Tuesday 27 June 2017

EU aides dismiss bid to share refugees ahead of key summit

A migrant goes inside a lorry to attempt to cross the English Channel, in Calais, northern France. Photo: AP
A migrant goes inside a lorry to attempt to cross the English Channel, in Calais, northern France. Photo: AP
Migrants open a lorry in a failed attempt to cross the English Channel, in Calais, northern France. Photo: AP
Migrants open a lorry in a failed attempt to cross the English Channel, in Calais, northern France. Photo: AP
Migrants sleep along a motorway leading to a ferry port to cross the English Channel, in Calais, northern France. Photo: AP
A migrant inspects a truck during an attempt to make a clandestine crossing to England through the Channel tunnel as lorries wait in line on the motorway which leads to the Channel Tunnel terminal in Calais, northern France. Photo: Reuters
Migrants trying to board UK bound lorries on the main road into Calais ferry port. Photo: PA

Ellen DeLamere in Brussels

A CRUNCH European Union summit will review refugee proposals today but even before it began senior officials were openly admitting that they will never accept plans that would oblige them to share thousands of migrants arriving in Greece and Italy.

More than 100,000 migrants have already arrived in Europe this year, and almost 2,000 have died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean.

The EU desperately wants countries to share 40,000 Syrians and Eritreans landing in Greece and Italy to ease their burden.

But last night a senior EU official said that "the idea that quotas can be imposed from Brussels is not going to fly."

The official is involved in preparing a summit of EU leaders starting today when migration will be high on the agenda.

Separately, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were also holding a key meeting on EU reform.

The talks in Berlin focused on Mr Cameron's hopes for change in the EU, which he hopes will be teased out at the European leaders' meeting later today.

Mr Cameron has said he wants to overhaul the UK's membership of the EU, before holding a critical in/out referendum in 2017.

But yesterday French minister Emmanuel Macron said that the UK should not be able to cherry pick aspects of the EU.

He said he understood Mr Cameron's drive for reform but the UK could not be allowed a "Europe a la carte".

"I don't understand how it is possible to say 'we the UK have all the positive aspects of Europe but don't want to share any of the risk with any member states'," he said.

"It just doesn't fly. It's a common responsibility."

Mr Cameron has not outlined the full details of his negotiating aims but he has given a broad indication of his priorities.

Among them, he wants to restrict welfare entitlements, have greater powers for national parliaments and an opt-out for Britain from the principle of "ever closer union".

Mr Cameron has spent the last few weeks touring European countries to explain his renegotiation aims and sound out the opinions of other leaders.

He has spoken face-to-face with his counterparts in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain and Romania, among others.

And last week, he held talks with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Slovakian PM Robert Fico.

Mr Cameron said his negotiations were getting "a good response", but he cautioned that it will take "hard work" to get the backing of all 27 other EU leaders for his plans.

He has said he hopes to secure a "better deal" for the UK in Europe before putting it to a referendum in 2017, although there are suggestions it could be held as early as autumn 2016.

Labour has dropped its opposition to a referendum and now supports plans for an in/out vote. Mr Cameron wants the meeting to pave the way for the launch this summer of "technical" talks at official level on the UK's concerns about sovereignty, immigration, economic competitiveness and protecting the interests of EU members which do not use the euro.

Irish Independent

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