The presidents and prime ministers of the EU member states held a European Council meeting on 25 and 26 June in Brussels. The program was extremely high profile. The “smaller issues”, such as economy and competitiveness, foreign security and defense and British call for Treaty reform were very soon overshadowed by the migration crisis and the renewed Greek crisis.
The migration agenda was the most heated part of the discussion. Insiders indicated that a clear frontline was visible in the room, with Italy and the European Commission on one side, demanding obligatory resettlement quotas as concrete elements of solidarity, and the European Council president and several smaller countries on the other side, opposing obligatory quotas and calling instead for voluntary redistribution. The second camp at last prevailed, leaving the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi visibly angry and frustrated. The EC President, on Renzi´s side in the debate, openly criticized his European Council colleague Donald Tusk during a press conference – a step not so often seen in Brussels. The conclusions agreed by the EU leaders promise a mandatory resettlement of 40 000 asylum seekers and another 20 000 recognized refugees, but based on voluntary contributions of the member states. It is widely expected that the numbers will be actually very similar to the numbers the Commission proposed as mandatory quotas, the symbolical aspect of voluntary solidarity seems to be very important for some countries.
Shortly after the summit, Hungary declared that its refugee capacities are full and announced a suspension of the Dublin mechanism. According to this mechanism, asylum seekers should be processed in the first EU country they encounter. Not Italy or Greece, but Hungary has recently been facing the highest number of refugees – thousands are in Serbia today, waiting to be smuggled to Hungary. As soon as the Commission strongly opposed such unilateral move, Hungary explained that nothing changes formally with regard to the Dublin mechanism, but pointed out that the refugees must have entered the EU in Greece and thus they should be processed there.
As stated earlier, other items of agenda, such as the British proposals for Treaty reform, the economy and competitiveness and foreign policy strategy were also discussed. For more, click here, here and here.
2nd May 2018