Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - EU split on migration at the ‘mother of all summits’



EU split on migration at the ‘mother of all summits’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Migrants on board the Lifeline rescue boat at sea on June 21. Mission Lifeline/AFP

EU split on migration at the ‘mother of all summits’

EU LEADERS face deep divisions on migration and the eurozone at a crucial summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday that could decide the fate of embattled German Chancellor Angela Merkel and even the bloc itself.

The meeting comes amid warnings that authoritarian and “anti-European” movements will profit from any failure by the 28 leaders to deal with the wave of problems, especially a flare-up of tensions over migrants.

The rise of Italy’s new populist government and bitter rows over who should take in migrants arriving on numerous rescue boats have revived divisions, despite the fact that arrivals have dipped sharply since the 2015 migration crisis.

Eurozone reforms, pushed by French President Emmanuel Macron to revamp the economy and counter the rise of populists in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the EU, are meanwhile stalled in the face of opposition.

Brexit itself, which has dominated recent summits, will be relegated to the sidelines of the meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May set to give her colleagues only a brief update on the deadlocked negotiations.

‘Stakes are very high’

EU President Donald Tusk warned on the eve of the summit that time is running out for leaders to reassure their citizens that they can control migration before authoritarian politicians win the “high stakes” debate.

“More and more people are starting to believe that only strong-handed authority, anti-European and anti-liberal in spirit, with a tendency towards overt authoritarianism, is capable of stopping the wave of illegal migration,” Tusk, the summit host, said in a letter to leaders. “The stakes are very high and time is short,” he warned.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani warned separately in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper that failure to act on migration “could deal a fatal blow to the European project”.

One senior EU official dubbed it the “mother of all summits” because of the huge number of key issues that leaders are under pressure to resolve at the two-day meeting on Thursday and Friday.

Merkel, for years Europe’s most powerful leader, now risks seeing her fragile coalition collapse if she cannot reach migrant deals with other countries including Italy’s new government of far-right and anti-establishment parties.

After allowing more than one million asylum seekers into Germany since 2015, Merkel faces an end-of-the-month deadline from her own interior minister to seal pacts that would let Germany turn back asylum seekers already registered in other EU states.

The EU is rapidly moving rightwards on migration, a stance that is likely to increase when Austria under youthful conservative Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz assumes the bloc’s presidency on July 1. A “mini-summit” of 16 leaders in Brussels on Sunday failed to make much headway.

The leaders hope at the summit to approve work on migrant “disembarkation platforms” in countries outside Europe, most likely in Africa, although EU officials have been vague on what form they would take.

In a bone to Merkel the leaders will also agree to “closely cooperate” on stopping secondary movements of migrants, according to draft summit conclusions, although the language may be weaker than she would have hoped.

‘Lack of progress’

But there is no chance of agreement on a plan for mandatory “burden sharing” by moving refugees from frontline Mediterranean states like Italy and Greece to other countries.

The plan is strongly opposed by eastern European countries, particularly the authoritarian governments of Hungary and Poland.

The leaders will on Friday discuss largely French and German proposals, many watered down, to reform the euro in an effort to avert the repeat of the debt crisis and to rebuild confidence in the single currency.

Notably absent is any overt support for Macron’s plans for a eurozone budget, given the bitter opposition of the Netherlands and others.

On Brexit, EU leaders are expected on Friday to deplore a lack of progress and say talks, which have stalled on the issue of the Irish border, must be stepped up with a view to reaching a deal by October.

Leaders would “appreciate” if May gave them more details on Thursday as to the “intentions of the British government”, particularly on relations after Britain leaves in 2019, a senior EU official said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and