Migration: will EU states work together now?

At their Malta mini-summit at the start of the week the interior ministers of France, Germany, Italy and Malta reached an agreement on a provisional solution for migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea. Commentators discuss whether this offers a first glimmer of hope for joint action on migration policy.

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Delo (SI) /

A glimmer of hope

The steps announced in Malta could mark a turnaround, Delo hopes:

“The Malta resolutions are still shrouded in a veil of secrecy because the EU interior ministers first need to familiarise themselves with them. However, the fact that the strongest members, France and Germany, support the solution should guarantee that changes are possible. The satisfied reactions of Italy and Malta also seems to indicate progress. ... Under the current circumstances, the member states' acknowledgement that migration remains a pan-European issue and that a new, more pragmatic start is better than making no progress is extremely positive.”

The Malta Independent (MT) /

No sign of European solidarity

The Malta Independent is incensed that most EU states won't be obliged to participate in sea rescues or the redistribution of refugees:

“It seems that this agreement will still be at the mercy of many EU states, most of whom will likely look the other way. In simple words, it will not work unless the entire EU steps up to the plate and all countries pitch in, and, going by recent events, this is not likely to happen. So, despite all the talk, we might remain in a situation where Malta, Italy and rescue NGOs keep saving lives at sea but get little help when it comes to relocating refugees. We truly hope that this will not be the case and that Europe finally starts practicing the solidarity that politicians so often preach about.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Minimal solution better than nothing

The solution settled on at the migration summit in Malta is a minimalist option, Tages-Anzeiger comments:

“Not major progress, but better than nothing. The small-scale distribution formalises and accelerates what has already happened so far but accompanied by much moaning, groaning and messing around. It spares the rescuers and the rescued a terrible period of waiting and uncertainty. However, that doesn't change the fact that the EU has effectively transferred control of the central Mediterranean route to leaders and militia leaders in the failed state of Libya. And that the European community of values is accepting migrants being stuck in Libyan camps which the German foreign ministry has compared to concentration camps.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Just a drop in the ocean

The envisaged solution falls way short of the mark, The Daily Telegraph criticises:

“The EU will no doubt champion the agreement as a triumph of European co-operation. But if the deal is notable for anything, it's a lack of ambition. So far, it involves the redistribution of 10,000 migrants - a drop in the ocean compared to the numbers that continue to arrive on Italy's shores. What's more, the deal is entirely voluntary, side-stepping the earlier controversial plans to impose migrant quotas on all EU member states. ... it shows that, while the EU continues to espouse its open border ideology, it is quietly facing up to the fact that open borders between member states remain politically unpalatable.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Policy on economic migrants still unresolved

The main problem is still those countries that make a strict distinction between war refugees and economic migrants, La Repubblica interjects:

“The key term is 'asylum seeker'. Italy and Malta want to make sure it applies to anyone who applies for asylum - including economic migrants. In return for Italy's newfound Europeanism our partners could be willing to accept this interpretation. Macron himself - initially sceptic - is said to have given Prime Minister Conte guarantees in that regard. There is a risk, however, that at the decisive moment our partners will only be willing to take in the refugees with a good chance of being granted asylum (Syrians and Eritreans, for example). ... In that case the number of migrants to be redistributed would drop from 90 to less than 10 percent of all those that reach Europe.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Return policy remains Achilles' heel

NRC Handelsblad believes it knows what is needed for a breakthrough in European migration policy:

“The EU member states know very well what they need to offer countries like Gambia in exchange for the return of illegal migrants. There are tons of European Commission proposals that list what is needed: legal migration channels such as university places and work visas in Europe, as well as institutions that train illegal immigrants who have been sent back to their own country. German and French politicians know that people will most accept the taking in of refugees when there's an effective return policy in place. If this EU group succeeds in putting such a policy together then more countries will join in and Europe will finally get migration under control. If it doesn't, the European capitals know what the consequences could be: Matteo Salvini making a comeback.”