European leaders struggled to overcome deep divisions on migration at a tense EU summit that dragged into the early morning hours of June 29 before yielding vague pledges to strengthen external borders, explore new migrant centres and give Turkey second tranche of 3 billion Euro for Syrian refugees.
The meeting in Brussels, dominated by a nine-hour dinner, underscored how Europe’s 2015 spike in immigration continues to haunt the bloc despite a sharp drop in arrivals of people fleeing conflict and economic hardship in the Middle East and Africa.
It took place in an atmosphere of political crisis, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel under intense political pressure at home and a new eurosceptic Italian government threatening to torpedo any deal that did not meet its demands, Hurriyet Daily News reports.A bleary-eyed Merkel, speaking to reporters at 5 a.m. (0300 GMT), tried to put a positive spin on the result, saying it was a good signal that leaders had been able to agree a common text on the controversial migration issue.
But she acknowledged that the bloc still had “a lot of work to do to bridge the different views.” “Italy is not alone anymore,” said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
French President Emmanuel Macron said European cooperation had “won the day”.
In a final statement full of convoluted language meant to satisfy the divergent views, the leaders agreed to set up joint asylum processing sites and restrict migrant moves within the bloc, but they made clear that virtually all of their pledges would be carried out on a “voluntary basis” by member states.
They also agreed to tighten their external border and increase financing for Turkey, Morocco and other North African states to prevent migration to Europe.
It was unclear whether the deal would prove sufficient to appease Merkel’s coalition partner, the Christian Social Union (CSU), which has threatened to shut Bavaria’s border to migrants — a move which could trigger the collapse of her three-month-old government as well as the EU’s Schengen zone of free travel.