EU leaders reach migration deal after marathon talks

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Brussels, June 29 (IANS) European leaders have reached a migration deal after holding marathon talks at a summit lasting nearly 10 hours, the bloc’s president Donald Tusk said on Friday.

Italy — the entry point for thousands of migrants, mainly from Africa — had threatened to veto the conclusions of the entire agenda if it did not receive help on the issue, the Guardian reported.

The country had been asking EU member countries do more to share responsibility for asylum seekers landing on Italian shores.

Announcing the end of tense summit talks shortly before dawn, European Council head Tusk tweeted that 28 EU “leaders agreed” on a migration compromise which was at the heart of their two-day summit.

In a compromise, the EU countries agreed to set up joint asylum processing sites and restrict migrants’ moves with the bloc. “All the measures in the context of these controlled centres, including relocation and resettlement, will be on a voluntary basis,” the joint statement said.

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The leaders also agreed to tighten their external border more, increase financing for Turkey, Morocco and Northern African states to prevent migration to Europe. However, it was unclear which countries would host the centres or receive refugees.

The bloc also dodged an agreement on controversial refugee quotas.

“After this European summit, Europe is more responsible and offers more solidarity,” said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “”We are satisfied. Today Italy is no longer alone.”

Italy earlier refused to let several migrant rescue boats dock at its ports, demanding that the responsibility for people arriving across the Mediterranean should be shared between other countries.

The euro jumped 0.6 per cent on news of the deal while French President Emmanuel Macron declared that European cooperation “has won the day”.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “we still have a lot of work to do to bridge the different views”, but said it was “a good signal” that the EU had agreed a common text.

Merkel had warned on Thursday that the future of the EU hinged on whether it could find answers to the “vital questions” posed by migration.

Leaders agreed that EU countries should help migrants rescued in the Mediterranean to alleviate the burden on Italy and Greece.

The agreement also vowed to crack down aggressively on those involved in trafficking operations in Libya and elsewhere, while increasing support for the Libyan coastguard and boosting funds for affected communities.

This will likely include regions like Sicily and remote Italian islands such as Lampedusa that have been frontline destinations for many migrant entries into Europe.

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–IANS

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