekers make their way into Europe – Greece, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria – plus France, Germany and Austria.
The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker made clear this informal summit was open to member states seeking a European solution on migration management.
Since 2015 more than 1,5 million migrants and asylum seekers have made their way into the EU.
The new Italian government is pressing for a more effective policy in the distribution of asylum seekers across the EU, as it is home to 700,000 migrants since 2013. Rome and Athens have long objected to the so-called Dublin Regulations, which suggest asylum seekers can only be processed at the country of entry. They are demanding the immediate dispersion of the population across the bloc, a prospect staunchly opposed by the Visegrad Four (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary).
There is an emerging consensus that the EU would like to see processing centers in North Africa to disrupt the flow. There is also a consensus on empowering the Frontex capacity.
The Italian government is working on its own proposal to take to the summit on Sunday, according to the leader of Italy’s far-right and Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini. Italy is not prepared to be “a landing point and refugee camp,” Salvini said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, prime minister Giuseppe Conte was meeting with the European Council President Donald Tusk, making clear that Italy is no longer willing to abide by Dublin Regulations and accept the return of immigrants denied residence in other EU member states.
Placing her own emphasis on cooperation with non-EU member states, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in a formal visit to Jordan and Lebanon on Wednesday. These small countries together host as many refugees as the entire EU. According to UNHCR, the two countries share a population of 1,5 million refugees; just under 10% of the population of Jordan are recent refugees. That figure is nearly 20% of the population of Lebanon. Germany is second only to the United States in humanitarian aid for the two countries.