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24/04 – EU leaders triple funds allocated to Operation Triton

Most media today report and comment on yesterday’s extraordinary meeting of EU leaders in Brussels to tackle migration issues. Many such as the Malta Times report that there was unanimous agreement that the EU search and rescue operation Triton would be given the same budget as the former Italian Mare Nostrum operation – three times as much as is currently dedicated to the programme, from €3 to €9 million a month – and funds would be used to hunt down the human traffickers together with the UN Security Council’s backing, to try to stem the shocking number of migrants.

The Independent comments that by vowing to “identify, capture and destroy” their vessels last night, “the European Union effectively declared war on people traffickers blamed for the deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean.” Corriere della Sera and some others report that EU leaders actually gave EU High Representative Vice-President Federica Mogherini a mandate to “start immediately” a European mission in the countries where criminal organisations that smuggle immigrants are located.

The EU will also increase the amount of money it gives to African countries for them to seal off their terrestrial borders for illegal immigrants, El País reports. Politiken and Dagens Nyheter also mention that the UK, France and Germany all promised to send a ship each, and several other member states followed suit, including Sweden and Croatia; Lithuania for its part will send a helicopter and two crews to rescue migrants. La Stampa reports that speaking after the EU summit; Matteo Renzi voiced his satisfaction because the EU has formed a strategic vision on migration, a “big step forward” for Europe.

El País leader writer also deems yesterday’s EU summit agreements “a good symptom showing the EU is reacting to unprecedented human tragedy in the Mediterranean.” He hails the measures as “necessary,” although he believes that both migrant rescue operations and the bloc’s asylum policy must be complemented “calmly but without delay” with a long-term strategy aiming at tackling the causes of the massive exodus towards Europe.

However, many newspapers stress that the decisions taken are far from sufficient. In its editorial, Le Figaro accuses the EU of “carelessness” and stresses that many political and practical obstacles need to be removed before Europe can stem the flow of migrants and reduce the death toll in the Mediterranean. Gazeta Wyborcza stresses that the European Union is not prepared to re-launch the Mare Nostrum operation for fear that a safer passage to Europe will increase the number of immigrants wishing to reach the EU. Actually, many lament that the summit failed to agree on issues like burden sharing or legal migration to EU states.

Politiken stresses that last year; three countries – Germany, Sweden, and Italy – received around 55% of the 626,710 asylum seekers who arrived in the EU, noting that the distribution of refugees is a huge political taboo. EU leaders remained very cautious in their final statement yesterday, saying they will “consider all the options for an emergency relocation mechanism,” which according to Le Figaro can be considered as a first step, knowing the reluctance of some countries, like the UK, to take part in internal solidarity initiatives. But it remains to be seen what will actually become of the rescued people, the newspaper stresses.

Cadena Ser‘s Iñaki Gabilondo argues that the European Union has not made up its mind yet whether its priority must be to patrol its external borders or to save migrants’ lives. Dagens Nyheter goes even further, saying that “to be crass: money is invested into making sure people do not die on the shores of one’s own continent, but that they are stopped sooner,” and El País‘ regular columnist José Ignacio Torreblanca slams the “almost criminal negligence” with which the EU has been taking action regarding migration.

The Times’ editorial warns that Europe is failing to strike the right balance between compassion and tough action in dealing with the Mediterranean refugee crisis. ABC’s leader writer as well as Teresa de Sousa in Público contends that the EU’s migratory drama stems from its incapacity to confront the real source of the problem, i.e. the failure to promote economic development in immigrants’ countries of origin and to solve the conflicts which force people to cross the Mediterranean. “Everyone agrees on the need to do so, but no member state considers giving up the control of its immigration and asylum policy,” Ms de Sousa stresses.

Magyar Nemzet reports that European Council President Donald Tusk urged EU leaders to “sacrifice some national interests for the common good.” Many, such as Mr Torreblanca, advocate for a “real common migration, refugee and asylum policy run by the European Commission, rather than by 28 myopic, electioneering and powerless member states.” According to La Libre Belgique, MEP Guy Verhofstadt actually presented a series of proposals to revamp the EU’s migration policy.

Several newspapers including Naftemporiki and the Malta Times meanwhile report that Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos attended the funeral of refugees who died in the Mediterranean in Malta yesterday. He said that he visited Malta on behalf of the European Commission to express sorrow and compassion for all those victims and to honour their memory. Mr Avramopoulos, together with ministers from Malta, Italy and Greece, said he wanted to send a message to Europe calling for action and not just words, and called for unity and solidarity from fellow member states, while thanking Malta and Italy for their efforts.

Delfi.lv says that the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU is ready to get to work on the European Agenda on Migration as soon as the European Commission unveils it in May, and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that a special summit on migration will be held between the EU, the African Union and other key migration countries later this year in Malta.

©europeanunion2015

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